The Hand Engravers Association fears for the craft?s future unless more people enter the profession.
?Orders for work, especially on sporting guns, are at a record high but we are concerned about the long-term future as more practitioners are retiring than starting in the business,? said the HEA?s Alan Craxford.
He added: ?The challenge is that engravers are so tied up in meeting commissions that they simply do not have the time or resources to oversee apprenticeships. We desperately need to find funding to recruit and train the talent that will keep this industry alive for the future.?
Andy Miles, from Kent, has been a freelance engraver for more than 10 years, taking on commissions from gun makers such as Holland & Holland, Boss & Co and E. J. Churchill.
He told Shooting Times magazine he was not surprised by the news: ?Most of the established engravers are now in their sixties and seventies. The trouble is that the apprenticeship takes about seven years to complete. It is very slow to get going, but once a young engraver has cut their teeth and established themselves, the remuneration can be relatively rewarding. Plus there is more work available than there are engravers.?
Mr Miles added: ?About 20 years ago, the big gun makers would take on about 30 apprentices with the hope of just one finishing. But none of the gun makers has those kinds of resources nowadays.?
Second-generation engraver Marcus Hunt, from Oxfordshire, became his father?s apprentice when he was 16. He said that he would love to take on an apprentice but simply cannot afford it.
?The trouble is that if a youngster wants to enter the industry, there are no proper courses to teach them the trade. As a result a lot of young engravers are now self-taught, which means that I spot a lot of flaws in modern engraving. In Europe, especially Austria, there are proper engraving schools. Perhaps the HEA should team up with them to devise a new engraving course??