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Meet the "Micro-Engraver" Who Works Between Heartbeats to Keep His Hand Steady

That is a portrait of Queen Elizabeth II made on a speck of gold inside the eye of a needle. It's only 1 millimeter across.

Graham Short is perhaps the world's greatest micro-engraver. He inscribes detailed images that are so small that they're impossible to see with the naked eye. And he does it by hand.

The task requires being incredibly motionless. Short must have absolute control over his hand. To do this, he works only at night to reduce the vibration effect of passing cars. He also works with a stethoscope to monitor his own heartbeat, making a mark only between beats. Quartz reports:

He may wait like this, motionless, for 20 minutes or more before making an incision. Finally, listening through the stethoscope, he carves when he is at his stillest—in between heartbeats.

At 55, Short is a master athlete in the sense that he has perfected his physical conditioning to remain completely still:

He is lucky that he has always been fit and slim and healthy, something he puts down to his lifelong love of swimming. Fourteen years ago, when he was 55, he became the European butterfly champion in his age group. To keep his heart rate down, he now swims for three hours each day—5,000m (3.1 miles) each morning and a further 5,000 each afternoon. He stopped drinking coffee on work days years ago.

But although the swimming helps slow his heart significantly, it is no longer enough. Several years ago a pharmacist friend began prescribing him pills—potassium, magnesium and beta-blockers. “I eat them like sweets,” he admits. When he works, his heart rate drops to as low as 20 beats per minute.

Short has even taken botox injections near his eyes to reduce his blinking.

When Short began his craft 40 years ago, he had a goal: to inscribe the Lord's Prayer on the head of a pin. He was only recently successful, taking years to complete this single project, which you can see pictured above. It's a masterpiece. But not everyone appreciates what Short can do:

When he completed his first work on the edge of a razor blade—the “Nothing is Impossible” piece—he contacted the Royal Society of Miniature Painters, Sculptors and Gravers, hoping to exhibit in their annual show in central London. When he told them about more about the piece, with its custom display case, they were apparently reluctant. “Can’t you engrave it a little bigger,” he was asked, “so that we don’t need a microscope?”

-via Nag on the Lake


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