Graver sharpening

I purchased a few used gravers, and the lining graver was chipped. I
read a book on sharpening gravers and it explained how to cut the rake
to 45 degrees (which I did on a worn 3000 lap on the faceting machine
at slow speed with lots of water).

But now it cuts too deep into the sterling I am graving ( in fact it
cuts deeper with every 1/8 inch of travel until it builds up a barrier
of metal that it cannot push through)

The only way I can get it to cut a constant depth line is to use the
graver with the handle actually touching the table that is supporting
the work. If I pick up the handle at all, the tip just dives into my

How do I modify the cut on this line graver so that it will cut
shallow even depth lines?

try 37 1/2 degrees sharpening angle ringman John Henry

You need a clearance angle. Hold the belly of the graver at about 10
degrees to your 3000 grit lap. Just drag it over the stationary lap a
few times, you don’t need to take much off.

Timothy A. Hansen

Joseph, This has helped me in the line graver arena…Take a
separating disc and cut perpendicular lines across the lines about
2-3mm apart. Then “file” graver across the piece you are working on.
The leading point of the graver never touches the piece you are
working on. Hope this helps!

Bob Staley
B.Staley Goldsmiths
Precision Laser Welding
770.382.8268 fax 770.387.9243

You mentioned that you ground down the rake angle to 45 degrees, but
you should also grind the bottom of the graver about 5 degrees to
create a clearance angle. This will allow you to approach the metal
at the right angle (about 20 degrees) for shallow cutting. You may
also have to adjust your rake angle back some to 50 degrees. You
will then have to angle the bottom face to a sharp point to get your
line shape back. James B. Meek’s book, The art of engraving
describes this well.

Larry Seiger
JA Certified Master Bench Jeweler

The art of sharpening and using gravers is difficult to describe in
words. First you have to sharpen the graver to the point where it
grabs into a finger nail rather than skidding. This is a refined art
in itself. Once done, you are ready to begin cutting.

I have always thought of engraving as being similar to water skiing,
in that you try to find the correct balance point between leaning
back and leaning forward. If you lean forward, the tip digs in and
you cannot move the your body/the tool forward. If you lean back, you
slip out of control.

When correctly sharpened and used, the graver slides smoothly through
the metal like a knife through butter, raising a shiny smoothly
curving sliver of metal and leaving a perfectly polished trail.

My suggestion in learning to engrave is to experiment with the angle
of entry. Of course the way you hold the graver is also very
important, as it must be held very firmly to stabilize the position,
while moving forward in smooth sweeping motions.

Obviously this is all beyond my ability of verbal expression, but
give it a try. And let me know if you have any easier techniques to
describe. Alan

Revere Academy of Jewelry Arts
760 Market Street
Suite 900
San Francisco, CA 94102
tel: 415-391-4179
fax: 415-391-7570

Dear Joseph, How good are you at softening, slightly bending, then
hardening and re-tempering tool steel? This is the best solution to
getting lining gravers to cut properly without them wanting to “set
their controls for the centre of the earth”.

I have a number of older lining gravers that I inherited. My uncle
(the original user) had softened the blade, put a very slight curve
into the “belly” of the liner, then re-hardened and tempered the
blade. I recently bought some new liners and had the same problem you
have, but was able to fix it by copying the curve on my uncle’s old
originals. Looking at one right now, I’d guess that the curve is based
on the arc of a circle around 10 inches in diameter. You won’t need a
lot of curve, just a little to give you enough raise to clear the
handle from the metal as you cut.

One little trick that my grandfather showed me, was to rub plenty of
soap onto the blade before you harden it prior to tempering. The soap
melts, then burns onto the steel blade’s surface. When the blade is
cherry red and you quench it, the residue of the soap explodes off the
blade leaving it lovely and clean - which is important for a liner.
You don’t want to lose or scale-damage the fine serrations of a good
lining graver!

When you re-temper the blade, simply clean the sides and the top and
judge your pale yellow straw colour from the cleaned area. There have
been a lot of posts about hardening and tempering, and you will find
them in the archive, but I’d be happy to email you a detailed step by
step if you wished. Kind regards, Rex from Oz


What you need to do is bend the graver slightly. This is not quite as
easy as it sounds…

What you do goes something like this:

First find yourself a piece of Ivory soap. Rub the soap over about an
inch and a half of the graver, from the cutting point towards the
handle. Make sure that you get a good coating on the lined face. This
is to protect against firescale.

Now, with a jewelers torch or a propane bottle torch - set at a
medium, “soft” flame - gently heat the last one inch of your graver
tip. It helps to do this the first couple of times in a slightly
darkened room. Move the flame around, heating that last inch evenly,
until it begins to glow dark red.

At the point where you can plainly see the color red - but not
"bright" red, you will need to put the tip at about a 45 degree angle

  • against a piece of firebrick or a soldering pad. You must make sure
    that the very tip is square to the surface. Look straight down on the
    top of the graver as you do this. Do not lean to one side or the
    other. Push down on the point carefully… you may have to reheat and
    try a second time. You want to get a gentle curve into the graver. I
    would guess that most of mine are about 15 degrees. If you push too
    hard you will go past this. Better to reheat and have a second go at
    it, than bend it too far.

Immediately, quench the graver in water - if you have reached the
proper angle. You will now have to sand the graver on the sides with
320 emery to remove the discoloration. You need bright metal to judge
the color you are going to draw to. (Do not sand the face where your
lines are!)

Reheat the graver, even more gently this time. Maybe use an alcohol
lamp for the first time… Start back about an inch from the tip. You
will see the color begin to change. At first it will be a very light
color, then it will darken and creep towards the tip. Watch this
color creeping toward the tip. When the light straw color makes it
all the way to the tip… wait just a bit longer for the medium straw
color to get to the tip - and QUENCH!

When you have finished, the medium straw color should remain visible
on the flat sides of the graver tip. You can clean the soap residue
out of the lines on the face with a fine brass brush on a mandrel in
a flex shaft machine. Now, resharpen and go to it!

I would highly recommend that you try this first on an old graver or
a piece of tool steel - even round drill stock will work, to get the
"feel" you need to create the gentle curve. Plus you can observe the
color change at least once before you start on your good graver. This
can be done with graver in the handle, but if it seems awkward - pull
the graver out of the handle and hold it in a pair of vise grips.

If I didn’t make this clear enough - ask before you start…

Brian P. Marshall
Stockton Jewelry Arts School
704 W. Swain Rd.
Stockton, CA
209-477-6731 Office/Fax
209-477-6535 Workshops/Classrooms

1 Like

Joseph, There are a few important aspect about using a lining graver
in the situation that you have described. In a soft metal such as
sterling silver the face angle can be radically different from those
used in harder metals. Sharpening your face angle to about 75 degrees
will reduce the gravers ability to dive deep into soft metal. A
lining graver is not designed to remove large pieces of metal but
rather to scrape the surface while imparting grooved lines. I am not
aware of a method for placing a heel on a lining graver with out
distorting the grooves that give the lining graver it’s signature
effect. If you look in the graver section of a tool catalog you will
see bent lining gravers. Using these will allow your graver handle to
be elevated above the surface, giving your hand some room to work and
compensating for the lack of a heel.

Blaine Lewis
New Approach School for Jewelers

Hi Joseph Just a couple of thoughts. First as the graver is “used” it
could be too short. You could try getting a new longer handle to
compensate. Something like a long mushroom (half head type) or a vase
type. I always finish sharpening on a clean oiled Arkansas stone and
then dig the graver into a piece of hard wood to remove the burr. If
you do finish the graver on a stone by hand make sure you keep your
wrist stiff and move from the elbow.

Chris Hackett

Brian ( pointed out to me that my response to the
graver sharpening question was in error. I mistook the original post
as speaking about a pointed graver, not a “liner”. Anyway, I am
appreciative that Brian pointed this out to me. I and also wanted to
endorse the method of curving the line graver as he descibed it.
This is precisely the way I treat my line gravers.

Larry Seiger
JA Certified Master Bench Jeweler