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engraving basics


Jim Kelso

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A question by Tom elsewhere about sharpening the Lindsay graver has prompted me to put up some info on my general graver geometry and sharpening methods, which are somewhat outside what seems to be standard or "traditional" practice.

 

Any student of engraving will quickly find that they absolutely must become familiar with point geometry and be able to fashion their own gravers to suit their needs.

 

It may appear, when looking at the plethora of information available on the web, that one needs a vast array of gravers or chisels to get anywhere, or that one needs expensive, precision, power driven hones and jigs to produce a functional graver or chisel. Neither of these is true. The most important and necessary component to have is, as mentioned above, a working knowledge of tool geometry to produce the tool of your needs. Form, indeed, follows function.

 

I cut my engraving teeth by learning to engrave firearms using James Meek's seminal book, The Art Of Engraving. This book has an excellent introduction to graver geometry. Initially I followed Meek's suggestion of using the Crocker graver sharpener along with his stone holding fixture that keeps your bench stones in a fixed relationship to the Crocker. These days, compared to the current crop of sharpening equipage, the Crocker looks positively Flintstonian, but it works well and is cheap. I would recommend the Crocker as a way for a beginner to get a working knowledge of point geometry and be able to reproduce consistent points.

They can then move on in whichever way suits them. HERE is a link to a supplier of the Crocker Graver Sharpener.

 

After some years of using the Crocker I visited Leonard Francolini, Colt engraver extraordinaire, who shared with me his style of point geometry which I found instantly appealing. I've described this shape HERE

and in that thread provided photos of how to go about getting it. I use this shape, with variations, for about 80% of my engraving/chisel work, using it in palm-push tools, with a hammer and with the Airgraver, as needs be.

 

Do not miss seeing Leonard's work HERE

 

I found that I could form this type of tool by eye without the use of any jig, but I came to that by way of having the grounding in tool geometry from using the Crocker.

 

Of course, as time goes on, you add a variety of specialty chisels and gravers depending on your needs, but so much can be done with the simplest of tools.

 

Also, I don't want to imply that I have anything against the use of power hones, jigs etc., but I would not want anyone to be discouraged from trying engraving because they thought it was necessary to have them and perhaps could not afford them.

 

I haven't answered Tom's question, so more to follow. I'll try to address any other questions as well.

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Evening Jim,

 

This is great. I've always wanted to learn engraving but the equipment costs seemed so daunting.

 

I wished I knew enough to ask an intelligent question but I don't. Please don't hesitate to cover the most basic techniques as they will all be important to me.

 

Thanks, -Art

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Thanks, Jim

 

This is great. I haven't seen this posting, but the geometry is very similar to what I use, which I also learned from an older gunsmith that I worked with. This type of edge seems to be standard in firearms engraving, as I have known three gunsmiths who used virtually the same type of sweeping edge, two from Canada, and one from Norway.

 

Anyone who is interested in getting started in engraving shouldn't be intimidated by costly sharpening systems. It is possible to do very high quality engraving with a simple square engraver and a good quality oilstone for sharpening. After all this is how is had been done for a couple of thousand years prior to the invention of power tools.

 

Phil

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Thanks Arthur and Phil.

 

Yes Phil, the sweeping edge, while revelational to me at the time, seems to be fairly universal. As can be seen in the thread linked to above it is found on Japanese chisels as well.

 

Thanks for the input.

 

Jim

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See, you learn something every day - "sweeping edge." I didn't know that's what this kind of graver was called. I started out using Jim's "sweeping edge" method description to make gravers, and I started playing around with hammer and chisel. That was obviously going to call for some serious dedication to learn to use well, until I saw Jim's thread about pneumatic engraving tools. Once I tried one, I was hooked. Of course, people have been doing extraordinary work with simple tools for thousands of years, but the small pneumatic engraving systems available today can shorten the learning curve by orders of magnitude.

 

Thanks for this thread, Jim!

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I would still recommend that the skills of hammer and chisel and palm-pushing be mastered so that one can move effortlessly between these power sources. I would suggest that progress in control in one realm leads to a gain in the others.

 

Also, in thinking more, it is the heel that sweeps rather than the edge, so perhaps sweeping heel is more accurate.

 

Thanks Tom.

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Many thanks for more info. on gravers/engraving.

 

I'd made some, though not with a sweeping edge, but they didn't seem fine enough when starting to practice on polished tagua. I then bought a very fine Swiss onglette, 1.50mm, practiced on some old bits of boxwood and tagua and found the line almost imperceptible. What I did find, though, is that the fine line laid down a perfect channel for engraving over it with one of my coarser gravers. I know it's not the conventional approach and I probably won't do it this way as I gain confidence, but it's got me over beginner's nerves of having the graver slip and scoring unwanted lines in the work.

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I completely agree re the concept of gaining a solid foundation in the manual methods before going on to powered methods. I would personally love to have a pneumatic engraver, and if I did more engraving, I probably would invest in one. However, there is something that I like very much about the feel of holding a hammer and chisel, regardless of the material.

 

For those who are considering getting into engraving, I came across an engraver from Pennsylvania a few years ago, who does the most beautiful 18th century style engraving, using an interesting variation of technique. Unfortunately, I can't remember his name, but he combined a long handle on a relatively short engraver, which allows for either pushing by hand, with both hands, or using a chisel with a comfortable handle. He had his tool roll with him, containing about 6 tools, which was all he needed. I made a couple of gravers from O1 tool steel, based on his design, (see photo below from my old tutorial on tool-making) and for some things, they work very well. It is a particularly useful method for those who are using gravers for non-conventional purposes, or anyone starting out who has not quite got the technique of pushing a graver in the palm of your hand down pat.

 

post-1087-1243294093.jpg

 

The long-handled graver is on the left, next to two standard chisels.

 

Phil

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Afternoon Jim,

 

This might be a bit presumptious on my part but, I would like to be able to engrave my mark on the ricasso of my knives. It would be my first name, (Arthur), with a profile of a kings crown over the peak of the "A". Kind of like the halo over the "A" in the Angel's baseball team logo.

 

I have no engraving experience but would like to start.

 

Would you please give me a shove in the right direction. Which type of graver to use and would the book you mentioned, The Art of Engraving by Meeks, be of assistance or would something more simple be better?

 

Thanks, -Art

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Art, there's nothing wrong with ambitious goals, but you need to get some basics under your belt. I would suggest starting by looking at James Meek's book which will give you an overall look at what's involved. I see you're in California. One of our members, Brian Marshall, runs a Jewelry Art School in Stockton, which includes engraving. Looking at his website it looks like he's cut back, but maybe if you get in touch he can give you some private tutoring or send you to someone nearby.

 

HERE is his website link.

 

Steve Lindsay and Sam Alfano also have excellent forums for engravers.

 

Let us know how it's going.

 

Jim

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Art,

 

Here is a link to the Engraving Forum that will get you started.

 

http://www.engravingforum.com/showthread.p...ght=inexpensive

 

I made my first push/wiggle graver out of a broken drill bit and a scrap of wood. Should be easy for a knife maker. My first tool was a round and it worked good for wiggle graving and stayed sharp for a long time. Diameter was about the size of a pin head. I'd post a picture but I gave it away to get my niece started.

 

John

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Art,

 

Here is a link to the Engraving Forum that will get you started.

 

http://www.engravingforum.com/showthread.p...ght=inexpensive

 

I made my first push/wiggle graver out of a broken drill bit and a scrap of wood. Should be easy for a knife maker. My first tool was a round and it worked good for wiggle graving and stayed sharp for a long time. Diameter was about the size of a pin head. I'd post a picture but I gave it away to get my niece started.

 

John

 

 

Evening John,

 

Thanks for the link, l"ll try that.

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Hi Arthur

 

Being a knifemaker and and doing a bit of engraving I feel it is is much easier to rather etch your logo onto the ricasso of your knives.

To engrave your name with a crown which will be very small you probably will have to use a microscope.

I use a high contrast negative of my emblem. First spray the blade ricasso with "Positiv 20" resist wax. wait to dry. Place the high contrast negative over the wax. expose under a mercury - vapour lamp. Develop in a solution of caustic soda which removes the wax on the exposed parts. Build a little dam with plastic clay (plasticine or similar) arond the emblem. Add ferric chloride solution with a brush to the area for approx. five to twenty minutes depending on what steel you are using (different percentages of elements). Wash of and clean with acetone. Be careful that the ferric does come in contact with other parts of your blade as it will stain it. It takes some experiments to get the perfect times and setup but once established the results are quick and constant.

Here is a knife of mine where the emblem on the hollow was etched. The rest was engraved and carved with a "Lindsay airgraver" and an "NSK Presto".

Hope this is of some help

Regards

Neels

 

Hope the picture shows as it is my first posting.

post-1909-1244046966.jpg

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