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EFB Gravers and Gravers in General (Long)

(From Orchid post by Joe Bloyd 19/29/02)

1. Experience with EFB Gravers
2. Which gravers could you not do without?
3. My qualifications to spout off on the subjects

Let’s begin with an explanation of what EFB gravers are, for those
who aren’t familiar with them. They are a set of six, long, turned,
wooden handles accompanied by six assorted gravers, all packaged
into a wooden case about 8"x 8" square, and 1 C2BD" deep. The
gravers and handles are made to fit together, and adjust for length
by using patented system of step teeth to hold the graver, and a
tapered sliding collar to lock everything into position.

I was given my set by my mentor and teacher Victor Vasquez in San
Jose, California - around 1974. Mine are made of rosewood, finely
turned and finished. On the metal ferrule (which appears to be
silver plated), it says:

“Guaranteed, Ezra F. Bowman & Co., Lancaster, PA., Pat. Mar. 12,
1889.” On the graver in this particular handle it says: “Lancaster,
Trade Mark, Reg. U.S. Pat. Off.” on one side. The other side says:
Guaranteed, E.F.B., Pat. June 3, 1890

This may very well mean that the tool I am holding in my hand is over
100 years old

These tools are still shown in a couple of the jewelry catalogs. Frei
& Borel shows them as part # 136.100, with a price of $91.70 for the
boxed set of 6.

They also show individual replacement gravers @ $9.00 each. I have
seen these sets, and there are some differences between the modern
day version, and the one I described to you above. The new ones are
made of some other wood, not as finely turned or finished, and not as
well fitted. The teeth and the groove for the graver is a bit sloppy,
even when the ferrule is pulled down tight. There is none of the
on Ezra F. Bowman Co. or Lancaster, PA anywhere on these
new versions. I have also not seen the double bent, right and left
hand, inside ring gravers, nor the single bent “spoon” gravers made
to fit these handles for many, many years.

I personally, never really liked the way that these EFB gravers felt
in my hand over long periods of time, so over the years I changed out
the original gravers that came in my set - for three sets of double
bent, inside ring gravers, right and lefts of each. Even these are
seldom used much anymore, as I charge $75.00 to hand engrave a dozen
characters inside a ring. Most clients opt for pantographed
inscriptions at one third the price - same day service - McDonalds
mentality. and quality.

Your question on “favorite” gravers is gonna be hard to answer. My
favorite graver (or 10) at any given time are those that do the job
properly. I would guess that there are roughly 400 gravers in, on top
of, or under my engraving bench.

There are gravers for platinum, gravers for hardened steel, gravers
made to get to any conceivable angle, gravers altered to get into
tight spaces, gravers for spoon bowls, gravers for made for inlaying
metals, gravers for setting all kinds of and the gravers
made for that one specific job that I’ve long since forgotten:)

Your first consideration is going be the metal that the graver blank
is made from. This will determine what metals you can cut with the
tool. Beginning with carbon steel, to high speed steel, "Glensteel"
from GRS Corp., MoMax Cobalt, to Steve Lindsay’s new cobalt/carbide
alloy called “Carbalt”, and solid carbide blanks sold by “Ngraver”.
Carbide is the hardest of these materials, but it is also a bit
brittle, and tends to chip or break in tight turns. I have some
carbide gravers used only for platinum, that are ten years old, and
have yet to be resharpened. As long as they never get up against a
corundum or diamond, or rub against each other - they may very well
last forever! Any of these metal blanks are suitable for precious
metal engraving , some need less sharpening, some take a higher
polish, carbide sheds the gumm y platinum residue that coats other
gravers. If you are engraving exotic metals, titanium, niobium,
stainless steels, hardened tool steels, "art’ knives, or firearms
you’ll get bet better all around results from the MoMax on up to the

If I had to choose just ONE graver - Hands down - it would be a
modified “square” graver made of Steve Lindsay’s new “Carbalt” alloy.
77Rc hardness! With this one graver I can cut a complete platinum
ring - borders, leaves, and veins - a complete intricate monogram -
an entire “art” knife - or a piece of hardened steel, as found in a
rifle receiver. This graver could be mounted in a long half head
wooden mushroom handle, or one of the GRS anodized aluminum handles
with set screws. (Better yet, in one of my new “Ultimate” Air Gravers
by Lindsay!:slight_smile: You would have to make some alterations to get an EFB
handle to hold it properly, but it could be done,

If I got to add a few, I’d add a couple of flats, and an onglette -
all ground out of Lindsay’s “Carbalt” blanks.

Then if I got to have a few more, I’d add some more “Carbalt"
gravers shaped for stone setting, and a couple of carbon steel, lined
gravers to shade letters and scenery. From there you add what you
need or want to build your own collection of 400 or so The problem
with my “favorite” choice is that “Carbalt” - requires a diamond
sharpening system capable of precise angles, facets, and a 50 to
100,000 mesh final diamond polish. Those of you who do not intend to
invest a lot of money (minimum $500) into a sharpening system can
certainly get by with carbon or high speed steel gravers on all
precious metals. These can be sharpened with whetstones and a
"Crocker” style sharpeing holder/jig available from Frie & Borel,
Gesswein, or Stuller. They’ll give almost as good a result as I get
with the “Carbalt” - you’ll just spend a bit more time re-sharpening
them - which is fine for the occasional engraver.

(There are so many considerations in just shaping and sharpening
gravers that I’ve begun a booklet that will be available in January
that will cover this subject in excruciating detail.)

My “qualifications”: 30 + years hand engraving to date. I have been
teaching for 6 years. From 1976 to 1986 I owned a shop in which 95%
of the products were ornamentally engraved by hand. When I was a
puppy I’d engrave anything car, motorcycle, and bicycle parts -
bathtub and sink hardware - tiaras and crowns for beauty queens -
headpieces for circus elephants - arm bracelets for exotic dancers -
Hollywood photograph frames - most anything anyone would suggest.
After some years of this, I learned that I no longer needed to prove
that I could do these things, but I did need to start engraving
items that made more money with less frustration Nowadays, I engrave
my own line of platinum and 18K jewelry, some sterling men’s
accessories, bits and spurs for horsemen, “art” knives, and a few
firearms. I also love doing cold metal inlays, cut in with gravers
and hammered to anchor them in place.

This is probably more than anyone wanted to know but I was bored to
night. Standard disclaimer goes here I will be offering my Basic, to
Platinum Engraving Workshops in the Spring of 2003 at our new
location. Email me off the forum if you’d like to be put on the list
to be notified of the particulars

Brian P. Marshall
Stockton Jewelry Arts School (Re-opening Spring 2003)
2207 Lucile Ave.
Stockton, CA 95209 USA
209-477-0550 Workshops/Classrooms


I ejoyed your posting on the subject and Learnt a lot. The new sets
are put together by Grobet. The ferrule & the holding blade are made
by us for them. I do not know the origin of the wood handles.

Kenneth Singh