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Graver sharpening tools

Hello folks -

I have been trying to sharpen my gravers by hand following Blaine
Lewis & others’ directions - but I’m not getting a crisp enough face
so I thought I’d try a sharpening tool. Not having the GRS system, I
looked at a Crocker pattern sharpener. But- I was taught to only
grind the face of a graver with a forward-backward movement - not
side to side like with the Crocker. In other words, in line with the
graver face rather than crosswise. Has anyone had success with this
technique and/or tool?

In the archives someone recommended the Kell Honing Guide, but it’s hard for me to
picture how it could work for a graver without standing it up
straight and again, dragging the graver crosswise. Any thoughts on
the matter would be gratefully received.

BTW, I use only 3 gravers, and for setting only - mostly
bright-cutting - so would prefer to find a simple solution. There’s a
$75 tool in the Frei catalog that I might spring for if noone here
stops me. Thanks again for your help.


In the archives someone recommended the Kell Honing Guide... but
it's hard for me to picture how it could work for a graver without
standing it up straight and again, dragging the graver crosswise. 

Hello Linda,

FWIW, I’ve got the Kell Honing Guide and find it very useful.
Certainly it’s not in the same league as the GRS stuff but then it
doesn’t cost $600 either.

You use the Kell by rolling it backward and forward over the surface
of your stone with the blade being help in place by being squeezed
between the rollers. Large stones are a boon for using this honing
guide. I use Spyderco’s large ceramic stones (5 cm x 20 cm) and it
all seems to work out fairly well.

Having said that I must add that my graver usage is pretty
rudimentary at this point. I’m only using two right now: a large-ish
chisel point and a #53 Round. As far as the Kell is concerned the
procedure for the two is about the same:

  • cover the face I want to sharpen with black felt pen ink.

  • flip the graver blade upside down and clamp it in the Kell (on top
    of the rails not underneath as shown in the photo on the page you
    cited) so that the face to sharpen is as flat against the sharpening
    stone as possible.

  • roll the Kell forward (or back) a cm or two, then lift it off the
    stone and have a look at the inked face of the graver. If it was
    truly flat on the stone then the ink will have been removed across the
    whole face not just a spot (the latter is quite likely).

  • adjust the angle as necessary by gently loosening the blade clamp
    and nudging the graver blade slightly forward or backward.

  • repeat the ink-test-look procedure as necessary until you’ve got
    the face as flat on the stone as you can get it. (no, this is not an
    exact science, it’s just trial-and-error etc etc blah blah)

  • to sharpen I prefer not to use both the back and forward strokes.
    With the graver handle closest to me --the point pointing away from
    me-- I use only the pull stroke. Then I tilt the Kell slightly to lift
    the face of the graver off the stone, roll the guide forward, gently
    lower the face of the graver back on the stone and repeat the
    pull-lift-roll-lower procedure half a dozen times or so depending on
    the stone I’m using and whether I’m just touching the graver up or
    actually putting a face on it. Again, a little ink on the face helps
    a lot in terms of letting you know how you are progressing.

  • now that I’m used to the process it usually doesn’t take me more
    than 5 or 10 minutes to get my gravers back to “scary” sharp. That
    assumes a medium (if necessary) then fine then x-fine stoning follow
    by a final honing with rouge (or whatever) on paper (it’s the same
    pull-lift-roll-lower process).

The Kell works well for this kind of thing assuming the angle you are
putting on the graver is somewhere in the 30-80 degree range. I’ve
never attempted really shallow angles (which I understand are required
for some of the other graver shapes) but suspect that the Kell might
be a little cumbersome for this… which is no surprise really since
it was designed for sharpening woodworking tools and not gravers. I
don’t really know though so I can’t say for sure.

I hope this helps a little.

Trevor F.
in The City of Light

Honestly I have had no luck with the graver sharpening tool. It must
be a need to see how it is done thing. Since I am looking at
pictures , books and self taught; I find that the most needed of my
skills must be hap hazard. I sharpen with water stones and judge by
eye. I am interested to here alternatives.

I use only 3 gravers so far to carve my cameos as I bought them at
an estate sale. A friend trying to surprise me took them to one of
those traveling knife sharpeners and he destroyed them. sigh
Don’t touch my tools did not seem to impinge on my friend. Now I
have one useable graver and 2 strange gravers sharpened into long
dangerous knives.

I have not had timet to sit before a grinder and try and save them.
Not sure it is worth the time. All of my funds and time are going
into a silversmithing class that I have been on the waiting list for
2 years for…YAY I got called. Seeing things done in person by an
experienced smith is invaluable! She is going to help me learn to
solder with the shakes if it is at all possible.

:slight_smile: Teri
An American Cameo Artist

    BTW, I use only 3 gravers, and for setting only - mostly
bright-cutting - so would prefer to find a simple solution. 

For gravers that don’t need to be bright cutting, with a bit of
practice, you can do a decent job with a medium grit adalox moores
disk. Sounds crude, but it works well enough for things like the
round gravers you raise beads with, or knife or onglette gravers used
for general trimming. For the bright cutting gravers, I go from the
moores disk (just hand held, yes, but with practice, you get quite
good at judging the angles, and it’s also very fast) to a ruby bench
stone. That’s used for honing the cutting edges a bit more, and the
key is holding the graver very rigid in your hand, with the elbow
resting on the table. Your elbow’s contact on the table is the pivot
point as you move your hand back and forth. Your whole arm moves, so
the angle stays pretty crisp with a bit of practice. Then, move to a
piece of worn 4/0 emery polishing paper, resting on something very
flat like a piece of glass. A single stroke initially pulling the
graver back just enough so you can see from the mark on the paper
that you’re flat “on” the graver face, then slide the graver to the
side and off. Once more, but this time to the other side. Flip the
graver over to do the same for the belly, and you should, if you got
this right, now have a graver that cuts a bright totally clean
surface. It takes a little practice, but isn’t all that hard.

I can think, frankly, of no reason to grind the graver only forward
and back when using a Crocker sharpener. By hand some people might
have an easier time getting the face flat, rather than rocking it
side to side rounding the face, so it makes sense for hand grinding.
But the Crocker will prevent that rocking, and it should work just
fine. In the final honing step on the 4/0 paper, that slide to the
side means those finest of sanding marks left by the paper are now
parallel to the edge, which makes the cut MUCH brighter than if you
pulled it only front to back. this seems to hold true even when using
things like diamond polishing compound on a ceramic lap on a GRS hone
(though to a lesser degree).

The main limitation to the crocker is that it’s hard to see, on the
sharpener, exact angle settings. It’s just not the equal of the GRS
sharpening fixture, or others similar, in that regard. But you can
compensate well enough by use of a simple plastic protractor to aid
your setting of the angles. I’m less confident with these things when
trying to sharpen a graver that needs more than one cutting face,
like a square point, or 120 degree point, since then you’ve got
rotational/indexing angles to worry about too, which can get
frustrating with the Crocker. But you generally don’t need those for
setting work, and for getting just a good bright cut flat graver,
the Crocker should be fine.

Peter Rowe


Check with machinery supply places, sucj as KITT indistry in Detroit
or check out knife maker supply houses. Personally I sharpen
everything on one of my lathes.



Perhaps you should consider other methods… I myself used to sharpen
35 or 40 gravers “freehand” - on a pair of stones every Monday
morning. I hate to think of how many years ago that was…

Anyway, even back that long ago, I sharpened them in a side to side
motion - across the graver face - not forward and backward as you
are describing. When I could finally afford to purchase a Crocker
fixture, I cut my sharpening time of several hours down to about an
hour on Mondays. I wore out two Crockers over the years. Still have
’em, just in case space aliens somehow manage to stop electricity
from working on this planet.

25 or more years ago, someone whose name I have long forgotten -
rigged up a motorized faceting machine to sharpen his gravers. GRS
latched onto the idea, and the “Power Hone” was born. Most
professional engravers nowadays use it or something very similar.
I’ve seen them cobbled together using motors salvaged from can
openers, variable speed mixing machines, and old 3 speed record
players. What you need is a speed of about 200 to 300 rpm. You can
get there with the motors I mentioned, or you can get there with
belt or gear reduction. The lap and the gravers don’t care.

I have been using a Power Hone for around 25 years now (? hard to be
sure of the years anymore) and teaching students with them for at
least 7 years.

There are multiple reasons for this. First would be the speed
factor. No contest over freehand or the Crocker & stones. Second
would be the accuracy factor. You ALWAYS get exactly the same cutting
point. Use the same settings and it doesn’t matter if you didn’t
sleep well the night before, are slightly hungover, got a slight
buzz going, or just not quite awake yet. Third - graver blanks have
evolved. The old carbon steel gravers and the improved highspeed
steel gravers are still used today. BUT, there are new alloys that
can stay sharp from 7 to 10 times longer than these first two
materials. You cannot sharpen these alloys on the average whetstone.
You need diamond abrasives. Fourth, if you study a graver that has
been sharpened under magnification you will find that sharpening as
you describe (back and forth) there are always tiny lines scored
from the face that will show no matter how much you polish your heel.
Sideways movement (Crocker or Power Hone) leaves the same scoring but
parallel to the polished heel.

There’s more, but I’ve really gotta get my chores done before

If all this confuses you even more, email me and I’ll send you some
more elaborate (or simpler) sources of and

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

Hi Linda

I too went through the process of trying to find suitable tools to
sharpen my gravers. I have done it all, and have ultimately found
that the way to go was the GRS system. Originally I didn’t want to
have to put up that much dough for a system, so I checked e-bay, and
managed to find a used faceting machine that basically was the same
as the GRS system, only a bit bigger. I removed all the faceting
gadgets, and use the table and diamond lap to polish my gravers. I
picked up a simple graver holder to get the angles right and away I
went. I use a 600 grit diamond wheel to shape the angle, and a 14,000
mesh diamond spray on porcelin or chamois to get the final polish.
Like you, I use only a few gravers, and exclusively for stone
setting. This system works great! an after note. After
using this for many years, I had need to outfit more benches, and I
did get the GRS system. My original system was great, but ulitmately
my advise would be to go big, …the GRS system is by far the best.
In the long haul, it is worth every penny. Just my 2 cents.

Good Luck

To Linda Frueh,

I was taught the exact opposite as you. To always sharpen back and
forth across the face of the graver and never forward and backwards.
I was told that you get a better cut if the grinding lines in the
face of the graver are perpendicular to the cut instead of running
with it. But if you bring your gravers to a high polish I would not
think it would make any difference which way you go. I use the GRS
system now with diamond wheels and diamond polish. It does a great
job and is fast. Very important if you are stopping often to sharpen.
I learned to sharpen with a crocker graver sharpener, it does a good
job jusy takes a little more time.

John Wade
Wade Desgns

 Not having the GRS system, I looked at a Crocker pattern
sharpener. But- I was taught to only grind the face of a graver
with a forward-backward movement - not side to side like with the

Hello Linda,

A crocker is a great simple tool that is quite adequate for simple
graver sharpening, and much less expense than the Power Hone. It is
designed to be used with sharpening stones, and does sweep from side
to side, not front to back. The advantage to using a crocker or some
other holding devise is to keep the angle that is being sharpened on
a single plane–to avoid rounding off the edges. which is a very
common problem when sharpening by hand. (You have a natural tendency
to lift up slightly at the end of your stroke, which rounds off the

I used the crocker with a plate of glass underneath to slide on,
which helps to keep the strokes smooth and even. The graver doesn’t
care whether you sharpen side to side or front to back, as long as
it is clamped tightly to avoid angle shifts. Go from coarse to fine
stones (I put one on top of the other to maintain a level height,
then switch. Changing the height in relation to the crocker will
change the sharpening angle—simple geometry.) Then remove it from
the crocker, and put a piece of 4/0 emery paper on the glass, and
LIGHTLY polish the graver by hand. Observe the trail left on the
paper by the graver, and keep the graver flat to the emery. Use
short strokes (1/2 " or so), and be conscious of staying level.

All graver sharpening takes some trial and error practice to get the
feel of it, and to find what angles and techniques work best for you.
The only graver that really works is one that is kept sharpened, so
sharpen often!

Melissa Veres, Engraver

This may make more sense?

Economy Level: Setting a few stones a week. Start with a Crocker
holding fixture and a small protractor. An aluminum oxide
double-sided whetstone and a hard Arkansas stone. Try to get the
stones in the same length and thickness. Longer is better. 8 is
ideal but 6 is average. If one stone is thinner than the other make
a thin wooden or Plexiglas shim to fit underit, and bring it to the
same level as the thicker stone.

Use carbon steel or HSS steel graver blanks. Put a graver into the
holder. Make sure that you always insert the graver in such a way as
to leave the exact same amount protruding each time. I suggest
marking all the gravers with a diamond scribe. We’ll use 1 for an
example of where to mark. A lot will depend on your stones. You may
find that you have to use a raised platform to rest and slide your
Crocker on - to achieve the geometry you need. Using the protractor
find the angles you will need to set the Crocker for by placing the
loaded holder in position on the whetstones. Mark each angle on the
rotating collars with a center punch or nick them with a file. You
can use nail polish or bright colored paint in these depressions to
make the marks easy to see. This will enable you to find and repeat
your angles with some degree of accuracy.

Utility: Setting a few stones a day, maybe beginning to try
ornamental engraving. Start with a Crocker holding fixture and a
small protractor. Follow the directions above, so that you can find
and repeat your angles. Find matching diamond hones of 600 and 1,200
grit. You may want to at least consider a 260 grit hone. Makes short
work of preforming your blank. I have set that measure about 2 x 8.
Find a ceramic or Ruby stone for final polishing if you intend to
bright cut. (You will probably have to charge the ceramic stone with
50,000 grit diamond powder)

If you just need to push up beads the 1,200 grit will be fine. With
this setup you can start to purchase some of the newer alloys and
carbides. A good grade of carbide will make a graver that can last
for years without resharpening if you don’t hit a stone with it. I
precut all of my settings, testing the fit as I go, before the
diamonds are finally set. Takes a bit longer, but I like crisp
results, not mashed and smeared metal. My personal all around
favorite for both setting and ornamental engraving is Lindsays
Carbalt. GRS has a carbide, and their own formula Glensteel. Ngraver
has a carbide. There are also M2 and M42 blanks. All of the 3/32
square tool blanks were originally small lathe tool blanks so this
time we are stealing from machine shop tools instead of the

Production and Accuracy: Full time setters and full time ornamental
engravers. Here’s where it can start getting expensive As I mentioned
in the preceding post you can make your own motorized hone from
various salvaged (read free) parts, and you can use a Crocker or
other homemade holding device to keep the price down. You can find 6
laps online at various lapidary and faceting dealers for $40 to $50
each. Ceramic laps are another story. Just a few months ago you could
purchase them for around $90. Now all of a sudden they are in the
$200+ price range. Dunno why, the only thing that I can think of that
uses a similar ceramic is the space shuttle? Anybody got a clue as to
why they’d more than double in a few months?

A brand new full bore GRS Power Hone with all 4 laps (260, 600,
1,200, and ceramic), diamond spray and the newest holding fixture
will cost you around $900. Add another fixture and you’re well over
$1,000. You will rarely find used ones on Ebay. The advantages are
convenience it arrives ready to go to work and durability.

I now have 6 GRS power hones in our studios. 3 of them are over 20
years old. I’ve never been extremely gentle with them, and students
can usually destroy almost anything but they still run fine. I just
this year replaced 2 sets of laps after 20 years hard use. The
oldest one still runs well after 20+ years, but makes a funny noise,
so I ordered a replacement motor last week. Another winter
maintenance job never ends.

Anyway, these are some of your choices. Any of them can be altered
or combined in whatever way suits you and your budget. As always,
buy the best quality you can afford - taking into account the job(s)
you have to do.

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

Just to remind you that I have a page on my website at

describing hand sharpening of gravers. This is primarily aimed at
turning gravers but the principles are exactly the same for engraving
and stone setting gravers - just the angles change a bit and there is
heel relief.

Over the years I have tried a number of graver sharpening tools and I
have one sitting on my bench at the moment which I am thinking of
dumping as it takes up an inordinate amount of space and is pretty
useless. The biggest problem I have found with all these systems is
the time needed to set them up and get the graver in exactly the
right place, change wheels etc. My main use for gravers is turning
hardened and tempered steel and so, as you can imagine, resharpening
is a very frequent requirement and stopping every five minutes to
spend ten minutes resharpening the graver on a machine just isn’t
acceptable. By hand methods I can restore the cutting edge in seconds
and a chipped point in a couple of minutes. To get clean accurate
turning of parallel parts my gravers need a truly flat face with a
good polish and the method I describe on my web page is the only one
which will give this consistently - contrary to what others say, the
hand holding the graver should not rest on anything and the stone
should ‘float’ at one end.

In this way, pressure from the finger holds the graver face in
permanent intimate contact with the sharpening stone. Also, moving
the graver in a figure of eight evens out any inequalities in
pressure. Most of my gravers are simple tool steel, hardened and
tempered to a pale straw colour but, for work on hard steel, I do
occasionally use tungten carbide gravers. These are not as good as
steel gravers as they rely for their cutting abilities on the
crumbling of micro-crystals at the cutting edge to continually
provide new sharp fracture faces. Consequently, the quality of the
cutting edge changes as the work proceeds. Even using the best
microfine carbide, the finish is not as good as with a well sharpened
steel graver and higher cutting loads are required which, if applied
to jewellery engraving, could lead to slipping and ruining the work.

I now usually make my carbide gravers from the shanks of broken solid
carbide drills of the type used in the printed circuit industry.
These are easily available at very little cost on the surplus market
(fortunately, as I can often break a couple drilling a 0.3mm hole
through 1mm hardened steel!!) and the smallest diameters are made
from the finest carbide. I sharpen these roughly with a small diamond
disk in a Dremel tool and finish using exaclty the same techniques as
I describe on the web page but using diamond paste on sheets of 3/16"
thick perspex - a separate one for each grade. The grades of diamond
I use for this start at 45 micron and work down through 30, 15, 6 and
1 to 1/4 micron for the finest finish.

Best Wishes
Ian W. Wright
Sheffield UK