Dennis' roots in engraving began in the early 1900s with his grandfather and
great uncle. Matthias Hanck, Dennis' great uncle, was a noted Chicago jeweler
and silversmith whose studio was known for producing fine Arts and Crafts
jewelry and silver serving pieces. John, Dennis' grandfather, worked for his
brother Matthias as an engraver.
Following the Great Depression, Matthias went on to work for the Parker Pen
Company and is perhaps best known for designing the famous Parker Pen
"arrow" clip. John moved to Los Angeles just before WWII and began his own
engraving business. He worked steadily until the late fifties when a stroke
ended his ability to engrave.
Many years after John passed away, Dennis came across John's box of
engraving tools, dusty and buried under other forgotten boxes. After studying
the tools for a few moments, he decided to learn everything he could about the
fine art of engraving.
Influenced by Westerns that he watched as a kid growing up the fifties, Dennis
developed a passion for anything that was "cowboy." As a seven year old, he
could be seen swaggering around in a cowboy hat and boots. And like most boys
of that time, no cowboy outfit was complete without a prized Stallion six-shooter
Dennis never lost his interest in guns of the Old West. Over the years, he
developed an interest in pistols and rifles of the late 1800s, and an admiration
for the designs engraved on them. So, for Dennis' first engraving project, it
seemed natural to try his hand on vintage cowboy pistols --very appealing to
the little kid in him.
One of Dennis' favorite engravers is Louis Nimschke, who was a factory
engraver for firearms companies in the 1800s. He mastered the graceful lines
and curves of classical Victorian motifs, beautifully arranging them on the
different surfaces of the guns that he engraved. They were elegant, simple
designs and easily recognizable. "You could say I am paying homage to him in
much of my work on vintage firearms," says Dennis. But while Dennis' style is
influenced by Nimschke, engravers like to have a recognizable style that is
their own, much like a musician who can be recognized by his or her own riff.
Engraving is a time-consuming endeavor. Not many people do it. Machines
have replaced a lot of hand engravers, but it is a tradition that Dennis feels is
worth carrying on into the 21st century.
Dennis currently lives in the San Juan Islands in Washington state with his
wife and son.
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