Print Friendly

Otto Carter: Artisan Profile

Otto Carter: Artisan Profile

Master Engraver Otto Carter

Otto Carter is the master engraver who created the unique artwork featured on three of our pistols: Pandemonium, The Legend of Sacromonte and The Sixth Commandment. They all received extensive praise from connoisseurs of firearms as well as admirers of the engraver’s craft. We thought it would be interesting to learn how Otto came to be such a top-flight artisan.image002

With an art degree in hand from Abilene Christian University, Otto started his career as an apprentice sign painter. Painting signs was a practical way to hone his manual skills and develop skills in graphic design. Importantly, it introduced him to drawing scrolls, an integral design element for an engraver.

His early attempt at metal engraving was learning experience. Interested in the art engraving, he ordered an instructional VHS tape on basic engraving and a set of inexpensive tools.

Frustrated by his first attempts, he put the tools away and resolved not to try again until after he had studied with someone experienced. “You have to learn this the right way or you won’t ever be any good at it,” Otto said. He eventually took a week-long course on engraving that set him up with good basic skills, such as chisel sharpening and cutting techniques.

From there, Otto recounted his interest in metal engraving as an experience of ever-increasing engrossment. “I ruined a few good guns,” he said with a chuckle. “But I was on my way.” He devoted himself to becoming an expert on scrollwork, which Otto described as absolutely essential. Once you master standard scrolls, he said, you can branch out with a variety of styles and themes.


Friends started to ask him to embellish motorcycle parts and engrave guns. After a lot of diligent work, his work caught on and he became marketable as a paid artisan. His work on a motorcycle fuel tank was so elaborate and impressive that his work quickly became prized by motorcycle enthusiasts world-wide.

He learned to emulate the Victorian Aesthetic Movement style he had long admired. The Aesthetic Movement, which was hugely popular in the mid-19th Century, emphasized motifs of a variety of cultures included into a single design. The style is strongly represented in both the Pandemonium and The Legend of Sacromonte guns.

Looking at the engraved surfaces of the guns, it’s natural to wonder how Otto is able to realize such finely-detailed designs. One factor is his use of a stereo microscope while making his marks on the metal. This is a technique and toolset similar to that used by ophthalmic surgeons removing cataracts or brain surgeons sewing together blood vessels. The work looks much larger than it actually is, enabling Otto to make tiny movements with his engraving tools to create intricate designs. “I think like a painter but work like a surgeon,” Otto said.IMG_6444

Otto does not use computer-aided engraving technologies. In a technique he described as “painting meets carving,” he creates designs in metal with (harder) metal tools. He does take advantage of digital technology, however. His typical process involves creating a master version of the design on paper, usually in a larger size than it will be on the gun itself. Then, with the use of a scanner and printer, he creates a miniaturized, transferrable version of the design on acetate. After transferring the image onto the gun’s metal surface through a burnishing process, he can then see clearly through the microscope where he has to cut. Each of his engraved Cabot pistols took hundreds of hours to engrave. If he made even a single mistake along the way, the work would have been ruined.

The gold inlays seen in the guns was crafted through a painstaking process. He first carves a thin cavity into the areas that will have the inlay. He then takes a chisel and cuts a dovetail around the inside edge of the cavity and proceeds to chisel a cross-hatched pattern in the bottom. This securely traps the gold in the recess. Rows of gold wire are hammered into the space with a brass punch. The hammering forge welds the gold into a homogenous shape. It is then sanded flush or sculpted as desired.

Otto’s work is a unique fusion of the painter’s art with the intense, laborious process of metal engraving. We are so excited to have had the chance to work with Otto and provide a showcase for his immense talents. See Otto’s work on Cabot one-of-a-kind pistols, Pandemonium, The Legend of Sacromonte and Sixth Commandment.

Print Friendly

Leave a Reply