How Does an Engraving Tool Work?

Written by andrea stein
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How Does an Engraving Tool Work?
Engraving tools allow incisions to be made in hard surfaces. (ring image by Bosko Martinovic from

Engraving refers to the method of cutting or incising grooves into a hard surface to form a design or pattern. Engraving is performed via an engraving tool, which comes in a wide variety of sizes, shapes and designs.


Engraving tools can take the form of handheld devices called burins. Burins, or "cold chisels" in French, refer to small, tapered steel cutting devices commonly used to cut designs in metals. Flat burin engraving tools often are used to engrave letters onto a hard surface, while round burin tools are used to make incisions in such hard-to-cut metals as steel, nickel and silver.

Pneumatic Engraving Tools

Pneumatic engravers refer to handheld engraving tools containing handles that resemble burins. The engraver operates the tool via pressure, but the tool point is driven via pneumatic pistons. These pistons extend the tool point in and out much like the end of a jackhammer at speeds up to 15,000 strokes per minute.

Engraving Machines

Engraving machines operate automatically and use a pantograph-based system, or linkage that connects based on the pattern of parallelograms, thereby allowing the movement of one line drawn to a point to trigger an enlarged version of the same line drawn to another point. Engraving machines are used for lettering applications, such as jewellery inscriptions and presentation pieces.

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