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  • Engraving

    Most of my shop activity involves building guns and forging knives.
    I have need to engrave my name or inatials and serial numbers on some of these "tools".
    I have searched ebay and local Craigslist for an engraver I could afford without luck.
    Does anyone have any suggestions for a low/medium cost system?
    I have tried metal stamps but they always end up uneven and crappy looking.
    All replies will be cherished in this new year.
    I cut it off twice and it's still too short!

  • #2
    Photoetching comes to mind as a possibility. It may not
    be suitable for your purposes, but look into this to decide.

    One print resource for PE is from Tee Publishing's Workshop
    Practices Series: #36 Photo Etching By Brian King.
    The focus here is on etching model parts from thin stock
    but the techniques and materials could be applied for
    marking purposes.

    I found that stocks all the WSP
    volumes and offers GREAT price/shpg.



    • #3
      You might think about a pantograph. In this day and age of laser engraving, good ones are going for cheap.
      Kansas City area


      • #4
        OK, this will sound redneck, but bear with me. You can't beat the price with a stick. And it works on curved surfaces and any scale or font you can imagine.

        Get a cheap ten dollar vibrating engraver, the kind that makes really ugly imprecise "engraving" with lots of little dots from the sharp vibrating carbide point.

        Print whatever you want to engrave, and glue it in the appropriate spot.

        Buy an optivisor with glass lenses, in one of the higher powers. For the slightly fancier redneck version, glue a couple of button cell flashlights to the top of the optivisor for really great illumination.

        Now, using the treacherous vibrating engraver, AND the optivisor, carefully engrave right over the printed pattern. It's a lot like coloring inside the lines with a coloring book and a crayon. With care, you can do surprisingly neat work, and a good permanent depth. Note that it will also raise material above the datum finished surface, if that's a concern.


        • #5
          Electro-etching works very well on steel. You make the stencils on your computer or free hand draw them.



          • #6
            My knives are hardened steel and my gun receivers are steel (hardened and unhardened) and aluminum usually 7075.
            I looked at the photo etch products and don't think that's what I need.

            I have a Dremel engraver and as stated find it almost uncontrollable. The raised metal is a problem as well.
            I do like the tracing idea.
            The Dremel tool came with a template but the crappy look remains as well as the raised letters.
            I cut it off twice and it's still too short!


            • #7
              Also, I am finding that good, complete engraving machines on eBay are bringing prices at or above $1000.
              That's way to high for me.
              I cut it off twice and it's still too short!


              • #8
                OK, if photo engraving is out and the hand engraver is out, what is left?

                CNC with an abrasive cutter? $$$$$

                Chemical process with a hand applied resist? Skill required.

                Or just apply the etchant by hand? Skill required and results unknown. By rubber stamp? (Joke, I think.)

                I think you may be running out of viable options and may have to reconsider one of the rejects.
                Paul A.
                SE Texas

                And if you look REAL close at an analog signal,
                You will find that it has discrete steps.


                • #9
                  If you are building firearms for resale, the feds require stamping be done for the manufacturer's name and the serial number. There are good stamping guides out there, and very consistent stamps, where the characters are properly located to each other, but they are pricey! See for details.
                  David Kaiser
                  “You can have peace. Or you can have freedom. Don't ever count on having both at once.”
                  ― Robert A. Heinlein


                  • #10
                    None of my stuff is for sale.
                    I do give away some of my knives to friends but keep all of the guns I make, 17 guns so far.
                    I have had some of the gun receivers professionally engraved but have marked the rest myself with less than satisfactory results.
                    I made some holders for stamps that have helped with position but the depth is difficult to control since it is a hammer process.
                    I did experiment with using my 20 ton press and stamps but that did not work very well on steel, better on aluminum.
                    Again, it's hard to control the depth by feel on the press. I don't have a pressure gauge press, just a mechanical press made in 1906. Old like me! LOL
                    Different letter stamps require different force.
                    I suppose the problem with a simple pantograph engraver would be curved surfaces on my knives.
                    The gun receivers have all had flat surfaces where I needed to mark them.
                    I am going to take another look at the electrical etching processes.
                    Thanks for all the input.
                    I cut it off twice and it's still too short!


                    • #11
                      It is possible to "fix" cheap stamps where the letters are not well vertically aligned. Carefully stamp each letter along a rule that is clamped on some aluminium or whatever ensuring they are all butted against the rule the same way. Lightly clamping each stamp to the rule works best if you use a small length of right angle stock as the rule. Decide just how well aligned you want them. Then measure the results you stamped and sort out the ones where the bottom of the letter is closest to the rule within your decided maximum deviation.

                      Measure how far off the rest are and make a list of how much you must grind off the side of each stamp stem so they will all align properly. You do not need to grind the entire side, just enough at the bottom of the side so that when held against a rule the markings will all be placed at the proper distance from the rule. It is a bit tedious, but home shop time is free. While grinding take care to not overheat the stamp end of the stem. You will only need to grind a length about equal to the width of most smaller grinding wheels, just a little more than it takes to accommodate a ruler. It helps to make a holder in which you can clamp the stamp and then swing it to bring it into contact with the wheel, all the same way and alignment with the wheel. As you grind each stamp check with callipers frequently so you don't go too far.

                      Done carefully, a cheap set of stamps can be made into a very nice and even stamp set.

                      Also, for nice round items such as dials it isn't difficult to hold them in the lathe with the stamps clamped to a slightly flexible piece of material clamped to the tool post. This can also benefit from a list of the varying distance of the stamped markings from one side of the stamp stem since that can be easily and accurately adjusted by moving the carriages. How hard you want to stamp depends in part on the headstock spindle bearings. My South Bend has plane bearings so small impacts have no effect. The forces from stamping should not be high enough to damage spindle bearings anyway unless you have very cheap bearings, maybe. Putting the tailstock taper tightly against the work is also a good idea and will prevent the work moving.

                      My option is to use my CNC milling machine, but that is a bit more expensive. If you would like to see some of my engraving I have 67 pics on my website here:

                      Last edited by Evan; 01-03-2015, 04:53 PM.
                      Free software for calculating bolt circles and similar: Click Here


                      • #12
                        I was given an old Scott pantograph engraver and it works great. I haven't looked lately but last I knew you could find them for a few hundred.


                        • #13
                          I have considered using or making a holder similar to these hand holders for use with an arbor or hydraulic press. The character dies made for use with these are very uniform, eliminating the uneveness you get with individual hand dies.

                          Columbia Marking Tools sells steel stamps, hand stamps and marking machines online at discounted prices.

                          They are not inexpensive, but sets will turn up on eBay occasionally for not too much money.
                          Jim H.


                          • #14
                            'monode' makes electrochemical etch equipment- I found a 18vdc laptop computer supply works fine, you need some of their acid or whatever the purple liquid is, and a sheet of their resist paper- just 'print' the paper in a old dot matrix printer, wrap it around a handle with a porous pad under the paper(just attaches with a rubber band around the foam) think the work needs to be +, handle - (might be reversed) just wet the pad, touch the part for about 1~2 seconds, pull away, wipe off with wet rag...perfect numbers or whatever you 'printed' ...we do aluminum wheels, have used this stuff for years, have seen it used on steel gages too, but just takes a few seconds longer. care must be made not to crease the paper when you wrap it around the foam, as if the etchant goes thru, you might leave the outline of the crease too... suggest making a gently radiused backing handle with a flat area as the 'printed' window... stuff works great, cheap enough to practice on scraps with...the printed masks last for at least a couple dozen etches(thats biggest lot size we run anyways)

                            edit- heres their site, we use the blue printer paper at work...
                            Last edited by tc429; 01-03-2015, 10:12 PM.


                            • #15
                              Did you actually look at that electro etch system RWO suggested, it looks like it
                              would be perfect.

                              Mike A
                              John Titor, when are you.