I contacted Daniel last year with the hope of conducting an interview with him and submitting it to a magazine. Since then I put up a website dedicated to flats. I hope this is the best place to post the interview featuring his work. When I mentioned his name to Greg DiFranco, he said Daniel is one of the finest engravers living. I think you will agree when you see his work.
Daniel won first place “Engraver’s Class” with this piece in 1996:
(As you read this interview, keep in mind that Daniel lives in France. English is not his native language and French is not mine. I studied French for four years, but that was a long time ago. Daniel’s English is far better than my French.)
How did you get into engraving ?
I had the chance to have a great uncle, Lucien ROUSSELOT, whose talent as a painter of the army and uniformology erudition is unanimous among collectors. As a kid, I admired in his studio the wonderful scenes of battles that he painted. Later it is by seeing any small soldiers (30 mm) he drew for publishers of flat tin figurines that I wanted to try to engrave myself these figurines. What interested me was the challenge of giving relief and finesse to these drawings on a thickness of less than one millimetre.
How long have you been engraving?
I started, for my pleasure, in 1972. The first coins were not very beautiful but it did not discouraged me. Little by little my work improved and I dared show the result to collectors who are interested in it. The first orders came, and in 1974 I decided to make the jump to do it my job.
How did you learn to engrave ?
I have followed no school or any formation, I have only studied carefully the figures engraved by great masters of flat tin figurines as L.Frank or S.Maier.
Of course, even though the agility of the hand was not too bad, I still had serious deficiencies regarding the technique. Fortunately I learned a lot with my true first client, Werner V. Droste, great publisher of figurines of the Thirty Years War, which casted his own figurines and knew all the tricks for a mould works perfectly.
With this good basis, patience and …many time, progress followed.
Can you explain the process by which a flat is engraved keeping in mind the person who knows nothing about it? What material do you engrave the figure in ? What tools do you use to engrave the figure ?
For flat figurines moulds, it uses a very compact slate which allows engraving very fine and is a good conductor of heat for casting. Flat figurines have two faces, it therefore requires two perfectly flat slate plates (polished) without no space between two. The drawing is traced and engraved on the first face. Two tin pins assemble the two plates which coincide exactly, so it is possible to take back the silhouette engraved on a first side on the second plate and then engrave the back of figurine. The engraving being executed, especially to ensure trace the drawing upside down and don’t forget that excavations will be reliefs. You must also engrave the bases on the small side plates and digging a canal for metal casting. Finally, you must trace a blowhole all around the engraving so that air can escape under the pressure of the molten metal.
Each engraver has its methods and its specific tools. For my part, I made myself most of my tools, in hardened steel, so they are adapted to my way of working.
Daniel’s work can be seen on his website at: http://daniel-lepeltier.perso.sfr.fr/flat-tin-figurines.html
Here is a piece that appears on his website: