The greatest compliment an engraver can receive is to be asked to participate in a major project that involves the combined talents of a group of firearms artists. This kind of project typically brings out the best of each of the participating craftsmen, and the results are the production of a very special piece of art that is much more than could be created by one artist alone.
When you initiate a long-term project with a John Bolliger Best Rifle as the first-of-series, the personal challenges are even greater, because the vision of one of these masterpieces naturally inspires
everyone’s best effort. Added to that is the challenge of performing in sync with four or five other internationally recognized Masters of the Art of Fine Gunmaking. When you finish your part of the project and put your stamp of approval on your own work, you know that your associate artist and the hunting fraternity are expecting something very special. The timing is critical, and it must all come together in a particular order that is ultimately unveiled as a finished piece of art. There are few outside the trade who understand the mechanical and artistic dynamics of such an undertaking.
I signed onto the Safari project knowing all of this, and understanding the challenges of engraving a world-class big game rifle within the framework of all these issues. The sheer size and weight of the metal is a challenge, the hardness of the steel and the complicated surfaces test an engraver’s skill at every turn. It takes experience and a life-time of understanding to approach the limitless difficulties of holding these unwieldy yet delicate and odd-shaped parts in a vise to cut straight lines, form concentric scrolls, and inlay delicate gold borders and details. It all starts with the complications of mating together eight or ten major pieces of metal into a harmonious and pleasing composition that flows from front to back and top to bottom. The animal inlays must be true to life and exhilarating to the viewer. The fraternity of international hunters would not appreciate unrealistic anatomy on such a high level piece of firearms art.
When all of these challenges are considered, the truth is that there is nothing that motivates me more than knowing that I am an integral part of the initial World Heritage Rifle project. My experiences with Safari International go back many years and I can recall a good number of fine Bolliger Rifles I’ve engraved. It’s always been exciting to attend the shows and watch the people scrutinize the guns at the Mountain Riflery display booth. This year will be even more exciting because January, 2015, will be the first time I’ll be able to see the entire project together in one place.
Michael W. Dubber, FEGA Master Engraver, Colt Master Engraver