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Chasing Vs. Graving

I have been teaching myself some basic metalsmithing skills, and I
am trying to figure out the difference between chasing & engraving.

I am currently working with copper & brass, and don’t know the best
way to carve (chase/engrave, etc.) a line into a piece of metal. I
tried using a small chisel with a brass mallet (and also a ball-peen
hammer)- but I seem to have a problem with having one side of the
chisel making a deeper mark than the other. I also can’t seem to
continue a line. It never seems to line up right.

If it’s practice that I need - I can understand that - but if I am
using the wrong tools or techniques - I hope that somebody will
point me in the right direction.

Something else I am wondering, when a line (or other stamping) is
created in metal - where does the displaced metal go? Are the metal
molecules “pushed” together - thus hardening the surrounding area?

If it helps - I am not working with any heat. I am only

Thank you-

Stephanie, I will try to help a little. First off to simplify
chasing is moving the metal, engraving is more to removing metal. To
make a line a tool is used with the shape like a chisel but the
corners are rounded. With the corners rounded it lets you move the
chisel across the metal it the direction you are hammering. Other
words instead of hitting straight down you are tapping a little in an
angle. You may want to look at some of the chasing tools available
for sale and look at the end, look at lining tools. Another factor is
what you are using for a backing behind the metal. A too hard of
surface, like a steel plate, the metal will stretch, not move, and
you will be more prone to cut the metal. A softer surface like pitch
lets the metal move and allows the tools to work correctly. You can
also use like stacks of newspaper, wood, or even dense carpet as the
backer. Hope this helps some.

Warren Townsend

Trenton, MI 48183

Dear Stephanie, Chasing would be bending metal from the front of the
piece. Using something under the metal like pitch or leather so that
the metal has a place to go and not stretch. If you were to use
chasing tools on your brass or copper which was on a hard surface
like a steel block you would start to stretch the copper or brass and
warp the piece, that is a sure sign of stretching. Engraving is
removing metal with sharp gravers and making design by removing metal
at the surface of the piece. Engraving will not stretch or bend the

Getting straight lines in metal can be done with straight chisels of
various lengths. First I use a divider to mark my line on the piece
if the line to be chiseled parallels the straight edges of the piece.
If the line doesn’t parallel the straight edges I use a scriber to
push into the two ends of the straight line so I have indented points
to push my ruler against and follow the ruler with my scriber. For
both types of lines, both of which are straight, I will scribe the
line to be chiseled DEEP with either the scriber or divider so I can
feel the edge of the chisel fall into the line. Then I will tap the
chisel with a brass hammer to deepen it and then go overthe entire
line again hitting as hard as I want the line to be deep. The metal
under the chisel is parting and compressing so it is hardening. The
hardening can be used to your advantage if you are going to bend
along the line chiseled. The hardening can be removed by annealing
but the parted or cut metal will make for a weak area if future
shaping is to be done. One way to learn very quickly about all this
is to study not just the jewelry books for this type of information
but blacksmithing and lapidary books also. Blacksmiths often cut
steel by heating ( steal is worked hot, non ferrous metals are worked
cold) and pounding the steel against the edge of the anvil with a
steel hammer. This is the same effect as chiseling. I teach polishing
and I use the broader term of finishing to denote the entire
polishing process from filing, sanding and cloth wheel final
polishing by cutting and polishing a piece of quartz. If you can
polish quartz,and will understand what needs to happen, any metal you
will ever come across.

You must use a steel block under any brass or copper you are
chiseling or the surface you are hitting on will absorb the energy
from the hammer and reflect it making the piece bounce and the chisel
will often mar the piece giving you a double line.

I hope this helps, if you have any other questions you may write me
off line, @Sam_Patania. If you are in Southern Arizona
please stop in my studio and I can easily demo this for you.

Sam Patania, Tucson


Chasing is done with a chisel like tool made of steel. Unlike a wood
chisel, in cross section it is symmetrical and from side view
SLIGHTLY curved. This curve allows the tools to glide along as
hammered in rapid small blows, creating a long smooth continuous
line. The metal is compressed and pushed. If done properly there will
be a SLIGHT rise on either side of the line, which is where the metal
moves to. You are correct in thinking it hardens the metal.

Engraving actually shaves off some metal. A hammer is not envolved.
The metal is not work hardened from engraving. Usually chasing lines
are much deeper than engraved lines.

The depth and width of your chasing line depends on the size of the
tip of your chasing tool.

Commercially purchased chasing tools are not all the same. Most
people make their own chasing tools. Some peolple teach this. I do
and have made all my own chasing tools. There are some books that
will explain the process.

Hope this helps.

Pauline Warg
(I have chasing on many of the pieces on my site)

Engraving (done with a graver or chisel) actually removes that flake
of metal as the tool cuts through the surface. Chasing (done with
punches and a hammer) moves the metal to create a trough, if done
with a liner, or a recessed area, if done with a wider punch.
Chasing can be used in conjunction with engraving to impart texture
or shape to an area that has been carved with gravers. Chasing does
compress the metal, and will cause it to work harden.

Melissa Veres, Engraver

You can get a nice line by shaping a stainless steel binding wire to
the desired shape and tapping it down with hammer on a hard surface.
It can be taped into place if you have trouble holding where you
want it. Other wires such as copper or regular binding wire can be
used but the will deform and so the line quality will change. Do not
use a good metalsmithing hammer to do this and if the metal is
annealed, so much the better.

marilyn smith