John Sellers  -  Engraver

Tool found in an Artist's Box

What was this tool used for?   It was, found in an artist's box.

John Sellers  -  What was the use of this tool found in an artist's box?

  Reproduced with acknowledgement to Richard Howe

 

 Question 4

This is one of several questions that have been asked about John Sellers.  This message was sent to me in October 2006 by Richard Howe.

Richard wrote:

"I found this tool in an artist's box that was shipped to Milwaukee in the 40's.  Have you any idea as to what it's purpose was?"

Richard Howe:  October 10, 2006

Please e-mail me if you feel that you can help to answer this question above, then I will forward your message to Glen.

Thank you.    -  Peter Stubbs:  October 13, 2006

 

Answer

1.

to  Question 4

I asked a local artist , one who collects artists' boxes, for his opinion.

He tells me that this item is not a tool used in art.  It is just a letter opener.

-  Peter Stubbs:  October 18, 2006

 

Answer

2.

to  Question 4

Thank you to Jonathan Small, Rhode Island, USA, for e-mailed me with the following message.

Jonathan wrote:

-  Peter Stubbs:  October 18, 2006

The Tool

"If the other side of this tool is smooth, I would guess it to be a burnisher, which is used for smoothing out errors and imperfections on engraved or etched plates.  If it is symmetrical and the tip is unpolished, then I'm wrong about the burnisher, and It could very well be a letter opener, as mentioned."

Banknotes

"I found your web site because I was curious about John Sellers.  There was a huge stash of steel bank note plates from the American Bank Note Company found last year in the US, and they are being auctioned off in a series of auctions.  Many of them are marked with "John Sellers and Sons".

Jonathan Small, Rhode Island, USA:  March 7, 2007

 

Answer

3.

to  Question 4

George T Smith wrote:

The Tool

"It looks like a letter opener to me. The handle's design would not lend itself to the extended use of a tool."

George T Smith, Nanaimo, Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada:  April 27, 2006

 

Answer

4.

to  Question 4

Thank you to Jason Marchiafava who replied:

The Tool

"I am a portrait engraver by profession.  I came across the John Sellers question/article and would like to provide some info.

The tool shown in the pic would be mounted into a wooden handle and used as a scraper. If you look close at this picture of the dog engraving you can see at the tip of the tool (called a graver or burin) is a "curl" of metal.

An engraving tool in use

  Jason Marchiafava

 

An engraving tool in use
  Jason Marchiafava

The scraper would be used to go back and clip this 'bur' or 'curl' off.  The steel tool shown in Richard Howe's picture is made from a heat treatable, high carbon, steel, and shaped to the engravers preference.

John Sellers

John Sellers and Sons were providers of many steel products and were known for making the finest quality heat treatable steel in their day (mid-1800s).

They were the head supplier for almost all of the great banknote engraving firms of the time in the U.S. and U.K. 

As for the printing plates, there are almost never any signatures of the actual artist due to the fact that they were 'security' engravers. Occasionally there is the name of the firm somewhere and they are almost always numbered. They would be printed via intaglio method.

Jason Marchiafava:  September 12, 2007

 

Answer

5.

to  Question 4

Thank you to Dan Walker who replied

Tool made by John Sellers

"I am a stamp collector and have a friend who is also a stamp collector and retired official of major worldwide paper making plants and security printing.

I showed him the 'Letter opener' and asked if he knew what it was.  His answer was: 

John Sellers  -  what was the use of this tool, found in an artist's box?

'Depending on how the point is ground, it would be either:

-   sharp, in which case it would be a Burin to cut lines, OR

smooth, in which case it would be a burnisher to smooth out rough spots or errors.

It is not a letter opener, which is always flat, not triangular.' "

Stamp Dies

"One of the areas I specialize in is the Indian Princely state of Hyderabad.  I have a steel stamp die made for a UK printer of stamps by John Sellers and Son, Sheffield, England, pre-World War I, probably 1911.

We thought the stamp dies were made by the stamp printer but that is not the case as John Sellers and Son made the die."

Dan Walker, Lisbon, Maryland, USA:  December 27. 2010

 

Comments

5.

to  Question 4

Thank you to Dan Walker who replied

Tool made by John Sellers

"I am a stamp collector and have a friend who is also a stamp collector and retired official of major worldwide paper making plants and security printing.

I showed him the 'Letter opener' and asked if he knew what it was.  His answer was: 

John Sellers  -  what was the use of this tool, found in an artist's box?

'Depending on how the point is ground, it would be either:

-   sharp, in which case it would be a Burin to cut lines, OR

smooth, in which case it would be a burnisher to smooth out rough spots or errors.

It is not a letter opener, which is always flat, not triangular.' "

Stamp Dies

"One of the areas I specialize in is the Indian Princely state of Hyderabad.  I have a steel stamp die made for a UK printer of stamps by John Sellers and Son, Sheffield, England, pre-World War I, probably 1911.

We thought the stamp dies were made by the stamp printer but that is not the case as John Sellers and Son made the die."

Dan Walker, Lisbon, Maryland, USA:  December 27. 2010

 

 

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