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Freehand engraving using flat engraving machine

Greetings all,

I have a question for those of you who own flat engraving machines
like the one made by Pepe.

If you were to set a picture of a letter where you usually place the
brass type… can you trace around the outline and have it engraved
on the item since it’s a pantograph type machine? Just curious if
this is possible… and if it isn’t,… why not?


Over the years I have used the pantograph charactor of several Hermes
engraving machines to “trace” drawings, signatures, logos, etc, very
effectively. You certainly won’t have the brass type to hold your
stylus on course, but with a steady hand you can do this quite

Yes, can be theoretically done. But tough. I’ve done it. Its like
drawing with a mouse. To make it easier…transfer the letter to a
plate of brass or something that clamps in the machine. Cut deep
guide lines accordingly. 'Tain’t easy to have out come out well. If
this is going to be used on a repeated basis you might have an
engraving shop with a computer layout make a master for you.

My first position in this biz was as a machine engraver. After a
week of learning I had nightmares of me, running in the grooves of
the letterplates, with the stylus hot on my heels. Glad those days
are over.


I think you’ll find using this type of pantograph engraver very
difficult to trace around drawings freehand. By virtue of the
reduction aspect (mechanical linkage) of the principal of this type
machine, forces at the cutting end are amplified at the tracing
stylus end and make it very tough to follow drawn lines.

There are a couple of ways to approach it, though.

  1. Lay a thin (1/16") piece of plexiglas or acetate over your
    drawing and using a hand engraver or a similar tool, cut a shallow
    groove following your design.

  2. Send your drawing off to a photo engraving service bureau and
    have a master template photo engraved in magnesium, zinc, or brass.
    This will give you a V groove tracing pattern to follow.

This machine really requires some kind of groove for the stylus to
track in to accurately engrave.

If you’re interested in a used 2-D Preis super well built table top
rotary (versus scratch) engraving pantograph, I’'ve got one for sale
only if you’re willing to pick it up in Albuquerque. Comes with 3
sets of brass fonts, holders, and have a seperate cutter grinder for
sharpening available. I used 2-D and 2 1/2D pantographs for about 12
years to cut casting masters and molds.

Contact me off line for details and pictures.


You can if you are REAL FOCUSED and you can maybe stop your
heartbeat for a few. :slight_smile:

On a pantograph engraver, the brass letters serve as a guide for the
stylus used to transfer the letter to the metal. While using it
freehand may be possible, one slip and your or now removing something
from your subject piece that you didn’t want there in the first

I would suggest for something like that, photocopying the image you
want to pantograph onto clear acetate, using a UV light and some of
the material rio sells for thier Model Master System to “burn” a
quick template of the letter for the sylus to follow.

Theoretically, it should work for quick template making. I’ll leave
the trail and error learnin curve to you as to the durability of the
material when used as a template for a pantograph machine…

Keith (AKA MadJeweler)


I have been doing this on a hermes pantograph for years. Line
drawings are, after all, just lines. Any line I trace will be
reproduced smaller on the metal. I have found that it is best to
have a drawing at least 3 times as large as the desired finished
size. 5 times is better if it can be made to fit on the type table.
The larger size minimizes the natural shake of my hand trying to
follow the lines.

Just over 100 years ago, there was an engraving machine that
featured a way of doing this. They included a clear plastic piece
that you could put over the picture so you didn’t cut into the paper
with the tracer. When you were done with all the outlines, you could
flip over the plastic. The back had a pattern of parallel grooves.
You place the grooves in an appropriate direction and slide the
tracer along grooves over parts of the picture to produce even
shading. For deeper shading, you could reposition the plastic to
another direction and engrave again for a cross-hatched effect.

Lately, I’ve been trying to learn hand engraving. Using a light
touch, I engrave the pattern, lettering, picture on the metal using
the pantograph. Then I mount it on the hand-graver’s ball and start
on the cutting.


A great way to use a freehand drawing on pantographengraving machine
is to create your owntemplate using standard 12"x12" peel and
stickvinyl floor tile.Use a solvent to remove the adhesive on the
backside of the tile, then using carbon paper or any other method
transfer your design to the backside of the tile.Make sure your
pattern is larger then what you want the final engraved pattern to be
but also keep in mind that you also will want to be able to cut the
tile down to a size that will fit the engraving machine.Cut the
tiledown no more then about 1/4 inch around the pattern.After the
design is transferred on the tile use a steel scribe to cut groves
into the tile following your pattern…Put a little graphite into the
groves to allow smooth operation of the stylus make a few passes
with the stylus first without engraving to cut the groves down to the
hard part of the tile, add more graphite and smile while you engrave
that wonderful design.

You can get quit a few engravings with this type of template if you
are not real heavy handed on the stylus end.

If your machine also hasmotor driven cutters you can useit along
withyour tile templateto create your own brass template.

John Austin Designs