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Old 07-09-2008, 08:15 PM
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Photos posted. Let Delta419 fill everyone in on the details. See page 40 of SCSW3.


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Old 07-09-2008, 08:15 PM
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Photos posted. Let Delta419 fill everyone in on the details. See page 40 of SCSW3.


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Old 07-10-2008, 07:44 AM
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I saw this S&W .38 "Safety" at a pawnshop up in Northern Georgia that has what looks like factory engraving. I am not an expert and have no engraved guns in my stable. However, this is a place of experts and maybe someone here can tell if this looks like real art work or just "pawnshop engraving". I know a factory letter would probably answer the question but the old gentlman that has it is not inclined. My thanks to "Mrs. Bruce" for posting the excellent photos.
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Old 07-10-2008, 08:10 AM
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I think a factory letter would say that this is "after market" (i.e. distributor had engraved. Probably M.W. Robinson) New York type engraving done in the style of Nimschke.

Here are a couple of pictures of my 1 1/2 that one of the top S&W dealer/collectors has attributed to Nimschke. His comments were that the frame shows the hand of the master, but the cylinder and barrel looks to be done by someone else in Nimschke's shop. This was not uncommon.
(Notice the fine border work on the frame that is a hallmark of Nimschke.}

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Old 07-10-2008, 10:14 AM
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I agree with Dean, that it is most probably aftermarket engraving done in one of the large New York distributer shops, or commissioned by them. It is not what I would call cheap pawn shop style engraving. The New York distributers had some excellent engravers working for them. The only real way to tell for sure if it is factory engraving is to have it lettered. I have several engraved guns from the period and two in particular are indicative of the difficulty of determining the origin. They look identical to me and one letters as factory engraving and the other is listed as being shipped to MW Robinson as a plain nickel gun. That's a nice old top break there in any event.
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Old 07-10-2008, 10:39 AM
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For the most part, Nimschke was a "Contract" engraver. So if the S&W factory sent him one for engraving, it is considered as factory engraved and will letter as such. (I think. ) If M.W. Robinson sends it to Nimschke, it's exactly the same except it won't letter as factory engraved.
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Old 07-10-2008, 02:24 PM
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Nimschke signed near every piece he did. The elaborate with a full name, some with 'LDN' in caps, the lesser ones with a simple capital 'N' done with three quick
swipes of the graver. Since he was a freelance engraver and one of very few to really self promote his name and engraving, he took every advantage to mark his work. Firearms manufacturers usually did not want him to sign or mark his work in any way ( a few did), nor did they normally want their 'in house' engravers to either. Nimschke usually looked passed those demands and found a way to mark them anyway.
Attributing unmarked engraved pieces without documentation to Nimschke, or any other engraver for that matter, is more of a guess on the part of the 'expert', than having anything to do with being able to examine the cutting and collecting hard facts from it. There is nothing magical or signiture in the examination of cutting style or marks that can lead to a identification of a specific hand. Tools change, get sharpened, time/age/injury/ailments changes technique. Engravers styles & quality evolve as they procede through their career, perhaps doing a down swing at the end. Engraving cuts haven't changed at all and the combination of cuts to produce certain patterns is a common a language to engravers. You do find a few little self learned tricks that you later find out were already known by the rest of the world. You do develope your own style just as you do your own handwriting but copying someone elses style and work is not impossible. More tedious for sure, but not all that difficult though most engravers prefer to do their own identifiable style of scroll and work. Nimschke's most popular style as shown is, for all it's beauty, quite easy to both lay out and cut. It is fairly fast to cut and fills the area quickly. It was copied and used by countless engravers then and still is now. Copying a popular style was and is nothing new. Even signing the Masters mark to it to lend a bit more to the value.
When Lynton McKenzie was at the top of his engraving career in the US both in skill and most importantly popularity, more engravers copied his style of scroll work than any other, with the possible exception of Nimschke again. It became known as McKenzie scroll. The style and the value of the work & name attached to it became such that you could attend a big money show such as LasVegas and see more 'McKenzie' engraved guns than the man could have ever have done in his now unfortunately shortened lifetime. Many an expert in engraving could not pick the best of the counterfits from the real ones. They should sometimes have looked at the gun it was on more than the engraving to get a hint of it's originality.
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Old 07-10-2008, 04:23 PM
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Quote:
Nimschke signed near every piece he did.
That's just the opposite of what I have heard.
What's your source?
I seem to remember reading in the "L.D. Nimschke, Firearms Engraver" that he only signed "special" jobs. At least, I think that's the book title. It is the book with all of his "pulls" or patterns in it. Practically impossible to get these days. I had to borrow one in inter-library loan from Victoria, TX a number of years ago.
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Old 07-10-2008, 08:46 PM
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Quote:
Originally posted by deadin:
Quote:
Nimschke signed near every piece he did.
That's just the opposite of what I have heard.
What's your source?
I seem to remember reading in the "L.D. Nimschke, Firearms Engraver" that he only signed "special" jobs. At least, I think that's the book title. It is the book with all of his "pulls" or patterns in it. Practically impossible to get these days. I had to borrow one in inter-library loan from Victoria, TX a number of years ago.
>
Yes I have that book from way back when it was $17.95. I thought it was awfully expensive then but bit the bullet and bought it anyway. There are 95 pieces in that book that are signed by LDN. Those are only on firearms as there are pages of engraving pulls from other jobs like jewelry, presentation plaques, etc. that are not signed of course plus many duplicate patterns with only a change to the center design or a banner, etc. There are also 20 firearms (unsigned)in that book that are noted by LDN with an 'X' next to the pull to show that they are the work of another engraver other than himself.(we're always looking for ideas!). That is a fact not taken into consideration by those taking a tally of engraved firearms in that book.
The author of the book, one Larry Wilson, made a comment in there that LDN very rarely signed handgun engraving, yet there are many pistols in a list in the back that are signed. Mr Wilson was never shy in helping to set up a legacy based on his own ideas if he could benefit and profit from it later on. He happened to own a few LDN engraved pieces including some Colt Percussion revolvers that were purchased from the Wadsworth Antheneum Collection as unworthy for display so no longer needed by the establishment. He happened to be the Colt Museum Curator at the time IIRC.
LDN worked as an engraver for about 50yrs. What is shown in that book is said to be about 10% of his total work. Who decided that number? I guess it'd be Larry again. That makes for just the right amount of LDN work out there to keep the price high but still enough to discover a nice piece every so often. Usually to the delight and profit of the same group of names, none of which ever seem to be an engraver themselves. Why are gun engraving experts never gun engravers?
Believe me, there is only so much engraving a person, even the most prolific worker, can turn out in a lifetime career of 50yrs AND be of top quality. Some can do fantastic amounts compared to others but there is still a limit on the human hands, eyes and mind. Many employed contract engravers to cut their patterns on lesser jobs and did not sign them because of that fact. I don't recall if anything was ever written that LDN had apprentices/journeyman engravers or not working with him. I would guess not just reading about the man but that is only a guess on my part.
I just cannot take much stock in the claims of most of the self proclaimed experts in this field in that they themselves have no experience in it. They for the most part make statements that show a lack of basic knowledge that would come from hands on involvement. Generalizing about the beauty or lack of, layout, style, etc can be done by anyone with sight and is in itself ones opinion. Getting into who actually cut a piece 100+yrs ago based on looking closely at chisel marks or a punch dot is an inexact science on the very best of days. It does not however take away any research or historical knowledge they may discover and bring to light. That is how that pattern book came to be saved in the first place.
>
BTW there was a reprint of that book out a few years back. That may be still available somewhere..
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Old 07-11-2008, 07:33 AM
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This has been an "eye opener thread". Great discussion on a rather complex subject! I certainly appreciate everyone's comments and will forward them to the owner of the little Safety 38. I thank everyone who has contributed,it really is a neat little gun/piece of art.
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Old 08-11-2008, 10:13 PM
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First of all, Delta's .38 Safety pictures tell me that Nimschke was never anywhere near that gun. It's typical after market New York style medium quality engraving. Second, I tend to agree with 2152hq's comments about Larry Wilson & Nimschke. I have studied 19th century gun engraver's work on firearms for many years and tried it a few times myself. Good engraving is like handwriting and a skilled observer can usually recognize technique and style in engraving as found on guns. Quite often, a gun will exhibit the work of several engravers, especially in shops like the Nimschke's and the Youngs, for example, as they employed several assistants. Third, If you have a gun with exceptionally great engraving and you get a factory letter that does not mention the gun as being shipped engraved, don't give up. I have had several such guns and by digging in the factory archives & correspondence, was able to prove the guns were shipped in the white to famous engravers by the factory, as per the customers order, engraved and returned to S&W for finishing and shipping to the buyer. One well known example I had in my collection uncovered the fact that 7 special guns were drop shipped to Kornbrath in the white, engraved by him in similar styles and returned to S&W for shipment to Wolf & Klar as special orders by a wealthy Texas businessman & hotel owner. Shipping records merely said the gun was part of a shipment of 50 guns to W&K. No mention of the special order, but more searching in the archives told "the rest of the story!". Ed.
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