The list of classes and videos that you have provided is a great
starting place for getting the basic about hand
engraving. Classes are always a good investment for the beginner
because there is someone to guide you in issues of posture, tool
angles and technique that will always be among the pitfalls of
learning this skill. Trying to sort this stuff out by yourself when
you begin to learn has caused many good intentions to go astray.
It’s simply very hard to figure out what is going wrong and why,
unless you are so driven and so methodical that you are willing to
keep making small modifications to tools and technique in an
organized and scientific manner until you achieve results.
(Read-practice, systematically organized.)
the Gravermax is a must if your going to hand engrave.
I have to disagree with you there. I learned how to engrave using
push gravers by hand before the Gravermeister (the original power
assist) came on the market. There is a tremendous learning curve.
I have owned a Gravermax for the last 10 years, and today I wouldn’t
be without it. Let me say, however, that there are advantages and
disadvantages to learning with it. First, it is a pricey
investment, along with an air compressor and hand piece. You
already need to get an engraving ball vise and gravers, so there is
seed money needed upfront, before you even think about the
Gravermax. If you take a class first to see if you like engraving,
and the Gravermax is provided for your use, that’s great, but you
don’t really need one to start out.
Second, the Gravermax provides the push, and you provide the
control. The reason it seems to cut down on the learning curve is
because you are tackling one aspect of engraving (controlling the
graver) while the machine is controlling the other most important
aspect–pushing through the metal. If you cut by hand, you develop
a “feel” for how the graver is moving through the metal, and each
metal has a feel that is unique. You can tell if you are cutting
too deeply, or about to loose control (i.e. slip), by how the graver
is feeling in your hand. The gravermax will power right through
that, and can hinder your technique. The gravermax has lots of
other uses, and for setting, texturing, etc., I highly recommend it,
but be aware of what it is (and isn’t) doing.
The only way to really be a good engraver is to practice, practice,
practice. I have looked into the engraving master series tapes,
although I haven’t jumped in yet, there does seem to be positive
feedback out there about them. The book, The Art of Engraving, by
James Meek, and The Jewelry Engravers Manual, by R. Allen Hardy,
are also tremendous resources. The reason there are so few engravers
out there is because it takes dedication (or some other form of
compulsive disorder) and many hours of practice to become really
proficient on the variety of metals and projects that will come your
I don’t want to discourage anyone from learning how to engrave. I
want to see new people learning this most ancient of art forms, and
keeping the knowledge alive. I would definitely recommend taking a
class first. Add Brian Marshall’s Jewelry Arts School, in
California to your list of possible instructors. It isn’t an easy
skill to master, but you can do it with dedication.
Melissa Veres, Engraver