Mel's Engraving Work

Mel is an accomplished engraver in all mediums and he specialises in the engraving of ship's propellers and bells in the maritime theme. A sample of his work is shown here, click on the pictures for the enlargements.

This is an engraving test piece showing some of the styles of maritime work that can be achieved.

Below are details of the individual blades.

This blade depicts a fisher woman
with a coble, fishing gear and trees
showing a link with the land
A traditional scene with the
ubiquitous cod fish and boat
registration letters.
A Yorkshire Coble is depicted here with mermaids and other sea life.

The engraver at work

These are presented as an insight into the traditional heritage of Filey.

     Mel was commissioned to engrave a bronze propeller for a permanent display in front of the lifeboat house at Filey to mark lifesaving at Filey for the past two hundred years.  The display is now complete and pictures will be placed here of the work shortly.

The Artist’s Statement

The Propeller


This bronze propeller was supplied by the RNLI stores at Poole in Dorset, having been declared obsolete through design or damage.


Joint Filey Council-RNLI meetings resulted in Mel Whittaker BA (Hons.) being commissioned to produce a design and engrave this formidable piece of metal. John Adams, a stonemason, erected the pillar casing while Peter and Chris Scaife produced the security frame and trim.


Cutting a propeller is not an exact science; the bronze used in manufacture can be hard or soft. This particular bronze is very hard.

Tools hardened and tempered for copper were broken off or the points turned. Due to the depth required chisels were used. The propeller blades surface contours vary from concave to convex, and this results in the trapping of tools and hands as the design is applied. The bronze also rang bell-like at every blow, which for three months becomes a torment for all in earshot.

Mel Whittaker, born in 1941, is a York artist for whom moving to the coast created a fascination of the complexity of the marine and maritime environment he found himself in.

A Gravure Artist and Engraver, a member of SLADE, apprenticed to the Printing Trade in the 1950s, Mel’s range of work from photographic skills to etching, oils, English watercolour and ceramics has led to a wide base of knowledge and skill. He is approaching what he believes is the perfect combination of craftsman-artist. He has previously provided artwork for the Filey RNLI station history Golf Lima Foxtrot Echo, Lifeline, a one-off newspaper for the RNLI and most recently in the form of tea-towel designs.

Combining adaptive design techniques and engraving to the streamlined shape of the Arun Class Propeller has led to the commemorative memorial work, a fitting piece for this artist who was a committee member of the station in the 1970s.


The four bladed form of the propeller made design selection crucial, the designs are self-contained by blade yet must balance overall.

The designs are as follows:

Top left hand blade

The blade carries an illustration of an early lifeboat under oars pulling alongside a sailing coble in difficulty.

Since the shapes and names of the first two Filey lifeboats are as yet not confirmed, the design is based on the first ‘Hollon’ lifeboat at Filey.

Top right hand blade

An illustration of the present Filey lifeboat mounting a wave-crest while working close inshore.

Bottom left hand blade

The present lifeboat men at the Filey station requested that the names of all boats stationed here should be included in the design, a different font was chosen for each boat and the names placed across the blade face in chronological order.

Bottom right hand blade

In a classical font is Filey Councils tribute to the Station; this is framed by a depiction of fisher folk, mainstays and recipients of the stations two hundred year work and history. This design is surmounted by the heraldic design of Filey’s Coat of Arms


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