Taneytown man engraves glass to create one-of-a-kind designs


January 20, 1994|By MICHELLE HOFFMAN

With a gentle hand, Larry Baumgartner is carving his niche in a shop in his Taneytown home.

Armed with an air-compressor-powered engraving tool, Mr. Baumgartner carves crabs, turtles, flowers, deer, kittens, and any other pictures he can imagine onto glass of all shapes and sizes.

He has copied some pictures by placing stencils or photographs cut from newspapers or sports magazines beneath the glass surface and tracing over them.

He has drawn others using only a description of the desired article, by making a freehand drawing of the piece as he goes.

The whir of the 200,000-rpm engraver sounds like a dentist's drill.

It incises the surface seemingly as easy as a knife in butter. With one slight touch, a mark is forever engraved, so Mr. Baumgartner must make even, steady strokes.

He said the air-powered engraver is easier to handle than an alternate, bulky electric tool he used before.

Movement of the air-flow tube and the smaller engraving head on the air model allow an increased freedom of movement, and, thus, an increased level of creativity.

"It's flexible," he said. "You can maneuver it about like the way you're using your pencil."

Mr. Baumgartner finishes each creation by rubbing colored wax into the crevices to make the picture stand out.

Since the carvings he creates are all handmade, each is considered a one-of-a kind original.

He explains to his customers that they are similar, but no two are exactly alike.

A buyer, with an untrained eye, would not know the difference if the minor changes were not pointed out.

Mr. Baumgartner's favorite item to engrave is a jumping deer, because he said it is the most challenging to draw.

His deer has jumped over many a log, all in the same position, but in various sizes.

What makes this picture more complex than others are the tiny detail lines that serve as fur, filling in the animal's hide.

Usually, an outline of an animal is sufficient.

Mr. Baumgartner has found that more detail in smaller pictures is unnecessary. He said it detracts from the picture's quality.

"I never thought that [carving on] glass would intrigue me." he said. " But it intrigued the heck out of me. There's no end to what you can do with it. I mean, you see something or you get an idea and you do it."

Mr. Baumgartner demonstrates his skills every chance he gets, mostly at craft shows where he sells his wares.

He feels that demonstration is the hook that helps his sales.

But, he said, quality is what keeps his customers coming back.

"I'm pretty tough on myself," he said, when asked about his perfectionism.

But, he said, his wife Pearl is "probably my toughest critic.

"A lot of times I'll go back there, and I'll turn out something a little different than I've done before and I'll think, 'Hey, that looks really nice.' I'll bring it out and show it to Pearl, and she'll say, 'Gee, that looks pretty good, but . . . ' "

Sometimes Mr. Baumgartner has his co-workers critique his work. "It's real important that you have someone that is a critic," he said.

He feels that other people's opinions have helped him improve his skills.

Over the years of learning glass carving, he has made some mistakes.

He is thinking about donating drinking glasses with botched designs to a local soup kitchen so that they will not be wasted.

Mr. Baumgartner may be reached at (410) 751-1874 until Feb. 1, and at (410) 374-4987 after that.

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