Whether you are looking to upgrade an old family heirloom, dress up a favorite shooter or create an investment there are a few things that you should know before you begin.
Finding an engraver was once a daunting task but the Internet has made the search much easier and quicker. By doing a search on your favorite search engine you will find thousands of website featuring people and companies that engrave firearms. A wonderful resource at hand is the Firearms Engravers Guild of America. The guild is made up of engravers, beginner through advanced, from all over the US and the world. FEGA has two galleries available, one for "Certified Professionals" and one for "Regular" members. Any member of the guild may show their work under the Regular Member gallery but only those who have mastered certain requirements may show work in the Certified Pro are. To become a Certified Professional, one must pass several tests which challenge the applicants abilities, after which, he or she must submit finished works that will be judged by an appointed panel. The applicant must receive a unanimous vote from the three person panel to be awarded the Certified Pro status.
Most engravers have a few styles of scroll that they prefer to work in. Some of the more advanced engravers have developed their own style and do not work in others. Once you find an engraver that you are interested in, find out what styles they prefer. If the style you had in mind is not what they prefer, move on to the next engraver. If you don't have a style preference to begin with, take a look at the engravers work and decide what you like. Once you're picked an engraver and a style of engraving, you will need to decide how much coverage you want. If you have a limited budget, tell the engraver what it is and he or she will give you an idea of the coverage you will receive.
Some engravers will take care of dis-assembly, polishing and re-finishing themselves but most will prefer to let someone else deal with it. If you don't have someone to handle the prep-work and finishing, they may have someone that they trust to do the work. The majority of professional engravers already have enough of a backlog that they just can't afford to take time away from the actual engraving process.
Be prepared for a bit of a wait. Hand engraving is an art form and takes time. A newer engraver may have a backlog of only a few months while a well known individual could have a waiting list with two years worth of work. Fortunately, the usual practice is to take a small deposit to place your name on the waiting list and contact you when your turn is up. Each engraver's policy will be different so make sure you both understand what is expected. Few engravers can afford to wait on a project that is not available when they are which could result in extra waiting time for you.
With just a bit of patience and a little knowledge, you are sure to be happy with both your engraving project and your engraver.