Rural Missouri - November 2020 - 24

Left: Learning how to engrave letters helped Chuck with his restoration work. "It's graceful to me," he says. "If you can cut letters right, you know
how to cut everything else." Right: Designs adorning the bolster and lock of a knife reveal the minute details that go into Chuck's engravings.
by Zach Smith | zsmith@ruralmissouri.coop

engraving. Much of that work involves restoring scrollwork
on antique firearms, such as European long-range rifles
and fowling pieces, from the 18th and 19th centuries. Colhe arc of Chuck Edwards' life has always followed
lectors who buy such guns for restoration projects send
twin themes: history and art. A keen eye for detail
the parts that need engraving to Chuck. But cleaning these
led him to pursue western art as a portraitist. After
pieces during the restoration process sometimes renders
firing a friend's flintlock rifle for the first time, his
the original designs into nothing more than a few divots or
artistic inspiration changed with a flash and a bang.
even a clean slate.
"When I was at the easel doing paintings I'd think, 'Man,
That's when a smoke pull comes in handy. Using a
I'd rather be in the shop working on a gun.' And when I
candle to cover the surface of the gun in soot, a piece of
was in the shop working on guns, I'd think, 'Man, I need
tape is then applied to pull off a copy of the design underto be back in there on the easel,' " Chuck says. "So I had to
neath. Stuck to a piece of paper or film, the tape becomes
pick, and I picked muzzleloaders."
a photographic negative of the image that was originally
To say the painter-turned-gunsmith completely abanengraved. Chuck then uses the smoke pull as a guide
doned his artistic inspiration, however, wouldn't be true.
when he re-engraves the cleaned piece in a process called
Chuck traded painting for three new disciplines - black"chasing."
smithing, woodworking and engraving - and combines all
"We have machines now that do remarkable stuff," he
three to create one-of-a-kind pieces that are not only fully
says, motioning to a small air jack at the workbench, "but
functional, but highly collectable.
some of these actions and locks are fine mechanisms,
A lifelong woodsman and childhood fan of the
television exploits of Daniel Boone and Davy
like a well-machined clock. I have to use a microscope
to see it. I don't know how they did it with just the
Crockett, Chuck enjoyed the experience of finally shooting a flintlock. He wanted to buy his own
ambient light coming in through a window."
traditional muzzleloader to start hunting with, but,
Engraving for small pieces runs roughly $6 per
he says, "I found out really quick I couldn't afford
letter, with larger jobs - chasing the scrollwork
on an antique gun, for instance - running $60
them." Not to be deterred, the SEMO Electric CoopBloomfield
per hour. A Chuck Edwards original muzzleerative member studied what material he could find
loader starts around $3,000, and the price can
on the subject. He built one flintlock, sold it and
increase based on certain options including
used the funds to buy tools, parts and books. That
the type of wood used for the stock. Curly maple,
pattern continued, and soon he found he'd not only been
black walnut and highly prized English walnut are prebuilding guns but also a reputation for his work.
ferred for their stripe, burl and overall character. Most
"I told my wife, 'If I have a year's worth of work in front
customers purchase their own wood, barrel and lock and
of me, I'd quit building houses,' " Chuck says. "Turns out I
decide on what trigger pull and engraving they want before
had two years in front of me and I didn't know it."
setting Chuck to work. They also decide if they want an
He still finds new aspects of the process that spark
early - pre-1790s - or late gun and what "school," or
his curiosity 20 years later. In addition to building new
style of gun they ultimately want.
flintlocks, Chuck also made a name for himself through

T

24

RURAL MISSOURI | NOVEMBER 2020



Rural Missouri - November 2020

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Rural Missouri - November 2020

Contents
Rural Missouri - November 2020 - Cover1
Rural Missouri - November 2020 - Cover2
Rural Missouri - November 2020 - Contents
Rural Missouri - November 2020 - 4
Rural Missouri - November 2020 - 5
Rural Missouri - November 2020 - 6
Rural Missouri - November 2020 - 7
Rural Missouri - November 2020 - 8
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Rural Missouri - November 2020 - 24
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Rural Missouri - November 2020 - 26
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Rural Missouri - November 2020 - Cover3
Rural Missouri - November 2020 - Cover4
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