knife, jewelry, firearm - engravers tools
Glossary - Engraving Part 1 - Terms and Tooling
Click here - Glossary 2 (Bulino - inlay's - relief - backgrounds - lettering - reference)
Click here - Glossary 3 (design, software / hardware / imaging / drawing)

The process of decoration by means of metal removal by rotary milling machine, laser engraving, etching...   These are not to be confused with hand engraving, hammer and chisel or pneumatic engraving.

Commercial engraving can be very creative and beautiful as often witnessed on sword blades whose fullers are acid etched with exquisite patterns.  However, of all the aforementioned methods none carry the same warmth, flare, and artistic expression that hand engraving imparts.

This method is one of oldest traditional standards of engraving.  It is rarely taught today since the advent of excellent pneumatic gravers.  Nevertheless the hammer chisel method will always be the heart and soul of engraving as its roots and is a skill well worth learning at the very least in its most basic form.

For the beginning engraving student it is the least expensive method to enter from and offers an old-school charm and does not lack in its ability to produce quality work, it merely demands experience and skill.  While it is true that one may altogether skip hammer and chisel and learn more rapidly using pneumatic tooling, the journey ventured will surely be faster but will prove less revealing and rewarding.

The engravers hammer is often referred to as a Chasing hammer, it is lightweight and small faced and each engraver has their size and weight preference.  Engraving chisels are longer than standard hand held chisels and are narrow shanked often eight inches in length so to permit an average sized hand to clasp the chisel and strike its end.

The principal of hammer and chisel engraving is simple and involves lightly tapping the chisel at different rates and intensities to move it forward at a desired depth of cut and rate if travel.  The tighter the taps the shorter the travel of each cut.  This essentially translates as a tiny straight lines that create smoother curves producing an overall cleaner sharper engraving. Harder hammer strikes move the chisel further per strike creating longer jagged steps in a curved cut.

Mastering the skill in order to execute high quality hammer and chisel engravings far exceeds the simplicity of the described principal and that of the skill required to learn pneumatic engraving.  It requires years to master this method and though no longer a prerequisite and rarely learned by new engravers today, it is a wonderful back to basics experience that is always a benefit.

The push graver method is considerably more difficult to master than the hammer and chisel technique because it involves a considerable amount of forward hand pressure in order to force the graver through the metal.  The exception to this rule being very light cuts with minimal depth such as with fine shading.  In addition material density and hardness affects the amount of required pressure and as how frequently lubrication should be applied.  It requires considerable control and skill not to slip and skid across the surface causing damage.

Slippage is more likely to occur when cutting a straight line and is lessened when cutting curved lines. Curved cuts cause the engraving chisel to have more pressure on the outer or inner wall of the cut dependant upon the angle of the wrist and if a person is right or left handed.  In either case the pressure and forward force is diminished being partially diffused through side resistance reducing the chance of hand fatigue and accidentely pulling out of the cut and sliding across the surface.

The Push graver technique produces the cleanest and smoothest cutting of all the techniques and is more often used in jewelry trades due to the base materials being generally soft metals gold, silver...  It was also extensively used for copperplate engravings for the purpose of lithograph printing.

While you can successfully engrave steel by push engraving method, it is generally used for finer detailed work where depth of cut is very shallow, ideal for portrait or wildlife animal scenes... Most steel engravings use power assist or hammer driven method.

One of the best things that could have ever happened to engraving is the pneumatic pulse hammer.  There are different models available meeting the different engraving needs and budgets.

These wonderful units replace the traditional hammer and provide the engraver with a controlled and fully adjustable air driven impact tool.  The graver blank is a 3/32" thick square and inserts into the small handpiece.  Intenrally it contains a tiny air driven piston regulated by a foot controlled throttle or palm controlled throttle located in the handle on the most expensive pneumatic hammers.

The pneumatic hammer will pulse at many hundreds of strikes per minute with some capable of many thousands and is why pneumatic engraving is much cleaner and crisper than hammer and chisel engraving.  Pneumatic engraving assists the new engraver to learn more rapidly yielding better results providing more personal satisfaction and motivates practice and inspiration.

Seasoned engravers simply love the ease of operation and their flexibility and everyone that uses one shows marked improvement after a short period of time.  Once made, the transition from hammer and chisel to pneumatic it would be very difficult to give it all up and revert back to the traditional method.

  Pneumatic impact AirGravers by Steve Lindsay
  Review by Adone Galleries - EngravingArts

Lindsay engraving tools Lindsay AirGravers Review #1  These airgravers are ultra sensitive pneumatic hand tools.  They are precision instruments for engravers, jewlers and artists, designed and made by engraving artist Steve Lindsay.

The Chasing AirGraver is the smallest, most elegant, and most sensitive hand engraving impact tool presently on the market.  All Lindsay Airgravers are ideally suited for fine exhibition grade engraving, stone setting and other delicate tasks. They also deliver more than enough power to handle heavy deep and rapid metal removal on very tough metals.

Features: Traditional palm push graver size - Impacts per minute adjustable from 3,000 to 31,200.  Adjustable length of stroke as well as idle settings - Stainless construction - Walnut handle - Hardened piston - Accepts gravers with shanks 3/32" - Rapid change for quick graver removal with locking feature - Adjustable air ports.

AirGraver review by Adone Galleries - EngravingArts
Every once and a while engravers are fortunate to come across a product that enriches their natural skills as artists.  When it comes to finesse and fine detailing control becomes and absolute must and by definition any tool exceeding current standards ultimately translates into improved engravings.  Visit  for complete information including cost and how purchase.

The 'Classic Airgraver' bridges the gap between the 'Chasing AirGraver' and the 'Omega AirGraver'.  The Omega is the third model in the set, designed for heavy impact cutting (not displayed here.)  The Classic is to be marvelled at being virtually the same size as the Chasing graver and is packed with all the same onboard features but delivers an outstanding amount of power for such a compact sized hand piece.

I have selected these gravers from all others I have tried and owned from other manufacturers for all my work needs ranging from the finest 24k gold detailing in bulino line engraving and banknote style to wide deep cutting steel cutting.  The Classic has proven to be a very versitile all around tool catering to virtually all my engraving needs.

All adjustments are simple to make and can be made on the fly while engraving. Additional pistons can be ordered that generate more or less power depending on the size and weight of the replacement piston.  In most cases the supplied piston is perfect for all general engraving requirements.

I have engraved many rifles, knives, and pieces of jewelry using Lindsay gravers and I can honestly say that the Classic is fabulous tool as are all but as an all around tool the Classic is the one I use most.  For the extra fine detailed work I use to prefer the original Lindsay Chasing AirGraver, however the newer Classic model developed and improved several years later has replaced the Chasing Airgraver and has become my sole tool of choice fulfilling all my engraving needs on all materials.

The Omega serves well when little else will do the job other than a mini jack hammer, it's sure to please those who require an extra bang to get through very tough metals as well as when deep, wide bright cuts are required, ideal for larger engravings such as on Motorcycles, car rims...

The comfort of these tools is simply unparalleled!  I've owned several other pneumatic or similar tools and without question I prefer the feel and performance of the AirGravers which is why they are my tools of choice.  This is not to imply that great work cannot be accomplished with other tools as it most certainly can and does so each and everyday.  The stark reality is that the tool does not make the artist it's simply a delivery system and superb work always finds a way to surface regardless of even the crudest of tooling!

Click for a Concise Review of the Lindsay AirGraver Tools
Click for a Concise Review of the Lindsay Ultimate AirGraver
Click to Visit

standard square graver GRAVER
Typically the traditional graver is a small hand held hardened steel shaft fitted into a wooden handle.  The tool tip is specifically shaped being multifaceted with as many as six angles and no less than three.  The shape of the cut is dependant on the tool selected.  In the hands of a skilled engraver virtually any tool shape flat, square, round, onglette, knife... can be used to achieve excellent results and while each tool shape is best suited for a specific operation, it is not exclusive to that usage.

By example, a flat tool turned on an angle ceases to operate as a Flat and takes on the characteristics of the square graver.  And if smoothly rolling the wrist during the passage of a cut it will in fact produce a graduated incised cut from thin to thick.  This would normally be achieved using the onglette graver whose shape is narrow with bowed sides.  The square graver is the most commonly used tool by engravers and produces a "v" channel.

The graver may be driven forward by hand pressure, hammer impact or power assisted impact hammer.  The heel angle elevates the tool off the surface allowing clearance for the hand and prevents the tool from digging into the metal to rapidly or deeply.

Face angles and heel angles vary in preference from engraver to engraver and from technique to technique.  The harder the material the greater the face angel required in order to strengthen the otherwise brittle tip.  Average tool angles for typical steel engraving would be fall between 15° - 25° degrees for the bottom heel and 45° - 55° for the face angles.

These angles vary depending on techniques and curvature of the object being engraved.  Concave areas generally demand greater heel angels in order to sufficiently elevate the tool from the surface and make clearance for the hand.  The greater the angle the less acute and less effective it will be at transferring energy to the metal.  The opposite is also true in that the more acute the tool-face and heel angles combined form, the more impact energy transfers to the metal.

The heel size should be kept relatively small in order to avoid dragging and marring the surrounding metal when cutting curves. A 1/64" heel length or less will minimize drag and produce a cleaner engraving.  Small face sizes will allow for more control and better visibility of the tool tip especially when dealing with fine detailed work especially under high powered optics.  Each engraver finds their tool shape and angels that best suite their styles.

The most common standard for holding items to be engraved is the traditional Ball Vise.  It is a heavy spherical machined or cast fixture which generally weighs between 20 and 40 pounds depending on its overall size and type of engraving medium it is designed to clamp and support.

On its top half are mounted two jaws with either a single or dual swivel plate depending on the manufacturer.  The top plates are perforated to allow a variety of pin devices to be added, expanding the ways in which one holds an item as well as holding smaller more delicate objects such as watch parts and other irregular shapes.

The top half spins riding on a bearing system which allows for 360° degree rotation in either direction.  The vice rests on a hollowed pad or rubber ring allowing the ball to be angled and positioned allowing to work freely.

Magnification is crucial in order to produce top grade engravings that are precise and clean and up to today's collector standards.  Available options are 'hand held lenses' generally used by traditional European engravers for Bulino work, the Optivisor or Jewelers loop as it is usually referred to, are extensively used by Jewelers and gunsmiths.

The Cadillac of magnification is the microscope but it is not without its issues.  The problem with hand held lenses is that the visual area is ridiculous small when magnification increases even a little with plenty of edge distortion and is not suitable for all general engraving.  Optivisors are low in cost and suitable for average work where low definition will suffice.  They also come with interchangeable lenses (sold separately) however as the magnification increase the amount of focal tolerance is greatly diminished so that the slightest movement of the head can place the object slightly out focus.

In addition, the greater the magnification with hand held lenses the shorter the work distance becomes between lens and surface.  With the correct microscope the quality of work changes virtually over night, however selecting the right scope for the right type of work such as engraving is critical and 'working distance from the bottom objective lens needs 6" or more for hand and tool clearance.

The field of view should be at least 2" and have good lens clarity with low edge distortion.  Magnification range is very important and a scope with stock lenses generally ranges from 3.5x - 22.5x which is an excellent range and will cover pretty much all needs.

Additional lenses are available for both bottom objective lens and eye piece lenses and by swapping lenses a whole host of working distances and magnification levels can be achieved.  Prior to purchasing it pays to shop around as some scopes on the market are better suited for engraving than are others.

Click to Continue to Glossary 2 (Bulino - inlay - relief - backgrounds - lettering)
Click to view Glossary 3 (design - software - hardware - imaging - drawing)


Rings | Home | Galleries | Site Index | Artist Bio | Contact

All content Copyright © Adone Galleries - EngravingArts