Engraving is a process of etching a surface with a tool to create a design. Engraving is typically done on plastic, glass or metal plate. Brass plate is a common classic engraving surface used for plaques, trophies, desk sets and indoor signs, among other objects. Not all engraving tools are suitable for all surfaces; some are specialised to get a particular effect from a particular surface. Most tools are suitable for brass plate.
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Engraving cutters, or gravers, are hardened and sharpened pieces of steel. They look like a screwdriver with a ball on top of a straight shaft, and can be hand powered or air driven. The proper way to use a hand graver is to hold the graver steady, move the plate around as it is being held by a rotating vice for curves and steadily push the graver forward for straight lines.
Air-driven, or pneumatic, gravers produce tiny chiselling movements and can either be directed against the plate or held steady while the plate is moved for all movements. Some gravers are tipped with diamonds to make engraving metal easier. Gravers are available in many different style tips: "V" shaped, flat and rounded bull nose are commonly used.
A rotary cutter uses a mechanical rotating tool and operates like a router drill. Since it rotates, it can only be fit with one shape of tool, so it can not produce the variety of effects that the hand or pneumatic tools do. It is a good tool for cutting harder materials such as plastic or metal without as much effort as other tools. The rotary cutter is moved over a stationary plate.
A burnisher is good for making wide, shallow cuts in metal. It is motorised and has a carbide-based tip in a variety of widths that rotates like a rotary cutter. It is only designed to glide over a stationary plate and remove some of the surface (not to cut deeply) or to give some texture or other decorative effect to a project.
Hammer and Chisel
A hammer and chisel are the historical tools of the engraver. A small hammer is held in one hand and a chisel with the engraver's choice of edge is held in the other. The engraver makes light taps with the hammer on the end of the chisel while moving it over a stationary plate. The hammer and chisel are able to create effects that can not be as easily achieved with a push graver and may allow for greater precision on delicate projects due to the slower movements required by the tools.
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