How to engrave on plastic

Written by jeremiah blanchard
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How to engrave on plastic
Learn how to engrave plastic. (engraver image by Chris Lofty from Fotolia.com)

Engraving is a great way to customise or personalise various items, whether they be made out of metal, wood, stone or even plastic. This technique is most often used to commemorate a special event such as a wedding, to personalise a gift or to add a unique design to an ordinary item. Engraving plastic is much easier than engraving metal or stone, as plastics are soft and the material can be etched away faster and smoother with modern engraving tools. Whether engraving a plastic sign, computer case or any other plastic item, the proper technique must be learnt to ensure that the plastic will not be damaged during the process.

Skill level:
Moderate

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Things you need

  • Engraving tool
  • Crayon or wax pencil
  • Protective mask

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Instructions

  1. 1

    Place the plastic item on a flat work surface, and ensure that you have adequate ventilation in the room. You should also wear a protective mask to avoid inhaling any plastic dust that will come from engraving.

  2. 2

    Stencil your design onto the plastic with a wax pencil or crayon. This will give you a template to follow and ensure that your design is in its correct position.

  3. 3

    Read all the instructions for your specific type of engraving tool. These all will vary slightly, but universally they will instruct you to test the tips out on a piece of scrap material to see what kind of grooves they make. Test out all the tips and choose the one you prefer for your design.

  4. 4

    Hold the engraving tool at the top-left corner of the design, and begin engraving by following your stencilled lines from left to right and top to bottom. Hold the engraving tool at a slight angle to correctly form the grooves, and move the tool in a smooth fluid motion as you form lines. Use slight pressure, but don't press too hard, as you may puncture the plastic and ruin the material.

  5. 5

    Use a cloth to wipe away any debris while you engrave to keep a clean work area.

Tips and warnings

  • Practice engraving on scrap material to get a good feel for the tool and to test out the shapes made by different engraving tips. Once you've practised for a while and are comfortable using the tool, you can start your engraving project.
  • Never touch the engraving tip while the engraver is in operation.

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