British micro-engraver Graham Short is famous for creating detailed carvings that are so unbelievably tiny that they cannot be seen with the naked eye. On a never-ending quest to push his limits and create the tiniest engraving possible, Short has engraved specks of gold small enough to fit in the eye of a needle and even the edge of a razor blade. His secret – working between heartbeats.
To produce his tiny masterpieces, Graham works in complete silence, because even the slightest sound could produce vibrations that might ruin his work. He steadies his right arm by securing it with a strap attached to a piece of heavy machinery. His mobile is switched off, and he mostly works at night to avoid the vibrations of vehicles passing in the street. Starting at midnight, he works through the night until five or six in the morning, and continues for three to four nights in a row, until he gets too tired and his body clock needs readjustment.
As much as he tries to eliminate distractions, there is one vibration that Graham cannot silence – his own heartbeat. But he’s come up with a ingenius technique to work around that as well. Graham tapes a stethoscope to his chest and places the earpieces in his ears, keenly listening to his own heartbeat. With his carving tool in hand, he waits motionless, for as long as 20 minutes, until his heart rate is at its lowest. Then, listening intently, he only makes a carving at his stillest moments – in between heartbeats.