Re: Wheel-Cutting
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Posted by: Beadman Post Reply
09/24/2018, 10:26:20

Imagine a device that is like a rotating drill. It could be turned by hand, via a belt or bow, manually, with a foot treadle, or an engine.

But, instead of having a drill-bit, it has a head that is much wider than its length, and is therefore disk-like. It is a small "wheel." A typical shape for a cutting-wheel is a convex disk, convex on both sides so the the edge comes to a point and is sharp. This cutting wheel can be used in two different ways.

The larger surface, perpendicular to the rotary handle can be used to carve-out round depressions. (In this aspect it is like "drilling"—except the cut is wide and shallow.)

The edge can be used to carve-out lines—that are consequently "V"-shaped. Where a v-shaped line is abraded, the cut typically begins and ends with a tapering of the cut surface (because of the interface between a convex surface impacting a flat or convex surface). So, these cuts are "boat-shaped." They are lines with tapered or ragged ends.

Let's say that the edge of the disk does not come to a point, but is flat around the circumference. Then, the lines that are abraded would be square-sided (not v-shaped). but the ends of these lines would tend to taper or be ragged.

THIS is what we see when we examine a wheel-cut artifact.

In antiquity, when many intaglio seals were made (in the fashion of Indians, Persians, Greeks, and Romans), the typical design was rendered by cutting round depressions of various sizes, to compose the image. And then sliding cuts were made to connect these circles. The rotary action of this work is very apparent, when we view authentic ancient seals (or artifacts made in this way).

Seals were made to provide beautiful detailed images or scenes. An impression from such a seal is artistically impressive. That is because the makers tested and retested their progress as they went along—refining and detailing whatever the subjects may be.

In contradistinction, recent fakers generally do not use the round rotary abrasion, but instead use the edge of their appliances. They make a stab at creating an images by a series of line cuts. But the results of this work are VERY inauthentic-looking. And, in fact, when we take an impression of the image (using clay or any similar soft material), we will find that the image is CRUDE, and easily seen to be inauthentic.

Allow me to repeat: I am not an expert on seals. My area is beads. But since many seals ARE beads, and because I have some knowledge of lapidary practices, I can make the above generalizations. This does not mean that all ancient seals were never wheel-cut using the edge. It does not mean that all ancient seals are beautifully-rendered. It does not mean that there are no "good fakes"—that were appropriately made. (In fact, in the 19th C. excellent reproductions of seals were manufactured—which is a story unto itself.)

What I am providing are GUIDELINES that are sound generalizations. We should expect exceptions. We should expect ancient seals that were poorly or differently-made. We should expect new fake seals that have been well-made, by someone who understands the technology, and is willing to expend the time to reproduce it. And in the arena of beadmaking, we should expect all of these variables may or will be present in beads. Particularly in the area of ancient-bead-faking.

I hope this is helpful. Jamey

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