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Weird Jobs: Firearms hand engraving is an art form that few have mastered

Weird Jobs: Firearms hand engraving is an art form that few have mastered


The art of engraving firearms has been around as long as firearms have been in existence. The practice has evolved far from a chisel and a hammer, however; that's how Bob Rosser remembers getting started over 40 years ago.

Rosser owns a personal metal engraving studio in Birmingham, Alabama. It began as a hobby for him growing up and into his formative years, but he committed to the art officially around 1976. His first love of engraving has always been on firearms, but he's practiced his skills on an array of items through the years.

"Anything metal can be engraved, and I've seen most of it."
Bob Rosser

Rosser has hand engraved everything from monogrammed baby cups to car mufflers. He told Circa that he learned to engrave using steel, and that any metal softer feels like butter. The precious metals that he's worked with are primarily silver, gold and platinum. Rosser follows a traditional style of engraving, but he said every engraver adds their own personal touch to make a piece as authentic as possible.

Rosser is a member of the Firearms Engravers Guild of America, and has been a member off and on since 1983. The Guild is put together to benefit engravers, and enhances the teaching and learning aspects of engraving. Rosser took part in a weeklong Master class that is offered by the guild for improving upon skills already acquired. Although engraving has been a skilled trade for centuries, there's now a university that offers a degree in it. Emporia State University in Emporia, Kansas, is the only place in the world where you can get a Bachelor of Arts degree with a major in Engraving Arts.

Trust and communication is key with engraving. The pricing all depends upon the quality and detail that goes into a piece. Since hand engraving is more of an art than a science, replicating exact expectations is not an easy task. If a client claims to know exactly what they want, it's sometimes hard to relay that message to the engraver.

"I don't like to do something I'm not proud of. I like to do the best I can, but I don't like to do something that I don't trust to start with."
Bob Rosser

Rosser calls Alabama home, but he takes orders from all across the country via his website, Hand-engravers.com.

He's also an FFL (Federal Firearms Licensed) dealer, which allows him to receive and send back firearms legally throughout the U.S. To date, Rosser's work has been sent to over 176 cities nationwide.

Be sure to watch the video above to get a first-hand look at how the art of firearms engraving works.

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