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About gravers


#1

I am just reaching the point in learning our craft that I’m curious
enough to look into engraving. Seems to me that there is a
determination on the part of the manufacturers of gravers to keep us
in the middle ages. If I’ve got it right, I am to buy a tool for 7
or 8 bucks which I am to then put into a vise, break in half,
completely re-shape, heat treat and then sharpen? Further, if I ever
figure out what James Meek (“The Art of Engraving”) is trying to tell
me in terms of shaping and sharpening, how long will it take me to
get it right? Surely, surely in the year 2009, someone can sell
gravers ready-to-use off the shelf. And if I have to pay twice as
much for them, who cares?

To my questions: are die sinker chisels reserved for deep engraving
hard metals - or are they used in cutting silver and gold? Does
anyone have experience with Lynton McKenzie’s instructional DVD’s?

Thanks.
Jim


#2

James,

As far as the “traditional” gravers are concerned I think you may
have trouble finding pieces that are ready to go. There are a number
of variables as in size of hand, favoured cutting angles etc.

May I suggest having a look at the site put up by Steve Lindsay and
another by GRS. They both offer their own perspective of tools and
preparation - the Lindsay handpiece takes square blanks which are
shaped using templates of various angles whereas GRS has a shortened
version of the traditional gravers which need touching up to sharpen.

Have a good look at both sites and the tools - I know that using
airpowered equipment is a lot more expensive to set up with but the
learning curve is shortened considerably. Also with the newer
equipment some of what you find in Meeks book will be out of date
and reading the threads on the fora available put up by Linsday or by
Sam on “igraver” may put engraving in a new light.

Best of luck,
Roger Beard


#3

James,

Sorry but I missed your other questions.

The hammer and chisel type of engravers can be used on the softer
metals but I think are favoured for the steels etc.

Don’t forget to have a look at the FEGA site. They offer
instructional DVDs recorded at their annual seminars and castings of
pieces made by members. It is worth joining the association if for
nothing else than their quarterly magazine. Whilst it focuses on
firearm engraving jewellery engravers will also pick up some tips as
well.

Roger


#4
If I've got it right, I am to buy a tool for 7 or 8 bucks which I
am to then put into a vise, break in half, completely re-shape,
heat treat and then sharpen? 

James, first of all, the length of the graver will depend on the
style of handle you prefer, as well as your hand size. It’s not one
size fits all. So gravers are sold long, to be shortened to the
personal tastes of the user and the use to which it will be put. You
do NOT need to reshape them unless you wish, for example, to curve
them. Often they are used straight, just as sold. Most engravers will
want to remove some of the back of the graver so there’s a smaller
point to sharpen, but again, this depends on the actual use, (stone
setting may need a differently shaped graver than formal engraving,
for example) and the preference of the user. If you are not bending
them, then they do not need additional heat treatment, assuming you
don’t “burn” them in sharpening. And sharpening too, is not “one size
fits all”. Depends on your tastes and skill, the type of metal, the
type of engraving, etc.

There are some graver sets that are sold presumably ready to use, or
almost so. The EFB gravers, for example, pretty much need only final
sharpening. That works because the length of those gravers is
adjustable via how they’re placed in their handles. Some users,
though, may need to shorten the backs of those, to start out a bit
shorter than as sold.

And there is a small set of gravers sold for stone setting that’s
advertised as “ready to use”. I don’t happen to like how they’re
prepared in that kit, though…

If you want to be sure not to need to heat treat (though most carbon
steel quality gravers are already pretty good as sold), you can get
the high speed steel ones. Those, you CAN’T heat treat. Ready to use,
hardness wise. They keep an edge a bit longer, but some users feel
they don’t take quite as sharp an edge. Again, personal tastes… For
beginners, most carbon steel gravers if treated right, are usable
with the existing heat treatment. With experience, you may wish to
alter that condition, but again, this isn’t something the
manufacturer would do, since generally it would mean leaving the
cutting edge slightly harder than the body of the graver, and that
depends on it being adjusted to the right length first.

Or buy carbide gravers. Usually only sold as square blanks, they
need grinding and sharpening, but no heat treatment. They’re kind of
specialty tools, not for all uses.

Peter Rowe


#5

Jim

This is just the way it is with gravers, because when you really get
in to some fine engraving the cutomization of your gravers is a huge
part of it. I do recomend buying the QC gravers that have been cut
down to size for you allready. You can get them from most companys or
directly from GRS. Then minimal work is needed to get it ready to be
used. What is it that you are trying to achieve with engraving?


#6

The main reason for the “same” size lengths in the graver and then
go through the shortening process is because we all have different
size hands. One size doesn’t fit all.

To get it right it is nothing but practice practice practice with
the right techniques. Another thing is that most jewelers are moving
to automatic or pneumatic hand pieces driven by air to drive the
graver these days. Much easier.

Also get an engraving block and all attachments…well worth the
coins.


#7
I am just reaching the point in learning our craft that I'm
curious enough to look into engraving...

It is not really a hold over from the middle ages. Different hand
sizes require different handle shapes and lengths. Grinding style and
sharpening are also very personal choices, and will need to be
suitable for any specific job. Any ways you will have to re-grind and
re-handle as sharpening shortens the graver. Unless you burn them
while grinding there is no need for heat treating.

Not a good candide for ready-to-use off the shelf, but then almost
no jewellery tools are. I’d be hard pressed to find a tool in my
studio which I haven’t re-worked or modified.

As for how long to learn, there are master engravers still learning
their craft after decades. For simple uses as an additional tool for
your bench to complement files and burrs etc. a day or so should get
you started. Very useful tools and good for getting that red stuff
out of your fingers :slight_smile:

jeffD
Demand Designs
Analog/Digital Modelling & Goldsmithing
http://www.gmavt.net/~jdemand


#8
Surely, surely in the year 2009, someone can sell gravers
ready-to-use off the shelf. And if I have to pay twice as much for
them, who cares? 

Well, GRS has it pretty much covered on both of these counts. :wink:
But seriously, you should look at their tools.
http://www.grstools.com/

Please realize that we all have different sized hands, and that’s an
issue in engraver length. It’s really not too hard to fully prepare a
graver, but it is nice to be shown how the first time.

The GRS gravers are almost ready, maybe just a bit of touch-up might
be necessary, if you like the length.

M’lou


#9

Jim, Gravers are never sold already prepared for gold and silver
cutting… Each person have their own method or shaping
design/pattern. If you want a series of gravers, I will do the work
for you. I’ll even send you the round wooden handles and all you
have to do is to “burn” them into the spaces provided…then you will
be ready to do your cutting or line-engraving… not to mention I
will send you a whole list of written essays on how to "Bright-Cut"
into metal.


#10
Have a good look at both sites and the tools - I know that using
airpowered equipment is a lot more expensive to set up with but
the learning curve is shortened considerably. 

The learning curve is not shorten considerably. The learning curve
does not exist. By using airpowered gravers, you are not learning
engraving. You are learning to operate the tool.

On the subject of graver preparation. Stock gravers are made to
engrave steel. High speed gravers are made to engrave steel hardened
and tempered to blue. It is way to hard for precious metals. If you
want to learn engraving, start with carbon steel gravers and learn
how to prepare them.

Leonid Surpin
www.studioarete.com


#11

I was initially skeptical myself as to WHY I should have to " buy a
tool for 7 or 8 bucks which I am to then put into a vise, break in
half,

completely re-shape, heat treat and then sharpen?" this tool. But
after working with my professor on the shaping & sharpening, the
importance of it became clear very to me. Specifically: fitting the
graver to MY hand. This is not only for your own comfort in the
graver’s use, it provides for better accuracy, as well. No two
person’s hands are alike. I would rather spend the time to alter the
length of the graver and shape the top notch for my finger, than to
buy it ready made (and have my tool be perfectly fitted for me).

There is also the question of the handle; different handle shapes can
be specific for the type of graver you are using. i.e.: a larger
rounder handle might be put on a graver that you would use for
larger and deeper areas of metal removal in the background of your
design. The more rounded back end fits well into your palm so that
you can more comfortably push with greater force for a deeper cut.

I am far from a graver specialist, and have only just begun to use
hand engraving on my own designs. But I am so thankful for the time
I spent with my professor learning the craft of properly measuring,
grinding, sharpening and mounting my gravers. I only have a “handful”
(pun intended) of gravers that I use, but I am glad that I spent the
time to learn how to do this correctly, as I now have a set that fits
my hand comfortably.

I am a bit of a tool “snob”, as my fellow metalsmith friends would
put it. I am very proud of the tools I have been able to obtain since
becoming a metalsmith, I take VERY good care of them, and I enjoy
making my tools as specific to ME as I can. This includes altering
tools to perform specific tasks. It makes tool buying a little more
expensive, yes, but I feel that my work deserves a good tool to make
it, as well. (Also, if you are careful and slow while you are
grinding your gravers to fit your finger, you should not ever have to
heat-treat it again. Go slow, take your time during the grinding and
quench it in water often, as soon as you feel it is getting warm.
That way you are not altering the temper that it has already been
given when it was manufactured).


#12

Hello james,

Hand engraving belongs to a select group of fine hand skills that
are developed over time with much practice. Mastering these skills
requires some dedication and study, but the good news is that there
is much more available now than ever before.

The gravers do need to be fitted to your hand so you are using them
at the proper length. They are going to be difficult to control
otherwise, and there are so many variables in getting gravers to
work correctly, you do not want to add another to the list. There are
gravers available that have been shortened and fit into the GRS
quick change hand-pieces, but you will still want to fine-tune the
length of the hand-pieces to your needs.

Sharpening the gravers is another area of many variables. Steve
Lindsey’s site,www.EngravingForum.com, has a set of sharpening
templates which should help you get the correct angles from the
beginning. Having these angles correct from the start will make your
engraving practice much easier. You will find a wealth of
and helpful people on Steve’s site.

I’ve been engraving for 30 years, and still find new challenges each
time I pick up a graver. There is no end to the variety of styles,
and each project will bring it’s own set of challenges. Good luck on
your endeavors.

Melissa Veres, engraver
www.melissaveres.com


#13

Hi Jim,

You can purchase pre-prepared gravers from a number of places, GRS,
Lindsay, Gerry Lewy to name a few. Purchasing them “pre-sharpened"
however is a bit of a waste if you spend a lot more for them. You
will have to re-sharpen them within minutes of first using them,
especially if you are using them for stone setting, so I would spend
the money on sharpening equipment instead of paying for
"presharpened” gravers. The reason gravers are sold in longer lengths
than needed is that everybody’s hands are different, and a graver
length that I like may be too short or too long for your hand. When
you get the pre-shaped gravers, you may find that they might be
uselessly short very quickly. You will also have to reshape them
anyway with use, so you really aren’t saving a whole lot of time in
the long run. That’s what I don’t like about them. Not a bad idea to
get a couple just so you have an example of what they should look
like though. You also shouldn’t have to heat treat any gravers now.
That’s neat to know old-school stuff, but not necessary anymore, they
come properly hardened from the supplier. There’s no need to harden
gravers unless you over heat them while sharpening or you are making
some bent gravers for inside ring engraving, but those are available
now too.

Steve Lindsay sells a sharpening system that is superb, in my
opinion. It uses a patented jig and clamping arrangement that seems
to be loosely based on a very old jig technique. It creates a
patented graver geometry that is slightly different from the
traditional geometry. I personally like it a lot. See airgraver.com
for details. Well worth the money, it has saved me countless hours
and improved my work, mainly because each graver is sharpened exactly
the same as every other one, so there is no need to make test cuts.
If you break one, just chuck up another and keep on cutting.

The downside to the Lindsay Sharpening System is that it is only for
square gravers used for traditional engraving as opposed to gravers
used for stone setting, although the full system includes a flat
bottom jig. I have the flat jig but don’t use it; I prefer a radiused
belly on flat bottoms, which the Lindsay jig cannot produce. I use a
GRS PowerHone for rounds, onglettes and flat bottoms. It is also
possible to use a PowerHone with the Lindsay jigs, but you have to be
somewhat creative to fuse the two. The GRS “Dual Angle Graver
Sharpener” designed for use with the PowerHone is far more flexible
than the Lindsay system, but it does not produce the absolutely
perfect repeatability attainable with the Lindsay jigs. It also
costs about the same as the Lindsay jig system, but you will still
need a couple of flat bench stones. The PowerHone makes it really
nice but you will also need a couple of hundred dollars worth of
wheels to use it. Lindsay’s system comes with everything you need,
including four diamond bench stones, a half dozen jigs, a
presharpened carbide graver and a few square graver blanks.

No affiliation, I just love Lindsay’s exceptionally high quality
products and like to share when I find something really good.

How long until you get it right? Assuming you’re asking about graver
sharpening, with the Lindsay system you can have a graver properly
sharpened and ready for cutting in about an hour or two with no
instruction other than those included. Re-sharpening takes about five
to ten minutes, depending on how badly you broke the point. Any other
method will depend on your setup and your aptitude, ranging from an
hour or two to many years. Took me about three years to really figure
it out and get it down. But that was using homemade wooden jigs on
bench stones, glass and emery paper and was before PowerHones came
out and way before I found the Lindsay sharpening system.

How much time to learn how to engrave? To learn the basics and cut a
more or less decent line, with a properly sharpened graver and a good
method of holding the work, a few hours to a few days. To perfect the
skill, more time than we have on Earth. One of the things I love
about engraving is that the basics can be learned very quickly, but
it is a skill that can take a lifetime to perfect. In fact, I don’t
think achieving perfection is possible. Certainly no one that has
tried it since the Sumerians has been able to.

Lynton McKenzie is a legend among engravers. I have not seen the
videos but I have seen his books and have talked to people that have
the videos. He is a true master and I would unhesitatingly recommend
anything with his name on it.

Die sinker’s chisels can be used for cutting just about everything,
but they require considerable skill to use well. They are currently
primarily used for firearm engraving I believe, and their use is
becoming somewhat of a lost art as they are being replaced with
hand-held air powered tools.

Check out The Engraver’s Cafe at igraver.com/forum and the Lindsay
AirGraver forum at engravingforum.com. You will find more engraving
related stuff than you can possibly imagine. The engraving community
is incredibly sharing with and help. Just a great group
of people. Welcome to the fold!

Dave Phelps


#14
The learning curve is not shorten considerably. The learning curve
does not exist. By using airpowered gravers, you are not learning
engraving. You are learning to operate the tool. 

Isn’t it good that we can all share our opinions.

In my opinion the air powered gravers allow a more readily controlled
cut by a beginner as opposed to the old fashioned push gravers (Yeah,
I know - you’re going to say that you don’t push the graver but in
fact you turn the work into the cutting edge)

Being able to start a cut where you want and finish where you want
without a lot of strain (which often leads to slipping) encourages a
beginner to want to continue to learn and in my opinion helps shorten
the learning curve.

Roger


#15
Sharpening the gravers is another area of many variables. Steve
Lindsey's site,www.EngravingForum.com, has a set of sharpening
templates which should help you get the correct angles from the
beginning. Having these angles correct from the start will make
your engraving practice much easier. You will find a wealth of
and helpful people on Steve's site. 

I will second Steve’s templates, for the money, they will save you a
lot to time and effort on trying to get the correct angles on your
gravers. They work well with both carbide (sharpening on diamond) or
steel gravers. This is one investment that is worth its weight in
gold. Virtually monkey proof, giving you precise sharpenings each
and every time. Having a sharp graver is only half the battle tho.

He also offers a manual push engraving handles that will accomodate
his square blanks, including a handle for hammer style
engraving…for just getting into the engraving game, his tools save
a whole lot of time trying to get things right…this does not
superceed the actual talent for engraving, after all they are just
tools.

P@
www.patpruitt.com


#16

I am most appreciative, indeed humbled, by all of the advice and
explanation offered in response to my rant - and questions -about
these tools. What I said was somewhat tongue-in-cheek; but not
altogether. My sense is that engraving has a sort of mystique built
up around it - and that whatever GRS and other manufacturers were to
do to bring beginners more easily into it, the larger would be their
market. But I no doubt presume too much given my level of
understanding.

In any event, thanks to all for the the assistance - and
particularly to Gerald Lewy for his most generous offer. I’ll be in
touch off list.

Jim


#17
The learning curve is not shorten considerably. The learning curve
does not exist. By using airpowered gravers, you are not learning
engraving. You are learning to operate the tool. 

Please excuse my poor English. When I read your comments I wonder if
you are just beeing anti-modern tools… Of course you are engraving
if you use an airpowered graver. And of course you have to start by
learning how to “operate the tool”. Also if you use your hands+graver
or hammer/chisel you have to start by learning how to “operate those
tools”.

Air powered gravers are just one of the tools used to make
engravings. No matter what tool you prefer there is so much more
involved to make a beautiful engraving, like your eye/hand
coordination, studying/practising design and so on.

Per
knifemaker.se


#18

Jim,

If I've got it right, I am to buy a tool for 7 or 8 bucks which I
am to then put into a vise, break in half, completely re-shape,
heat treat and then sharpen? 

These were my thoughts EXACTLY when I first embarked on engraving.
What I found very quickly is that, even with the small amount of
skill that I have, I’ve gotten particular about my gravers and how
they are customized. Also I found that while preparing my first few
gravers was laborious (and not altogether successful), it became a
routine task fairly soon.

Good luck.
Jamie


#19

James,

My sense is that engraving has a sort of mystique built up around
it - 

I haven’t gotten into this thread because there are far better
engravers than I, here. IMO, though, good engraving is by far the
single most difficult skill to master in jewelry. Thus the
mystique… In many tools the electricity does the actual work - in a
hydraulic press the press does all the work, after setup. In
engraving it’s all in your hand, you and a simple piece of steel (I
see no real difference between old and new fangled). You have to be
able to turn your wrist 1 millionth of a degree, over and over
again… Stuff like that. It’s not so hard to get halfway decent at
it, either, but a master engraver has accomplished somethingvery
real…

http://www.donivanandmaggiora.com


#20
(Yeah, I know - you're going to say that you don't push the graver
but in fact you turn the work into the cutting edge) 

That is exactly right!

Power assisted graves promote the worst habit a beginner engraver
can acquire - pushing graver instead of turning work, which is an
absolute anathema to developing correct technique.

Leonid Surpin
www.studioarete.com