Metal Engraving Tutorial

Written by marion sipe
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Metal Engraving Tutorial
Metal engraving, like any art form, takes years to master. (café image by gilles vallée from

Metal can be engraved using three methods: a push graver, a graver and hammer or a pneumatic graver. A push graver requires the engraver to push the engraving tool--he graver--into the metal by hand, but leaves the engraver with a hand free for manipulating the metal. A hammer and graver uses light hammer taps to drive the graver through the metal. It takes both hands and makes manipulating the metal harder. A pneumatic graver has the force of the hammer and chisel, while leaving a hand free, but they're generally more expensive. Whichever you choose, practice is the key to perfecting the craft.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Graver
  • Hammer (optional)
  • Practice Metal
  • Rotating vice

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  1. 1

    Choose the shape of your graver with care. The shape of the tip indicates the shape of the lines. A square-tipped graver will result in v-shaped cuts and is a good place to start.

  2. 2

    Fit the practice metal in the rotating vice. A rotating vice is required to hold the metal steady as well as to allow the engraver to rotate the metal into the graver, creating curving lines. The quality of the practice metal is up to you, it's only used for practicing different cuts and getting a feel for the tools.

  3. 3

    Place one point of the square graver against the metal and gently apply pressure. If you choose the hammer and graver method, begin with lighter taps and graduate to harder ones. Angle the graver down into the metal and then, to finish the straight cut, angle it up and out. Keep practicing until you can evenly taper the line in and out.

  4. 4

    Rotate the vice as you engrave to practice arcing the line. Engrave the line just as you would a straight cut, but slowly turn the vice as you first dig into the metal and continue as you pull up again at the end of the line. It takes time to get the hang of using both the graver and the vice at the same time and producing a graceful arc line may take some time.

Tips and warnings

  • Once you've mastered these basic cuts, work on varying the widths and flares of your cuts to produce more elaborate shapes.

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