Exquisite, intricate, and ornate aptly describe the engraving art of Tom Hartliep. He still engraves entirely by hand with a graverís chisel and hammer and his home-grown graverís vise, following the teachings of his brother, Neil Hartliep.
Backing up the bus for a little background, Tom Hartliep was raised by his brother Neil, who was his elder by twenty years. After WW II, Neil began work as a gunsmith, and did considerable engraving in his own shop. After some years of custom engraving work, he was commissioned by the NRA to teach engraving at the Trinidad School of Gunsmithing in Colorado, then later at Rochester, New York and Susanville, California.
During this tenure as engraving instructor for the NRA engraving program, Neil wrote what has become the standard text and manual for curriculum in engraving at the NRA schools. The title of the book is The Basics of Firearms Engraving.
Under this experienced tutorship Tom apprenticed under his brother and learned the art of firearms engraving, and has refined that skill with twenty years of experience. Tom recalls back to his time learning under his brotherís guidance, that Neil wouldnít allow him to commission work, or sell his engraving, until such a time as he considered Tomís work that of a master engraver. It wasnít until 1987 that Tom received his first commissioned work, and that was at a gun show in Tucson, Arizona, when Neil consented to allow him to receive compensation for his work.
Since that time, Tom has become a very accomplished engraver in his own right, specializing in American Scroll and English Scroll designs. Each and every piece that he engraves is uniquely different, as he has no ďsetĒ patterns. His work includes gold and silver inlays, wildlife, and other scenic engraving, but his specialty is the scroll-work and his favorite is English Scroll.
Tom does a variety of firearms, rifles and shotguns, but his favorites, and his specialty are handguns, with Colt single-actions his forte. Each piece is individually engraved, with a unique pattern specific to that firearm, by hand, one stroke of the graverís hammer at a time. Although he takes great pains and time with the engraving, his pricing structure for his work is quite reasonable, shockingly so.
Engraving is available in anywhere from 10% to full coverage. He makes a point of explaining that those guns on which he only does a 10%-50% coverage on, he always makes sure that the pattern is such that more engraving can be added later if the customer desires more coverage than first requested. He indicated to me during our interview that the vast majority of those people wanting less than 50% coverage nearly always come back for more once they get their piece back.
Tom has never advertised his work, relying solely on word of mouth referrals for engraving jobs. At the time of this writing he is about three to four months backlogged with work, and has yet to increase his very reasonable pricing structure due to demands for his engraving.
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If you contact Tom about engraving work, be advised that he wonít engrave anything but firearms, and then only quality pieces. He is a straight shooter, and easy to talk with and can make some really outstanding suggestions for your projects based on his vast engraving experience.
PO Box 144
Priest River, ID 83856
Tom has no website at this time.
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