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Engraving Crash Course

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A few guys on here expressed interest in trying the hammer and chisel style of engraving. I will attempt to give a very basic demo of how I do it and the tools involved. There is more to learn than can be covered in a quick online tutorial, and I am just a beginner at this challenging craft, so I'll barely be able to scratch the surface(HAR HAR!    :D    ) of the topic.

Let's start with the tools. There are 3 basic shapes of cutting tool that I use. These are the flat, the square(or 90*) and the round. I have the flats in several widths depending on how small an area I need to fit the graver into. Also the round obviously makes a different groove depending on diameter.......the square cuts a 90* v groove, with the width of the cut increasing with the depth of the cut.

The sharpening angle of the cutting face varies depending on the material you are cutting. The harder the material, the steeper(blunter) the angle for strength.
In addition to the angle of the face, all these chisels have a small heel on the bottom of the cutting edge. Without enough heel the cutter will dive too deep in the metal, too much heel causes drag around corners and will not allow a clean cut. In this pic of the bottom of the flat, you can see the heel as a bright line across the tip.

The bottom of the square cutter has a parallel heel like this. I couldn't get a good pic so found one elsewhere.


I use handles for the gravers that are made of steel, either my own, or these ones from Ngraver........known as Belgian style.


Notice the hammer in the pic. This is an 8 oz ball peen. Most folks use a lightweight engraving hammer, which has a wide curved face, I use the side of the hammer head in a similar manner.

I am probably forgetting lots of stuff, but let's cut a few lines and see how it goes. The graver heel should allow the tool to cut a nice groove without diving. You control the depth of the cut by lowering or raising the handle of the chisel. You don't want to swing the hammer like you are trying to drive a 10 inch spike into a log. It is light quick taps.

Here's a pic of the square graver cutting a line. You can see the chip being cut out ahead of the tool.

Here's one of the round graver. Something to keep in mind, when you are cutting, and trying to follow a line, you want to pay attention to the line ahead of the cutting tool. Just before the chip rolls up in front of the tool, you will see the metal bulging up, concentrate on keeping this on track. Like riding a bike, you don't look at the front tire, but the area just ahead of you.


Here's a pic of a few practice cuts. The 3 on the upper left side were all cut with the square cutter. The top one, the cutter was held straight. The middle one shows the cut if you raise and lower the handle of the tool, and the lower one shows a cut with the tool rocking side to side. All these types of cuts will be used depending on the effect you want.


A pair of these really helps to see what you are cutting......

OK, lets do some carving. I'll start with a very basic drawing in the steel. I wanted to practice straight lines, since they are harder than curved ones, but this design has a bit of both.


I'll use the square graver and go over the outline lightly.....if you try to cut too deep all at once, you end up with the tool diving, or the tip breaking off. And the harder the metal you are cutting, the shallower you have to make the cuts. Deep cut engraving usually takes several passes over the same cuts.


I thought this was a good pic to show what happens when you are cutting into another line. In this case, the outline was cut, but I tried to cut the other lines at the same depth or deeper than the line I was approaching. The chips would have let go if that outline was cut deeper.


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