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Zeng Chenghu discussing coin dies including those for pagodas and goldfish

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fwang2450:
Mr. Zeng Chenghu, director of the Die Manufacturing Dept. of Shanghai Mint, is currently discussing hand-engraved dies on bqcoin.com. Here is the link:

http://bbs.bqcoin.com/read-htm-tid-4867-page-4.html

The discussion covers medals from Shanghai Mint, pagodas and goldfish included. Those who know Chinese can register and participate in the discussion directly. For those who do not know Chinese, Google Translate may help with the discussions (but not the mail post, which is made up of graphics files). Or I can help to translate and post your questions. He is very nice and responds to every question.

SANDAC:
Good discussion.  So let me see if I got this right:
1.  A hand engraved die is where the designer carved the original design 1-to-1 on to a master die(祖模)
.  The master die is used to produce working dies.  When a working die is worn out, a new working die can be produced from the master die.  So the hand engraved die making process eliminated the 10x original design and the 10-to-1 pantograph reduction process, presumably to save cost and time.
2.  There are special knowledge and artistry associated with making of the working die from a master die, so even with the same master die the quality of working dies may vary.
3.  Repair of the working dies are production issues and the original designer may not be aware of.

Mr. Zeng mentioned on his last post that (original text: 古塔剪影图案的一面是用铜版(即把图案腐蚀在铜版上)在立雕机上雕刻的,而不是手工直接钢刻的,包括金鱼剪影的一面也一样。如果再版和原版有较大差异,那么此面有可能是重新雕过的,因为这是生产和销售的事,他们不必通知原作者。) the silhouette of pagoda side (SANDAC's question: the reverse side?) was done with etched copper plates, not hand engraved steel die.  This is also the case with the reverse of goldfish.  If there are significant differences then it may due to redesign (SANDAC's question: as in a new master die?) and were production/sale decision not involving the original designer.  An intriguing comment since it is the reverse of the brass/silver/gilt/silver-plated pagoda that have most readily discernable differences.

fwang2450:

--- Quote from: SANDAC on September 18, 2014, 12:49:49 AM ---Good discussion.  So let me see if I got this right:
1.  A hand engraved die is where the designer carved the original design 1-to-1 on to a master die(祖模)
.  The master die is used to produce working dies.  When a working die is worn out, a new working die can be produced from the master die.  So the hand engraved die making process eliminated the 10x original design and the 10-to-1 pantograph reduction process, presumably to save cost and time.
2.  There are special knowledge and artistry associated with making of the working die from a master die, so even with the same master die the quality of working dies may vary.
3.  Repair of the working dies are production issues and the original designer may not be aware of.

Mr. Zeng mentioned on his last post that (original text: 古塔剪影图案的一面是用铜版(即把图案腐蚀在铜版上)在立雕机上雕刻的,而不是手工直接钢刻的,包括金鱼剪影的一面也一样。如果再版和原版有较大差异,那么此面有可能是重新雕过的,因为这是生产和销售的事,他们不必通知原作者。) the silhouette of pagoda side (SANDAC's question: the reverse side?) was done with etched copper plates, not hand engraved steel die.  This is also the case with the reverse of goldfish.  If there are significant differences then it may due to redesign (SANDAC's question: as in a new master die?) and were production/sale decision not involving the original designer.  An intriguing comment since it is the reverse of the brass/silver/gilt/silver-plated pagoda that have most readily discernable differences.


--- End quote ---
A couple of corrections:

1. A hand engraved master die has a negative image on it, unlike the master hub from the reducing machine. So a working hub has to be made from this master die, and then working dies made from the working hub. Working dies for restriking coins later on are supposedly made from the working hub, not the master die.

2. Hand engraving is a long and tough process. It is said that it took the Shanghai Mint engraver Bai Wenjun almost a year to hand engrave all the 8 sides in the Plum, Orchid, Bamboo and Chrysanthemum set. So engraving dies by hand is not for the purpose of saving money or time. Rather it is to showcase their skills and mastery of the art. The tails of goldfish are simply amazing if examined under magnifiers, so are the details of the Guilin Landscape medals.

What Mr. Zeng points out sometimes is common sense, but only known to the mint people, such as the skills involved in each step of die making, and die touching up by junior engravers either during die making or die repair. Yet the work of these junior engravers may result in differences among the products struck, or varieties.

It is interesting to know that the reverse side of pagodas and goldfish were not hand engraved, but produced on a milling machine. That explains a few things, such as the inverted v shapes on the S lines on pagoda's reverse. I was going to ask him how it was possible to make these lines by hand.

fwang2450:
Here is a picture of the hand engraved goldfish, from RAREMEDAL. The hand engraving cuts on the tail of the goldfish are very visible. (The horizontal lines in the lower part of the tail are cracks in the capsule.)


fwang2450:
Details of a medal from the Guilin Lanscape set, which is 27 mm (a little more than an inch) in diameter. Hand engraved by the former director of Die Manufacturing Dept. of Shanghai Mint, Fang Maosen:

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