Carole Halls Adventure

By Jackie Zack

Copyright © 2004 by Davis Multimedia, Int'l. All Rights Reserved.
As Printed in December 2004, Volume 30, No. 6 of The Engravers Journal
The historic HTL-Steyr Institute of Technology in Schlüsselhofgasse, Austria (top). Steyr’s Exhibit Gallery (bottom).  

     Carole Hall had been engraving for 40 years when the opportunity of a lifetime came knocking at her door. The 62-year-old artist and watercolor teacher was happily running her engraving business, Crysta-Line, Inc. in Rochester, NY, when an artisan approached her about engraving some steel guitars.
    Carole was asked to engrave floral images resembling chrysanthemums on the metal encasements surrounding the artisan’s collectible handcrafted wooden guitars, the type of guitars that sell for thousands of dollars and take years to make.
    Excited about a project that would expand her engraving skills, Carole jumped at the chance. For years, Carole had been engraving similar images onto glass and crystal gifts and awards using a diamond point hand drilling process, and she welcomed the opportunity to broaden her artistic endeavors. However, she knew she needed more training and experience before taking on her first commission. “I wanted to learn new ways of engraving metal and also how to enhance what I already knew about engraving,” she says.
    That’s when Carole came face to face with the kind of opportunity that she would never have imagined in her wildest dreams. While shopping on the Internet for hand engraving teachers, she discovered master engraver Martin Strolz and the historic HTL-Steyr Institute of Technology in Austria, where the renown metal engraver teaches his craft. She also learned that the school was offering a pilot program designed specifically for foreign students that centered on various metal hand engraving techniques.
    Carole immediately contacted Martin to ask if she could study at the Austrian school. After reviewing her qualifications and engraving samples, Martin invited her and Mark Maxwell, an American master bench jeweler, to be the first “guest students” to attend the 10-week program in April and May of 2003.
    Despite a few adversities, including the fact that the war in Iraq was breaking out the very same day as her flight, Carol embraced the adventure with enthusiasm. “As an older woman, I found that the trip was not easy physically, mentally or financially,” Carole says. “But I made the decision to take this moment in time and grasp it as a chance of a lifetime for me. Because there are no ‘master engravers’ of the European tradition in the U.S., I felt it was a tremendous opportunity to be the first American invited to the school and to be a part of helping to attract other American students.”

Carole using an air pressure-driven “power-assist” hand engraving device.

  Carole began with the basics, learning how to make her own hand engraving tools and the techniques of using a variety of hand tools, including a hammer and chisel.

World-Class Education
    With more than 1,100 students and 135 teachers, HTL-Steyr prepares students for a range of trades and crafts through four different departments: mechanical engineering, automotive engineering, electronics and applied arts and crafts. Students as young as 14 travel from afar to live in the dormitories while studying and learning a trade in the four-year program. They must demonstrate serious talent and dedication to their chosen fields to be accepted into the school.
    “We are very selective of our students,” says Martin. “They must be extremely talented to come here. Otherwise, we feel we would be wasting our time since the goal is to train people for a highly-respected lifetime career.”
    Once there, the students work extremely hard, balancing a full course load of theory-based classes with long hours of hands-on workshops designed to hone and fine-tune their growing skills.
    The engraving program at HTL-Steyr is part of the 120-year-old Arts and Crafts College and it is here that students train to become engravers, goldsmiths, silversmiths, blacksmiths, jewelers, metal sculptors and artists. After completing their studies, they often find jobs in graphic design, molding and the firearms industry, and many take over existing family businesses or start their own engraving companies.
    “Students can obtain a world-class engraving education in our school,” says Martin, who began his own engraving career at HTL-Steyr when he was 14. “In addition to hand engraving classes, we provide a solid background in 15 theoretical subjects, which support the trade.”
    The institute’s curriculum also offers classes in geography, history, mathematics, chemistry, economic education, business administration, technology, history of the arts, creative drawing, applied information technology, project design and the German and English languages.
    Though today’s modern engraving industry is mostly technologically driven, Martin says students at HTL-Steyr acquire a deeper understanding of engraving that enhances their careers. “It makes them special to have this skill,” he says. “We think that students are well prepared for the working life.”
    Each student, regardless of specialization, is urged to attend courses covering the general aspects of each technical discipline, Martin explains. Throughout their four years at the institution, 17 hours a week are dedicated to hands-on training in workshops and an additional 8 hours a week are devoted to technical instruction and specialized drawing, resulting in a total of 39 hours a week including requisite studies.
    Regular full-time students begin with the basics, learning how to make their own hand engraving tools and the techniques of using a variety of hand tools, including a hammer and chisels. Engraving skills taught at the school include a variety of hand engraving techniques, such as monogram lettering, engraving for printing purposes, gun engraving, chiseled ornamentation and flat and relief inlay techniques.
    The school doesn’t, however, stop at hand engraving. Students also have the opportunity to learn how to custom grind engraving and milling tools and work with various machines, including a lathe, drill press and hydraulic minting press. Technology courses cover CNC (computerized engraving) basics, 2D CNC engraving with a Gravograph-New Hermes machine and CAD/CAM programming using iSIGN and HCAM software. “We go through all the most important features of the programs, such as layout, drawing, text and font editor operations, the editing process and the tool path,” Martin says.
Other programs include:
        • Advanced CNC engraving and milling with a LANG engraving machine
        • Cutting of steel stamps
        • Making dies, modeling in clay and making models in epoxy resin
        • Sign-making, computerized engraving in all kinds of materials
        • Embossing in copper
        • Stone setting
    “Besides the practical teaching in the workshops, I give lessons in the subject technology for engravers and metal workers,” he says. “We give a superb well-rounded education in engraving while guiding them in practical application.”

Mark Maxwell, an American master bench jeweler, along with Carole was one of the first "guest students."

Martin taught Carole new and better things about engraving. "He can just look at a picture and reproduce the image on metal using tiny dots,” says Carole.

Opportunity of a Lifetime
    In the Spring of 2003, HTL-Steyr started piloting the 10-week basic hand engraving course that Carole Hall and Mark Maxwell were fortunate enough to participate in. In preparation for the course, Martin created a textbook that covered graver types and their preparation, as well as instructions on various hand engraving techniques, such as ornamental engraving, English scrolls, monograms and inlaying of precious metals. Martin also included the exquisite, but complicated, “Bulino” engraving, a process that involves using a square graver and hand force to engrave very fine lines or dots into metal to create pictorial designs. A skilled engraver can use the Bulino technique to create extremely high definition images, including full 3D effects and varying gray tones to achieve true photographic quality.
    For Carole, the two-month adventure was challenging, but she says she would do it again without thinking twice. Not only did her flight leave the day the war broke out, but an ice storm hit Toronto where her flight departed for Austria. “Everybody thought I was crazy, but I told them you only get one chance in your life to do something like this, so I am going!”
    From 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day, Carole kept up a stringent schedule learning and practicing the basics of hand engraving. The first step was to learn to prepare her own hand engraving tools, including learning about graver “face” and “heel” angles along with how to sand and polish the gravers to produce a smooth, bright cut. She started her engraving lesson by practicing straight and curved lines on the metal an eighth of an inch apart before moving on to the more challenging Bulino technique. Carole also learned the art of silversmithing and used her newfound skills to make a necklace for her daughter.
    Carole was extremely impressed with Martin’s skills and abilities. “Martin taught me new and better things about engraving. He could just look at a picture and reproduce the image on metal using tiny dots,” she says. “He does beautiful work and will spend hours and hours to complete one engraving. It isn’t always easy to study under Martin because he’s meticulous and a perfectionist, not just with his own work, but with that of his students. He gets very excited when the job is done well, but he’s very staunch and hard when students aren’t doing what he asks. If it’s not right, he’ll make his students do it over and over until it is right.”

Martin Strolz began his own engraving career at HTL-Steyr when he was 14 and is now a teacher there. Steyr students learning computer layout and design.

The Master
    To become a master engraver in Austria, Martin had to apprentice for three and a half years, work in the profession for three more years and pass a state-regulated test that includes completing a bench test “masterpiece” as well as a written exam. Now, students can pass the test after only one year of studying at HTL-Steyr, Martin says.
    In addition to teaching, Martin engraves fine hand-made hunting arms in his own small studio, a passion he developed during his teen years studying at the Institute. When he graduated, he went to Ferlach, Austria, to refine and deepen his engraving skills and pursue his passion of gun engraving under a renowned engraver of the time, Hans Singer. His engraving skills developed quickly and the second rifle he engraved was featured in the book “I’lincinsione delle Armi Sportive,” by Mario Abbiatico. Two years after leaving the school, he passed the state-regulated certification and received his master’s degree in engraving.
    After graduating, he worked for Hans Singer for four years, taking on a variety of gun-engraving projects before launching his own business and workshop in the same city. Martin taught at the Ferlach School for a year, where he discovered that he liked teaching. “I found teaching to be stimulating,” he says. “I enjoyed the interaction with my students. It was a unique chance for me to pass on my knowledge of technique and design style.”
    In 1986, when HTL-Steyr was looking for a hand engraver, they approached Martin and he moved back to his former school. He was motivated by his desire to bring Ferlach gun engraving techniques to HTL-Steyr. He also sought to combine the traditions of both Austrian schools and renew the existing curriculum to offer a broader variety of skills to students.
    Today, he continues to pursue and take on engraving projects in addition to teaching. With his extensive experience, he is an expert in a variety of engraving techniques, from relief engravings to fine Bulino engraved scenes surrounded by various ornamental motifs to gold inlays. Martin continues to work with Lechner & Jungl, a company he began working with back in his days in Ferlach. The historic company (founded in 1821) builds fine single- and double-barrel rifles, bolt action rifles and shotguns and has an excellent reputation for restoring classing English doubles and shotguns.
    Martin prefers working with the most basic hand-held tools, such as gravers, hammers and chisels, and doesn’t use any air pressure-driven “power-assist” hand engraving devices. “Traditional tools allow me to have a better feel for the material, and the results show it. My clients are looking for the highest quality.”
    Martin also uses a hand held magnifier for engraving highly-detailed scenes. On occasion, he even uses a “low power” microscope that magnifies the image 10 times, which helps Martin create extremely fine-detailed scenes.



Engraving skills taught at the school include a variety of hand engraving techniques, such as monogram lettering, engraving for printing purposes, gun engraving, chiseled ornamentation and flat and relief inlay techniques.

An example of a motif with gold inlay.

International Students Welcome
    Martin developed the pilot program because he hopes to develop a reputation on the international level. Already, he has received inquiries from such countries as Germany, Italy, Ukraine, Czech Republic, Hungary, Peru and Namibia.
    “In opening our school to the world beyond Austria, we are offering a very rare opportunity to a few dedicated students to learn the art of engraving from the basics of drawing and design to the practical skills of cutting and modeling,” Martin says. “I am proud of the tradition and especially of the level of education offered here.”
    Carole Hall highly recommends the school to serious engraving students, particularly those who wish to pursue hand engraving. “I have long felt that something needs to be done to further the arts in the engraving fields here in America,” she says. “Because of new technology and the quick high production approach to engraving processes, the work of the real artisan, as in many art fields, is going to slip out of sight unless we try our best to continue an education offered by only a few schools here.
    “HTL-Steyr is absolutely one of the best and most efficiently run schools I have ever been in,” she continues, “and I encourage American students to consider attending to learn hand engraving. The school’s walls hold much history in the engraving arts, and the institution has much to offer aspiring art students who have an engraving flair or established artisans such as myself who have a desire to expand their engraving skills.”
    Editor’s Note: In the March/April 1987 issue of EJ there was another interesting article about Carole entitled, “Crysta-Lyne By Carole, Drilling into Crystal.” If you would like to purchase this back issue visit us at

This example of a die hub was made using high precision 3D diesinking.

When Martin graduated from Steyr, he went to Ferlach, Austria, to refine and deepen his engraving skills and pursue his passion of gun engraving under a renowned engraver, Hans Singer.