Baton Rouge-native Layne Zuelke was interested in jewelry since he was a child, drawn to the intricate beauty of a Fabergé egg at a museum. He went into the jewelry business at age 17 and knew after just one summer of work it was the field he wanted to pursue,
But later, while serving as an apprentice at Hannon Jewelers in 1994, something caught Zuelke’s eye that would slowly alter the trajectory of his career: A picture of a M1911 Colt pistol hand-engraved by a Slidell man.
“It became an obsession,” Zuelke says. For years, he learned everything he could about the art of engraving from books and mentors until 2010, when he finally began engraving guns on his own. Then, in 2014 he started Southern Custom Engraving.
It takes about 300 hours for Zuelke to engrave a single gun—including nearly 20 hours of prep work alone—so he tries not to take on more than three projects at a time. “Cutting steel is the reward for the many hours spent with pencil and paper.”
And over the years, he’s been able to transition himself away from jewelry and devote most of his time to gun engraving thanks to client demand.