I am coming down the home stretch toward the finish line! There are a number of parts that still need to be made, but I am checking them off the list as I go.

The sideplate is complete and installed, the screws are fitted and aligned.

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The buttplate engraving is done. This is in the Baroque fashion, with some even earlier influences in the design.

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The tang screw is made and fitted. A nice shallow domed screw head adds a touch of interest to the flat plane of the tang.

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I know posted this earlier, but I got an especially crisp photo the other day, so I place it here. The theme of Pan and Diana continues from side plate to this cheek rest inlay. There will be other references to this theme on the patchbox cover. Coming soon. Thanks for looking.  Tom

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The gun is at the point where all the woodwork is done, except for final finish. The hardware, ie: the brass and steel fittings are now in the process of decoration. This piece is called the side plate, and its main function is to provide support for the screws, which are used to retain the lock, or firing mechanism. On a simple gun, there might be washers instead of a plate. This style of rifle, a fancy jaeger, calls for decoration on every available surface, to the point of CREATING surfaces upon which decoration can be put!

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The storyline behind this rifle is the relationship between Pan and Diana. While it is myth, I feel it mirrors the saga of our own humanity.  I believe that the Greeks and Romans used myth to try to understand our selves and to explain the mysteries of life in story form.

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This engraving is made with very fine lines to create an image . More lines create shadow, and fewer lines, or no lines make for highlights. Distance is implied by finer lines, a haze, and scaling down objects. For me, this was a difficult challenge, as  the cut line presents many challenges. Line weight is extremely critical for placing objects in the foreground or background, for it would not look right for a distant object to be cut with heavy lines. It is very easy to have the mind drift, and the fingers slip

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dsc_8713I know I spent a lot of time and all on this engraving, inlay, and polishing, but the most telling and magical moment is when the barrel goes from straw to purple, to blue, as the temperature slowly rises. Then you see the steel change color right before your eyes. I was so unprepared for this change, that I almost overheated the steel, totally mesmerized by the colors.

I believe there are other forces at work here, forces beyond my own being that bring this kind of work out. I can feel these vibrations walking through the halls of the Metropolitan……millions of man hours, fingers working the metals, the clays , fibers…..thousands of men, their names and faces long forgotten, but their spirit lives on through the object.

Was it that this object needed me to be here to come into existence,  was it waiting for hundreds of years to appear, is some greater force at work, am I being channeled, plodding through the days of my life, churning out the goods……. and like magic, this appears before my eyes? Many thoughts run through my head at times like this. Maybe some will think I’m nuts, but I believe that most people who work with their hands will understand what I am talking about.

Tom

Many have asked if I did the blue over the fire. This was my original intention, but I had to re-do it, and I got the willies about scrubbing the barrel over the bricks again. All it would take is one touch against the brick, and the barrel is scratched. So I used a torch, and with a soft flame, teased the temperature up through the colors.

I never imagined how breathtaking this would look in my mind’s eye. I’d seen original guns with this technique of gold inlaid into steel, I’ve seen pictures a-plenty of original and contemporary works, but to see this transformation taking place before my very eyes, I am at a loss to describe my feelings. oh, my, oh, my, I am at a loss for words. I know I made this hapen, I know I inlaid the gold, cut all the lines, undercut all the lines, conceived the artwork, drew and drew and dreamed and planned for hours on end, but all of that did little to prepare me for this transformation of the bright steel to blue, and the contrast with the gold. Oh, my. Something extraordinary happened. Beyond my scope of understanding; yet, there it is. There is the object of my dreams, appearing before me, and the shock is beyond belief. It is like I do not recognize my own child.

I must also give thanks to those who have helped me along the way. One such person, Jerry Huddleston,  contacted me several years ago and said “Tom, you really need to learn how to engrave properly.” Jerry offered to teach me the basics of sharpening and engraving, plus some precious metal inlay. As important as the lessons were from Jerry, the most valuable lesson I learned was: Jerry saw something in me that I did not really see in myself. He believed enough in me to teach me what took him a lifetime to learn.

dsc_8672The breech section, a close up view.

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This is the muzzle, repolished and re-blued.

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What is a Jaeger rifle?

Jaeger” means hunter in German. The rifle used by the hunter is also called a jaeger, which a short, easily carried arm. The traditional German jaeger rifle is frequently found with scenes from the classic Greek and Roman mythologies; and Diana, the goddess of the hunt, is commonly found on these arms. These rifles can be found from plain hunting guns to the fanciest imaginable grade of workmanship and materials.

I have chosen to create a jaeger rifle for several reasons. For me, the gun is a canvas upon which I can use many kinds of decorative techniques. This is a personal challenge to learn new methods, work with new materials.

I am in the process of coloring the barrel. I heat this over a charcoal fire in order to get the temperature high enough to turn the steel a blue. As I bring the heat up, the barrel changes from a straw brown, to a darker shade, then tinged with a deep purple blue, switching over entirely to blue. More heat, and the steel goes to a pale blue, and then gray. These colors are separated by only a few degrees of temperature. I found I had to keep an eagle eye on the barrel, moving it constantly, to avoid hot spots and sudden color changes. Yikes. After a couple of months of engraving and inlaying gold, you can imagine I’d be nervous about messing up all that work.

In the photo below, you can just see the barrel starting to turn from the brownish to purple. The charcoal is “Cowboy” charcoal, made from wood chunks. The briquette style might have impurities that could affect the workpiece, so I played it safe with the real wood charcoal.

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Below is a picture of the muzzle end of the barrel, with the gold and the darkened steel. I found some ick on the barrel, possibly from the cloth I was wiping the hot barrel with. So, I will polish this up bright again, and put it back in the fire. I’m disappointed that it got a little screwed up, but nothing that a little elbow grease and time can’t fix. I’ll post more pictures when I get it done.

Tom

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Building the rifle is one thing, but decorating the gun an entirely different proposition. It is in the carving, chiseling and engraving that the gun comes to life as an artwork. The theme I have chosen for this gun is about Pan, a Faun, and Diana, the goddess of the hunt. This is loosely based on the classic Greek and Roman stories, ancient and modern sculpture and painting.

This theme of the faun Pan and the goddess Diana will be threaded through this rifle, engraved on different pieces of the gun’s hardware. The cheekpiece inlay is complete at the moment, with four more locations for scenery to follow.

Below is a photo of the completed inlay, ready for installation on the buttstock of the rifle. This is cut from sterling silver sheet, curved to fit the shape of the gun, and then engraved. I’d like to show you some of the steps involved in producing this piece.

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