You don't need to buy an airgraver to learn how to engrave. The
things you need to get started are fairly simple, and the basics will
only be learned with time spent in observation and practice. If you
can afford to spend some money for an airgraver, then I suggest you
spend that money on taking some instruction first, as it will really
give you the most for the money you spend.
You can get traditional push gravers and handles through any jewelry
supply store. The easiest gravers to sharpen correctly are the round
tools and onglettes with only one face to sharpen, but their use is
limited. Flat tools are sharpened on 2 faces, and are quite
versatile, but harder to control. Square gravers are the most
difficult to sharpen correctly with 1 face and 2 belly angles to deal
with, but if I could only own 1 graver, this would be the one. It
will cut lettering and ornamental work with equal ease. You will need
to fit the raw gravers into handles, and these need to be set so they
are the proper length for your hands.
You will need a sharpening system of some sort, a power hone is a
great investment, but you can start out with regular sharpening
stones, and a crocker to maintain your tool angles while you sharpen
them. Polish the sharpened faces with some 4/0 emery paper with a
piece of glass underneath. You will need some kind of vise or
fixture for holding your work steady while you cut. An engraving
ball is almost a necessity, but you can create a makeshift one with
half of a bowling ball filled with pitch, and a rubber donut (think
small tire or dog toy) to act as a base.
Posture is key to engraving, so be sure your workbench or table is
at a comfortable height, and you have good lighting. Visors will
work well at the beginning stages, a microscope is not necessary.
These are the minimum investments for learning how to engrave. I
recommend The Jewelry Engravers Manual by R. Allen Hardy for a
starting place. The use of pneumatic tools, airgravers or
Gravermax/mach, will help to cut down the learning curve, but they
are not a replacement for learning how to feel the graver moving
through the metal, which is the determining factor for fine control
which is the hallmark of excellent engraving. Google Steve Lindsey
or Sam Alfano for links to websites for the engraving community.
Melissa Veres, engraver