What you are looking for is a 4-axis table top computer numerically
controlled milling machine.
You can perform flat engravings on a 3-axis machine. You need a 4th
axis, which is a rotary table mounted at right angles to the deck in
order to hold the cylinder, with a tailstock to keep it stable.
I have one of these myself, just visit the Taig Tools website to
begin your education.
A Taig CNC machine is good not only for engraving but can also
machine anything up to mild (carbon) steel, NOT stainless or tool
steel. This makes it very good for creating fixtures and any other
tools you may feel necessary. You could also machine prototypes for
jewelry, and also create wax master carvings.
Taigs are much sturdier and somewhat less expensive than Sherlines or
Proxxons, but they have fewer features and a smaller base on
enthusiasts from which you can obtain advice.
Expect to spend approximately $2000 to $3000 for a new 4-axis
You will also need a control box. This connects to the computer’s
printer port and then connects to the 3 or 4 stepper motors via
medium current (5 Amphere) 4 conductor cables.
If you have an existing computer at least Pentium class with a
parallel printer port, then you need spend no further money on a
computer, otherwise you’ll have to spend market price.
The control box will cost somewhere in the $800 range for 4-axes.
You will also need to spend a fair mount of money on accessories and
spare parts: spare pulley belts, endmills, engraving bits, vises, a 3
axis and a 4 axis holding chuck for the rotary table, dial indicator
with stands, and more. Try to hold aside $500 to $700 for
Then, there’s software. You need two kinds:
Software for the computer to take your milling commands and run
them on control box, which is fortunately gratis, that you can find
on the Linux CNC website. You’ll want EMC/AXIS.
CAD/CAM Software to design your engravings. I use BobCad, which
normally costs $1200 or more, to create milling commands from DXF
files. Also helpful are vector and raster processing software such
as InkScape and Gimp.
Your cost of entry may be as high as $5000 to $6000. You will also
need some machinist training, although you can get by with educating
yourself with books and internet forums to get the engravings done,
which is what I had to do.
This is not a trivial effort, and you will not get results by magic.
You should consider employing a specialist with CNC machining
experience, or become one yourself.
Andrew Jonathan Fine