View Full Version : Engraving chisels - how they work (w/pics)

Your Old Dog
12-01-2005, 09:02 PM
Someone expressed an interest in engraving. Here's how it's been done since man personalized the first rock http://bbs.homeshopmachinist.net//biggrin.gif



If you have any other questions I'd be happy to take a run at them.

[This message has been edited by Your Old Dog (edited 12-01-2005).]

Mike Burdick
12-01-2005, 10:51 PM

Okay, maybe this could be an "online" class.

First off where can gravers be obtained and what would be a good "starter" set?


12-01-2005, 11:03 PM
i do believe he is telling you to make your own


12-01-2005, 11:05 PM
In the first pic, the second line of text, what word is missing off the end? A tiny ....

Your Old Dog
12-02-2005, 05:41 AM
Mike, Snowman is right. If you have an interest in engraving it just makes sense to make everything but your liners/shaders. You will end up with over 50 chisels for specific needs and it just makes sence to make them as there is next to no effort involved and minimal tools. I use 1/4" round tool steel (S-5 but most any shock use steel will work). I grind them on a regular Sears and Roebuck 6 inch off the shelf grinder. I use no jigs to grind them, it isn't necessary as the angles are not that critical. These angles may be critical in machine use but when handheld you simply change the angle of entry by moving your hand slightly and they start to cut again.

If you opt to buy them, Brownells used to sell them and I imagine they still do. If you buy them, they come un-sharpened and with no heal and putting that on is the hardest part anyway. I encourage you to try making one. If it takes you more then 5 minutes you're doing something wrong.

I'm not implying here that anyone is, but, this is not a venture that you can buy your way into. Even the Greivermaster requires you to sharpen and craft most of your on tooliing and all the automation really means is you bang up more guns faster but not one bit better or prettier! I sold my Greivermaster because I made faster time with the hammer. I was engraving full time at the time I sold it. I'm reminded of a saying of an old friend, putting a scapel in your hand don't make you a surgeon but gives you the capacity to send one a lot of business!!

If anyone wants to waste the money, the basic shape to acquire is a onglette shape. It looks shapped like hands clasped in prayer.

David. It was supposed to read "tiny heal". This heal, no matter the length has two ends. The end nearest your hand acts as a fulcrum when you want the chisel to surface. So, to surface the chisel as when closing in on a tight scroll or leaving a cut you simply lower the back of the chisel and it glides out if you beating (read lightly tapping)on the other end! Another interesting aspect of the heel, the finish on heal is imparted in the cut. So, if you strope it once or twice on 4/0 jewelers paper you get a brighter looking cut. That's because the tip is being forced thru the metal and it burnishes it's finish as it goes.

[This message has been edited by Your Old Dog (edited 12-02-2005).]

Lee Paul
12-02-2005, 06:52 AM
OK........does anyone besides Ray follow what's being said here.....Or am I just too dense??

Maybe I'll try reading it again after I've had my morning coffee.....

Sorry if this sounds degrading Ray.....It isn't meant to. I think that I need to read up on engraving to understand the terminology a little better. Then I might follow it better.

I'm interested, but a little lost right now.......

Best regards........LP

12-02-2005, 07:01 AM
I think I have a handle on what is being said -
Understanding how it is done and being proficient at it are entirely two different things. I can easily understand the mechanics on how to throw a perfect spiraling touch down pass - but doing it is something altogether different.

This is a pretty good page about hand engraving too.


12-02-2005, 07:22 AM
I have done some hand engraving in the past. The main tools used were the gravers and an jewelers block. With the work held in the block and a light pushing pressure on the graver rotate the block and follow the pattern drawn on the work. Most of my work was done in gold, silver, brass and aluminum. There are more shapes of the graver points than shown in illistrations but what Ray shows is a good start.

If you want to try hand engraving get a jewelers block and a couple of gravers and your hand using copper. You can learn some of the do's and don't quickly. One of the big don't is not to stick the graver in finger or hand when it slips. The cuts are shallow and banking of the graver when you make the turns give the appearance of depth. It takes a long time and lots of practice to get good with engraving. Some of the best hand engravers are in New Orleans.


Lee Paul
12-02-2005, 07:53 AM
Thanks Yaker......

There's alot of information there......will take a while to "digest" it.

Best regards.......LP

12-02-2005, 10:54 AM
Old Dog, great to see info on an intersting workshop subject I for one know nothing about! please take it to the next level, some pics on technique and of the differences in various gravers, is it laid out or done free hand, best materials to use/learn, pics to some of your work, how do you use these; tap tap tap or hand pressure like a scraper (i'd guess steel is with a hammer, but other gravers in the above link have wooden handles), ....etc


12-02-2005, 11:46 AM

THIS is EXACTLY the type of info i have been looking for on engraving! if you lived near me i'd be at your doorstep tomorrow morning looking for a demo.

please, keep making any posts you like on the subject. in fact, i have some 1/4" round stock i will practice on tomorrow.

one question i have is what type of handle do you put on this? do you have any photos or diagrams of one?

thanks again!!!!

andy b.

Your Old Dog
12-02-2005, 06:10 PM
Glad the info is of use to someone.

Yaker, you're right. The site you suggested is not bad except for the fact I don't see where he mentions the heal of the chisel. Without a heal you'll be calling him for lessons and then the first lesson you'll learn will be about the heal !! He does pretty well explain the various chisels.

WJHartson, I don't usually reccomend that beginners even get in the same room with burins or hand gravers. They are far to dangerous until you develop a feel for how deep you are. When you surface you usually do so quickly and it's hard to get your left hand out of the way http://bbs.homeshopmachinist.net//biggrin.gif I would stay with a chasing hammer and chisel as you have far more control when learning.

Mcgyver, thanks for the comment. I wasn't too sure the info would be useful but I thought it might be interesting to some who've never been exposed to it. As for some quick tips: I'd not use an engravers ball as they are too expensive. I use a machinist vise, a flip vice mounted on 40lbs lead block and I do own an engraver ball but it won't support a model 94 frame very well.

I suggest you practice on 1/8th thick cold rolled flat stock that is sanded to a 400 grit finish. You can use typewriter white out solution spread on extremely thin to draw your designs on with. This solution gets spread on the workpiece with your finger rubbed around quickly. You then draw out your designs freehand. Once drawn, you can hit them with artist "fixatif spray" which is a spray used by chalk artist to protect their artwork. This makes the artwork more durable while your working over it. I suggest using a very small hammer. Actually, a table spoon isn't too light but a bit cumbersome. I made my first hammers were ground from 1/2 X 2" bolts! Take the chisel in your left hand with the point directed to the metal and the pounding end nearest your face/hammer. If you know what a tennis racquet grip is it's just like that only the pounding end of the chisel would be the face of the racquet. It's a handshake type grip. This only appears awkward the first 5 days you try it, then you learn to appreciate the absolute value of learning the hold. Wood carvers use the same grip. You can go for hours with next to no fatigue. You learn to set your palm down on the work and then flex the fingers to position the cutting edge where you want it before you regrip and start pounding. I would just practice making straight cuts which incidentally, are the hardest cut to make because any fool can see when it ain't right. You want to keep the depth of cut consistant. You aren't graded on how deep you go. Engravings are usually appreciated in the hand and don't need to be seen from across the room! You would then go to a serpintine or wavy line cut for practice.

Like anything in life, passion is what will make you good. There ain't no way you're going to be doing acceptable work in a few 8 hour days. Ain't nothing will get you good like time devoted and experiance. If it were really easy everyone would be doing it. I firmly believe anyone can be taught to engrave unless they have a mental block and think it's black magic. Think of it as engraving clay and all the principles will be the same. If the steel were as hard as glass you couldn't do anything with it anyway! And lastly let me add, you do have to have "some" mechanical aptitude. As an example, you need to not be afraid to grind a chisel by hand and then heat it cherry red with a regular propage torch and then quench it in oil to harden it. Some folks find that all very daunting. Maybe they should take up painting as even sculptors make their own tools.

Good luck engravers !!

Anybody have questions or need help feel free to drop me an email. It does help

Sorry I can't explain it better than I have but once you get started you'll find it easier then it looks.

[This message has been edited by Your Old Dog (edited 12-02-2005).]

12-02-2005, 07:11 PM
Good stuff this thread. Make your own gravers.there is a nice little instruction bit on the Sherline website.
There is a reprint of a 1904 book "the Art of Engraving" published by Lindsay Publications Inc. I think I got it thru Amazon but i dont really remember.
Have a go youall.