The current USS ALBUQUERQUE (SSN 706), a nuclear powered fast attack submarine of the LOS ANGELES class, was constructed at Electric Boat Shipyard in Groton, Connecticut. She was launched on March 13, 1982, and commissioned on May 21, 1983. ALBUQUERQUE is the nineteenth ship in the class and carries a complement of 127 (12 officers, 115 enlisted), all highly trained professionals in their respective fields.
On the occasion of her commissioning, the Mayor of Albuquerque at the time, the Hon. Harry Kinney, wanted to give a meaningful gift to the crew of the city's namesake. The idea was to create custom-made bronze belt buckles for every crew member.
I was lucky enough to win the bid to design and make the buckles for each of the crew, bearing a banner proclaiming his status as a "Plank Owner"--i.e., one of the original crew serving on the boat when she was commissioned. The idea is that eventually, when the boat is finally decommissioned, each of those crew members would be entitled to a plank from her deck.
The City also asked me to make a version without the banner, that they could buy and distribute to dignitaries, VIP's and the family and friends of the crew members, as well as for some subsequent crew members who would serve in the future. I still make these buckles, and you can order one directly from me here in Albuquerque.
Computers were not yet in common use back in 1983! I carved the original at twice-size, and reduced it with a complicated 3-dimensional pantograph machine, followed by meticulous detailing under a microscope by hand. The buckles are cast by the lost-wax process in a jewelers' bronze alloy, which resists tarnishing and has a remarkably rich golden color. I finish each buckle by a series of hand processes, rather than the mass-finishing techniques employed by mass-producers, so the finished result is almost sculpture-to-wear.
Soon, the buckles will be featured along with many others on my sister website, Masterpiece Buckles dot com. It's not active yet, so in the meantime, you can order them by calling me here at the studio: (505) 296-1400. The price is $75., plus $11 priority mail shipping & handling. Give me a few weeks to fill your order, as each buckle is handcrafted to order.
DESIGN, PHOTO AND TEXT © DAVID LLOYD STEWART - ALL RIGHTS RESERVED