News-Antique.com - Mar 15,2010 - Graham Short, who inscribed The Lord's Prayer on a pinhead, tells Paul Fraser Collectibles of his amazing craft
Graham has worked for half a century as a copperplate hand-engraver, and has spent nearly 40 years perfecting his technique of engraving The Lord's Prayer on the head of a pin, just 2mm across.
He started a six-year apprenticeship in 1961 earning £2.17s 6d per week. In 1974, he started his own one-man engraving business supplying copper plates to the printing trade.
He now supplies the Royal Family, The House of Commons, and Foreign Embassies around the world and many celebrities with their stationery.
You describe your most recent piece, The Lord's Prayer on a pinhead, as the perfect "unique and flawless masterpiece". Is this your finest work to date?
I've been trying, all my working life, to engrave smaller and smaller. I've ruined over 200 pins in the run up to this final one. I'm currently working on engraving the American Bill of Rights, 2nd Amendment, which allows Americans to bear arms. This will be engraved on the end of a small silver bullet within the indentation made by the firing pin where it strikes the bullet.
What inspired you to do it? Why the Lord's Prayer?
It's a traditional thing, The Lord's Prayer. Engravers have always put this on jewellery and other items, usually aiming to get it as small as possible.
Has anyone ever attempted an engraving like this before?
I've heard of an American who claims to have engraved The Lord's Prayer on a pin head one hundred years ago. I don't know how genuine it is. I only know how difficult it has been for me. If it's not a fake, then good luck to the man. I take my hat off to him.
Can you take us through the various stages of producing the finished item?
My technique is to engrave under a microscope with an engraving tool so thin that it can hardly be seen by the naked eye.
I wear a stethoscope to monitor my own heart beat, and with my arm strapped to the bench to avoid any movement, I engrave between heart beats when I am perfectly still. To avoid vibration from passing traffic I work after midnight when it is very quiet.
Before commencing the work, I realised that I needed to be in top physical shape to undergo the rigours of such a long, nerve-racking effort. I am a former European 200 metre butterfly champion and have a resting pulse rate of around 30 beats per minute - this helps tremendously.
I've experimented with all kinds of engraving tools for this miniature work, but the best by far are very fine needles made at the end of the 19th century. I paid fifty pounds to an antique dealer in Nottingham 20 years ago for 300 of them. I still have 30 of them left.
The eyes are actually made of pure gold. The level of craftsmanship in these hand-made needles