Roland Baptiste, Baptiste Engraver
I engrave guns and knives for wealthy customers who want their weapons to be as beautiful as they are deadly. Most of my customers ask for pictures of the animals they hunt to be carved out on their weapons so I draw a lot of boars and geese peeking out from the undergrowth, as well as more general floral patterns.
It can take weeks to engrave an intricate design on something large like a 20-bore side-by-side shotgun – a classic hunting piece. I prefer to engrave on to steel plates that then get attached to the guns, but I am often asked by my more extravagant customers to work with silver or gold instead. It is not uncommon for people to want diamonds incorporated into the design as well, which can look very impressive.
My father was an engraver, and as a child I was intrigued by the sound of the hammer and chisel in his workshop. This inspired me to study engraving at the School of Arms Manufacturing at Liège, Belgium. I set up my own practice in Modave in 1993. I now also teach weapons engraving so I can pass on my craft.
The most eccentric pattern I have ever done was of the Princess Liliane de Réthy, who married king Leopold III of Belgium in 1941 when he was under house arrest by the Nazis. It took months to finish the design because it was so detailed. It is nerve-racking to do something that takes so long as it only takes one mistake and you have to start all over again. Luckily, I have a steady hand.
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