Engraving involves cutting or etching a design into metal or glass. Tim McCreight explains in "The Complete Metalsmith" that the engraving process uses a steel graver, also known as a burin, to slice particles of metal as the tool is pushed along the metal's surface. Engraving may be used to demonstrate ownership, decorate and impress. Engraving is often used on sterling silver flatware, sterling silver bowls and vessels, antique armour and weapons. You can find examples of engraved metal household goods and weaponry in museums around the world.
- Skill level:
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Things you need
- Laser printer
- Engraving block, shellac stick or vice
- Graver(s) or burins
Sketch the design you plan to engrave on a piece of paper.
Clean the metal you plan to engrave with acetone and a clean rag. Rinse with water.
Copy your design using a laser printer. Place the copy ink side down against the metal you plan to engrave. Use an iron to apply heat to the back of the paper until the ink transfers to the design to the metal. Touch up the design, where needed, using a permanent, black felt-tip pen.
Secure the metal so it cannot move, using an engraving block, shellac stick or vice.
Cut the design into the metal by sliding a sharp graver across the metal. Follow your design. Vary the width of the engraved lines by rolling the graver on its side as you cut. Most engravers cut straight lines clockwise, but cut curves and circles counterclockwise.
Change gravers as you work to add shading and dimension to your design until the engraved design is complete. Different gravers will cut different widths and shaped lines.
Tips and warnings
- Practice on test metal before you begin engraving, as engraving is easy to do but difficult to do well.
- If your design includes written words, reverse the copied image before you transfer your design to the metal to be engraved.
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