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Off-the-Job Craft Yields on-the-Job Solutions

From his home studio, Randy Ruppert creates engraved metal artwork. Here are a couple of square plates that Randy engraved for practice, and a Model 1897 Winchester shotgun receiver.
Randy Ruppert
Area Manager
RailWorks Track Systems
Fremont, NE
When RailWorks Area Manager Randy Ruppert sits down to engrave metal, he loses himself in the art.
“It’s a big release,” he says. “I can start cutting metal, and the only time you look up is when your neck starts getting tired and you’ve just done two or three hours (of artwork). It’s a complete escape.”
That’s good for RailWorks, because sometimes, getting lost in the craft allows Randy’s mind to arrive at the solution to a work issue. “A lot of times I’ll be down there (in my studio) working, and will come up and take my shower and then resolve a problem at work. It clears the head.”
Randy, of Fremont, NE, entered a gunsmithing school after high school, but then “railroading came to the forefront, and I’ve spent my career railroading. But I was always intrigued with engraving.” Randy recalls a dinner meeting that rekindled the desire to score intricate designs in metal.
“About five years ago, we were with a friend of ours, a life coach, having dinner.  She asked me ‘What’s one of the last things you want to get started in your life?’ I told her, ‘I want to engrave.’ Then she asked me, ‘What’s stopping you?’
“I went home that night and thought, ‘Nothing is stopping me.’” That’s when Randy bought books and engraving tools, and he found a school in an area town that offered engraving classes. But he determined that an art degree was in order. “It’s more about drawing and design then actually using the tools,” he notes. “I saw my artwork was lacking.”
So for three years, Randy has steadily been taking evening classes after work in the fall and winter, working toward an associate’s degree in art, which he hopes to earn by the end of 2016.
In the meantime, Randy continues taking some engraving classes, and he engraves metal and makes jewelry in a home studio he shares with his wife, Nancy, a potter. Randy has engraved the receiver and floor plate of his Mauser hunting rifle and is working on another pair of rifles. He’s also engraved a sterling silver plate as a wedding gift. The Fremont Area Art Association has recognized Randy as its artist of the month and displayed his engraving, and also his photography, at a local studio.
While Randy “took a little art” in high school, he believes that his mother influenced his artistic ability. “She was incredibly talented,” he says. “She was an oil painter. And she loved to write limericks. She was very talented in all she did; everything she did had flourishes on it.”
So we’ll attribute some of Randy’s creative flair to his mom and will look for him to add his own finishing touches to his projects, whether it’s infusing a creative solution into a track construction job or adding a decorative detail to embellish a firearm.