View Full Version : Is this possible

04-05-2009, 11:44 AM
I'm not a gunsmith, I'm a gun engraver. I do a lot of metal-on-metal inlay and was thinking if there's anyway a small CNC mill would be able to cut fancy patterns into (flat) gun parts for inlay purposes.
I'd attach a picture, but I guess I'm not allowed to do so.
You could go to my website and see what I've done: http://www.powleyengraving.com

Any thoughts?

04-05-2009, 02:34 PM
Welcome to the forum.

There are several different engraving programs available for use with mini-mills and engravers such as the New Hermes. I see no reason they cannot be used for anything, guns included. You might take a look on some of the engraving machine manufacturers sites.

I believe some can be used in three dimensions as well, as for curved surfaces. The only downside, is that they would possibly be too perfect, losing some of the individuality of hand engraved art.

The examples on your site are very well done. I see you are nearby, do you attend any of the local shows?

04-05-2009, 03:35 PM
JC...Thanks for the info.
I realize that a perfect cavity for inlay would possibly take away from the individuality of the hand engraved art, but my intentions are to produce a different type of artwork that isn't really engraving at all.
I'm kinda thinkin' outside the box, if you get my drift. I got this idea/vision in my head and I can see what I want. Now I'm trying to figure out how to do it.

I can cut a darn near perfect circle in steel, undercut and inlay all by hand and it won't look any better than using an end mill for the circle and tapping in an undercut and inlay----But it sure will take longer by hand.

As far as attending local shows, unfortunately I really don't...unless it's Ohio Gun Collectors and that is rare.
The reason is because they have never really produced any type of financial return. I usually just go to them as a "looker".

On the national scene, I attend the American Custom Gunmakers/Firearms Engravers Guild Exhibition in Reno, NV.
Thanks for the Kudos on the pieces on my website also.

FWIT---I just had the American Pistolsmiths Guild "2009 Guns of the Year" published in the May/June issue of the American Handgunner Magazine.

04-05-2009, 06:16 PM
Brian, it's just another tool to save the donkey work and get you to the point where your individual skills will show up. When you're doing inlays, it's no different than using a hand held jackhammer (Gravermeister) to cut out the bulk of material rather than a chasing hammer and flat graver. Might get the job done a couple of days sooner, which in turn means you'll have time to do more work and make more happy customers during the year! Who knows, when I get filthy rich (instead of just filthy) I might just be one of them...I've got this Schuetzen rifle built on a Ruger No. 3...with raised panels on each side rather than just plain flat sides...

Montezuma, IA

04-05-2009, 06:40 PM
David. You're right....inlay is a procedure and not necessarily considered engraving.
I use hammer/chisel, push,NgraveR,GraverMax,acid etch and I'm a full time engraver. That means time is money.

I'm looking for a neat little setup to cut some standard inlay patterns in gun steel and then work my hand magic around it.

04-06-2009, 12:39 PM
Fantastic work!

04-06-2009, 05:15 PM

If I understand you right, removing the background for a inlay with a CNC mill, it should not be any problem. Nor should the programming for doing it be any problem.

I had a firearms engraver who worked full time for me for about ten years, we had discussed doing just what I think you are asking about.

You don’t plan to engrave with the CNC, just make a pocket for a inlay, right?

I am NOT a engraver nor am I any kind of expert on CNC but if I can be of any help I will.


04-06-2009, 10:41 PM

i can't help you with your questions, but i can say without any hesitation, EXCELLENT work! the bear head engraving looks like a pencil drawing. very nice!

andy b.

04-07-2009, 06:51 AM
Tinker2, you are correct---I'm planning on using CNC for just the pocket,or "cavity" work. Thanks for the help. Next thing will be deciding what machine needs to be purchased to suit my needs.
I need a lathe (not necessarily a CNC) and a CNC mill, but they don't have to be big...and that is the newbie dilemma------don't need a big one, but you know the advantages of "a little more than you need" equipment.
I have no desire and no time to get into gunsmith maching, i.e, barrel threading, chambering, tapering,etc.,etc. I'm a one man operation and guns are only about a third of my business. I engrave jewelry and musical instruments and I restore the factory stampings on antique car parts. The equipment I need will see very limited use.

andy b....Thanks for Kudos. (I can teach you everything I know in 8 hours----can't teach you the hand/eye skills. Took me almost 30 years. Your results may vary. LOL!)

04-07-2009, 10:24 PM

I've read lot about this mill, and it seems like a good buy. There are other, even smaller ones nowadays also. Check out http://www.cnczone.com/forums/

There is lots of good info there, and some very knowledgable people who will glad to help you I'm sure.

Best of luck! Joe

04-08-2009, 08:10 AM
Thanks, Joe!

04-08-2009, 08:05 PM

I have the largest Maxnc 15, a small 4th axis table top CNC mill.
It would do what I think you want to with the pocket, or cavity work. The 4th axis allows flat or in the round.
This is some of what I do with my table top CNC mill.
It is the smallest of the four mills that I have owned.

Sherline makes a table top CNC mill. From what I seen done with them, I believe that it too would work for you.

I do have a small [pre-Sherline] Sherline CNC lathe that I got last month. $50. so it needs a little work.

I think I would like the Tormac CNC mill too.

“the advantages of "a little more than you need" equipment.”
I find not being able to do it all has some advantages too.

Let us know what you get and how well it does/doesn’t work for you.


04-08-2009, 08:36 PM
Tinker2....Yea, that's to my liking. I could undercut and gold inlay those letters in under an hour. I use really small tools and a microscope.
To engrave the letters and then inlay would take several hours.

The advantages of the cnc or motorized pantograph is the depth control. Hard to do (read=guess) when doing it by hand. We are only around .012" for inlay work. Any deeper and you really can't justify the cost of pure gold that will never be seen because most of it is buried in the steel.

04-08-2009, 09:29 PM

You should like this then. Free too. Uses any font on your PC.
Very easy to use.

“DeskEngrave is a basic True Type Font to Vector Converter that allows saving of G-Code or DXF files. It will convert a single line of text into the required toolpaths for engraving. It can create toolpaths aligned along an arc or straight line. It includes a TTF 'Stick Style' font - Stick40. It is being released to the CNC community free of charge.”

The “Matt” is cut in .055” and .090 wide but you can do it any way you can think of. You would be limited only by the size of your milling cutter. I am not sure how small of a suitable cutter you can get or need?