An old engraving block

I just got this engraving ball. pat date nov 05, 1912. The ball is
5.595" (142 mm) in diameter. Where can I get another leather ring?
The top pin holes are.149" (3.8 mm). (1/8) 125" pins will not work! I
made some temporary pins to be able to use it. I can make another top
plate. But I need to know the average size of the accessories. And
who makes them!


Don’t you just love antique tools! try a small pillow filled with
sand or steel shot for a support instead of the leather ring. as far
as the holes being alittle big try getting a set of pins from otto
frei. a hobby shop or your local hardware store may sell brass
tubing. you may be able to beef up the pins by adding a piece of
tubing over them as a spacer to fill the holes on the top of your
gravers ball. or you can fill the holes with something called JB
weld, you can get it at a good hardware store…then re drill the
holes at 1/8 inch.

I have alot of tools that came out of the jewlers building in
baltimore where I trained many years ago. some of these tools are
about 100 years old…if they could only talk…oh
yea they do…after a quick trip through the looking glass.


I have an old block with a top configuration that is just like
yours. Mine is an old mushroom shaped block used by machinists–the
ball base is a solid half-sphere, and it has a tall narrow "neck"
below the jaws. It did come with a set of attachments, but none of
the newer style will fit, due to the different pin size, just as you
indicate. I’ve made my own pins from heavy brass wire that I
purchased from Metalliferous in NYC. I’m sure that you could also use
any kind of steel rod, or have something made by a local machinist. I
learned to set stones and engrave with this block, it’s still on the
back of bench!

You can check Rio, Otto Frei or GRS for a replacement ring. The new
ones are made of felt, and work quite well. I’ve dusted mine with a
bit of powder to let the ball slide more easily. An alternative may
be to use an old leather handbag filled with sand as a base, but a
ring will rotate easier.

Melissa Veres, Engraver

Why bother with an expensive leather ring which will ultimately dump
sand all over your work surface - look in the pet shop for a rubber
doggy ring of a suitable size. Alternatively, make one out of rope.

Best wishes, Ian
Ian W. Wright

I hope this doesn’t sound bossy or something like that, but do NOT
put JB weld on your beautiful, precious, vintage engraving block.
You could perhaps try tubing. What you have are holes that are .007"
smaller that 5/32", though. You can get 5/32" drill rod here:

You can shave off the .007 by chucking it in your flexshaft, or
various ways, and also turn the edge. You might have to anneal it and
then reharden it. Heat it red hot and leave it alone to anneal, do
the same and quench it in cold water when it’s all done to harden.
You could probably find a smaller quantity for less $ than the above
link, but it’s just to show you. Putting glue in the holes is spray
painting a chippendale chair…

Various objects will work as base for your block… look around. I’ve
seen Tupperware, plastic pipe fittings, rubber cart and lawn mower
wheels, training wheels for bicycles - almost anything round with a
depression that fits your particular block will work.

You then change it’s characteristics by lining with leather, cloth, a
rag, or adding nylon “studs” to raise the block and act as a bearing
surface. Depends on how much drag you want. We use the nylon studs on

If you can wait a few months, 'till I can drag all the equipment back
into an area I can use - I still own a saddle shop - and I plan to
put it back into working order. I can make you an exact duplicate of
the original. Even stuff it with flaxseed or horsehair…

Brian P. Marshall
Stockton Jewelry Arts School
Stockton, CA USA

Why bother with an expensive leather ring which will ultimately
dump sand all over your work surface - look in the pet shop for a
rubber doggy ring of a suitable size. Alternatively, make one out
of rope. 

Marcia Lewis recommendation is to go to, say, Home depot, get a
replacement tire and knock out the wheel part.

Putting glue in the holes is spray painting a Chippendale

I agree!

Besides, it would be useless. The JB Weld would eventually wear and
the holes would become sloppy - perhaps worse than they currently
are. The amount of pressure that you can put on the pins by cranking
the screw is very high. You need a properly fitting brass or steel

By the way, we rarely use all those fancy pins, attachments, and
fixtures that are sold by the jewelry and engraving suppliers. Most
are the wrong shape, or - in the case of the pins - damage the
article being engraved. Don’t waste your money…

95% of the time we use leather, rubber, neoprene, urethane, or soft
wood pads between the jaws. (I even used to use lead sheet when I was
a puppy, but that’s not done any more…)

Formed to fit fixtures are made of pitch, shellac, hot glue, Bondo,
and the various new thermoplastics. These are used directly between
the jaws or on top of pine wood blocks. The larger blocks for holding
awkward shapes have a “T” profile. On top is your fixtured work, and
the center leg is between your jaws.

Really the only pin type fixture used regularly are those I use to
hold rings. And most of those are made here in the studio and are not
available in the fancy kits…

Brian P. Marshall
Stockton Jewelry Arts School
Stockton, CA USA

Here are some replacement rings:

I had made one out of wood.

An equal side triangle with the 3 edges that touch the ball shaved a
little. This makes a good cradle. Saw this in Spain where they still
use those old Cannon Ball with side screws. We had gone to a saddle
shop and they were doing inlay with gold wire on the bindings. Came
back and made one for my customer.

I used the 1" pressure treated wood from Home depot less than $4.00
& still working.

Kenneth Singh
46 Jewelry Supply

You can also use a small tire a wheelbarrow, child’s wagon or
similar ‘rolling’ wagon. They work just fine under an engraving