Back to Ganoksin | FAQ | Contact

Making a graver for areas


#1

Hi,

I know nothing about engraving, I’ve not made a graver before, and I
don’t want to become a professional engraver. That said, I think I
might need a graver.

The next project I am thinking of doing could require that I remove a
shallow area of metal, perhaps an quarter inch square by .001 to .01
inch deep, so that I can make pockets for enameling.

So, I don’t want a graver for line or art drawing. I just need a
utility graver for getting myself out of tight corners while
metalsmithing.

For stock, I have broken carbide endmills, needle files, and drill
bits all available to use my bench grinder on.

I’ve read various webpages and books, and they all seem to imply I
only need a 30 to 45 degree chisel, with no heel.

Would that be right?
Andrew Jonathan Fine


#2
I've read various webpages and books, and they all seem to imply I
only need a 30 to 45 degree chisel, with no heel. 

Angle should be between 45 and 60 degrees. For bulk removal it is
60.

Technique for bulk removal is called wriggling. May be you can look
up some videos on the web. I do not have anything at this time.

The best metal for wriggling graver is alloy used for making cut-out
lathe bits.

Carbide will not work here, unless it is designed for withstanding
vibrations.

You must always have a heel. Sometimes it is so small that it is not
easily seen, but it always there. Such heel is created during
polishing. A lot of practice requires to create such a heel without
dulling graver. A heel can be virtual by introducing slight bend to
gravers body.

Review my blog Toolmaking 5 on graver preparation. Wriggling
subjects graver to a lot of stress, so if metal is wrong, you will
spend more time on repairing corners than on actual engraving. If
graver does loose a corner, it becomes uncontrollable which can and
would result in serious injury.

This is not a joke! You must have first aid kit on hand while
learning wriggling and be prepared to cope with large bleedings. I am
not a doctor, so you may want to consult one, but in my experience
vitamin E works great for wounds.

Make yourself a shield for left hand. Commercial shields are
garbage. Good graver goes through them like nothing. You need a full
grain cowhide to minimize the damage.

The above should deter anyone from trying. Keeping graver sharp and
allow it to cut by itself (do not apply pressure to graver) should
diminish the danger.

There is always a risk, but risk can be managed by not rushing
things and following basic techniques and precautions.

Leonid Surpin
Studioarete.com


#3

You might find it easiest to use a small ball bur and flexshaft for
material removal, Andrew. A bur size somewhere around a 010 to a 015
would be a good place to start. It works pretty well and is a whole
lot easier to do than using flat bottom gravers. The finish is a bit
different, but it’s not at all unattractive, especially as a base for
translucent enamels. With some experimentation, you’ll probably come
up with several different finishes. It would probably be best if you
cut the outline with a square graver before removing the material to
provide a clean, crisp edge to cut to. Otherwise, your edges can be a
little ragged and undefined. With a little practice using a small bur
though, you can make a pretty clean edge that is quite suitable for
enameling.

Technique for bulk removal is called wriggling. 

Wriggle is one of many time-honored engraver’s short cuts. But as a
technique for bulk material removal it is wholly unsuitable. Its
intended use is quite the opposite, in fact.

Wriggle is an engraving technique used for making decorative wide
lines quickly and is traditionally seen in block or Old English style
lettering where wide, long lines are needed without putting a ton of
time into the job. In modern times it is used quite extensively in
Western style scroll work, such as that seen on belt buckles and
conchos.

Wriggle is done with a flat bottom graver or sometimes a liner. The
design line is used as the center of the wide line, and small
triangular cuts are made in sort of a “tic-tac” style by alternately
rolling the graver left and right on either side of the center. The
rule of thumb is that each cut should be approximately half as long
as the graver is wide so that each pair of left and right cuts
approximately equals the width of the graver, thus forming
equilateral triangle shaped bright cuts and removing little or
ideally no material from the center of the line. Its main use is to
cover lots of area quickly without removing much material.

This is not a joke! You must have first aid kit on hand while
learning wriggling and be prepared to cope with large bleedings. 

Any time such a warning is given, the technique described should be
taken with a healthy dose of skepticism. Using wriggle as a method of
material removal can most definitely be a dangerous thing to try,
especially with hand gravers. If you do try it, then do as Leonid
suggests. Keep a first aid kit handy. You’re probably going to need
it. Keep your sharpening tools close by too, you’re going to need
them a lot as well.

The proper technique for using gravers for material removal is
covered in the book “The Art of Engraving” by James B. Meek in the
section on making inlays. In short, the outline of the area is
engraved with a square graver, then a flat bottom graver is used in
multiple passes to remove material from within the outline. The flat
bottom should have a small heel, or as I use mine, a slight radius. I
use about 5 to 7 degrees of radiused heel and around 55 degrees on
the face. The reason for the heel is to allow the handle to be raised
slightly, otherwise the engraver’s knuckles can interfere with the
cutting. I would recommend starting with a number 42 graver or
smaller with a flat bottomed mushroom handle to give your knuckles
even more clearance. The wider the graver, the harder it is to do.

In the “old days”, material removal with gravers usually involved
"hammer and chisel" tools and technique. Nowadays, most of us use
standard flat bottoms and air power. It can be done with hand gravers
and no power, but it takes a lot of time and effort to muscle your
way through. Even the sharpest flat bottom graver used with the
slickest lubricants will not “glide” through the metal, it must be
forced through. Multiple extremely shallow cuts are much more easily
(and safely) accomplished than trying to carve out large chunks of
metal in a single pass. This is one of the very few cases in which
making multiple passes over the same lines is considered acceptable
practice in engraving.

In any event, if you are doing it in a manner that puts your hands
at risk as Leonid describes, you aren’t doing it right and you will
probably end up making a real mess of the piece in addition to
bleeding all over it. All that slipping causes a lot of unplanned and
unwanted cutting of the work as well as body parts. Gravers don’t
come with erasers so if you put an unwanted cut somewhere, most of
the time all you can do is to try to somehow incorporate the slip
into the design.

Try the ball bur technique first. It’s comparatively very easy to do
and puts your hands and your work at minimal risk of damage. You
might try it out on a piece of scrap first, just to get the feel.
Don’t try to hog it all out on one pass; try several crossing passes,
each removing a little more depth. The only real risk is having the
bur catch an edge or something and spinning out of control which
usually cuts a jagged little trough with a round hole at the end of
wherever it ends up going. That can be as hard to deal with as a
graver slip, so try to avoid it!

Hope you find this helpful!
Dave Phelps


#4

Andrew Fine,

David Phelps very well written post was absolutely correct and
exactly the advice I would also give.

However, if I might suggest to you this: At the stage where you are
in metal smithing, it is not important for you to learn enameling or
engraving yet.

Rather, my advice to an apprentice at your level would be to redo
the heart shaped pendant you made for your wife.

And then do it a third time.

No disrespect, but you will find that the third attempt will be far
better than your first.

This will then generate confidence to do something similar with more
ease.

Before you play around with allied techniques to metalsmithing, it
is most important to become comfortable with baseline fabrication of
jewellery.

I have taught six apprentices to trade test level, and I have been
successful only because I made sure that they had the fundamentals
of smithing down pat first.

Concentrate on that first.

meevis.com


#5
Wriggle is one of many time-honored engraver's short cuts. But as
a technique for bulk material removal it is wholly unsuitable. Its
intended use is quite the opposite, in fact. 

While wriggling is employed as decorative cut, it’s original use was
removing background material. In effect it is the only technique
which can deliver precision. Wriggling with polished graver for
enameling is probably the best background to insure enamel adhesion
as well is nice decorative effect.

There is increased risk of cutting oneself, but keeping graver sharp
and not using excess of force should minimize it. There is nothing
which teach one how to sharpen gravers as good as experiencing
consequences of using dull gravers.

Leonid Surpin
Studioarete.com


#6

Andrew, as you want to cut grooves into which you can enamel, you
might want to consider etching, rather than cutting them with a
graver. The advantages of etching as a base for enamels are that you
can etch the grooves as wide and as deep as you want. My preferred
method is to etch with ferric chloride for copper, or ferric nitrate
for silver.

If you are interested in learning more about etching, check the
Orchid archives as there are a number of excellent tutorials. Another
source of is the Glass on Metal website which is a
repository of all the articles that have appeared the the Glass on
Metal publication over the years. There are a number of articles
dealiing specifically with etching for champleve, and Basse Taille,
another method of combining etching and enamels.

Also, I will be glad to answer any questions that you may have.

Alma


#7

Hi Alma!

I know what you’re saying. Back in my teens doing amateur radio I
would make my own circuit boards by etching copper-clad epoxy plates
with ferric chloride solution.

I usually used a Sharpie marker for my resist pattern.

The results were really very good, but edges would sometimes erode
from the undercutting of the etchant underneath the resist.

Etching has big advantages for removing bulk areas and volumes. I
intend to use etching for that purpose.

But for the places I want real precision, I want to shave away the
copper (or even silver) mechanically.

My plan:

I’d take a piece of solid copper, then engrave my pocket, then torch
enamel with clear glass powder.

I’d then coat every place except the reverse side of the pocket with
resist.

I would then etch with ferric chloride until the copper is etched
away from the back side of the pocket. This should give me a clear
window recessed inside a copper frame.

I then would place my Spencer opal into the recess, then cold-connect
a copper backing pieces.

I should only need basic level skills at engraving, etching, and
enameling to accomplish this.

Feasible?

Andrew Jonathan Fine


#8

Hans,

Normally, I’d agree with you about trying to make the same thing a
couple more times. In fact, I believe I learned plenty from all the
mistakes I made with that heart pin.

  1. I need to solder my fine silver rather than fuse. I soldered to
    salvage the pin for my wife and from that realized had I even used
    hard solder I would not have melted the shape so much.

I’ll still use fusing for limited applications, but now I realize how
much easier it is to be using different melting point solders.

  1. I’m 50 years old. I don’t have much time left. I’m not into this
    hobby so much to sell things, as simply to relieve boredom in the
    remaining time (20 years most probably) that I have left. It’s not
    about becoming an expert in anything. It’s about learning as many new
    and different skills as I can that are on my bucket list.

Yesterday, I made home made huckleberry ice cream for my wife and
daughter, with an electric churner ca 1950, from scratch.
Indistinguishable from Brier’s in quality. And I did that the very
first time.

  1. Wedding anniversary coming up in a month. I want to make something
    DIFFERENT to really impress my wife.

I have some ideas, and I am of the opinion that if I can combine
essential skills even at the basic levels I just might.

I am doing my best not to take your advice wrongly.

As I said, under normal circumstances you would be right in
instructing a career apprentice. I’m just an amateur.

Andrew Jonathan Fine


#9

I don’t think anyone realized your intention for the enameling was
to create the top of a doublet. Your plan as conceived is unlikely to
produce a good effect.

Keep in mind that the bottom of your enamel layer will conform
exactly to the final surface of your engraved cell. Without many
dozen hours of practice you would be unable to produce a perfectly
flat surface with hand gravers. Thus the bottom of your enamel will
not be perfectly flat and so will not make uninterrupted contact with
the top of your piece of opal.

I think your best bet is to get a flat watch crystal which you can
grind to the same profile as your slice of opal. Once you have that
you can set the two however you like.

Jules Borel (storefront. julesborel.com) and Esslinger
(esslinger.com) sell flat watch crystals in plastic, mineral glass
and sapphire.

Elliot Nesterman


#10
 I would then etch with ferric chloride until the copper is etched
away from the back side of the pocket. This should give me a clear
window recessed inside a copper frame. 

Andrew- What you seem to be wanting to accomplish is plique a jour.

The best way to do this is to cut out the design all the way through
with a with a jeweler’s saw. Then place the piece on a very very thin
piece of copper as a backing. Pack and fill the recesses with enamel.
Fire the enamel, cool and then gently peel the thin copper backing
off the back. You can also use thin sheets of mica for this.

Have fun and make lots of jewelry.

Jo Haemer
timothywgreen.com


#11

The next project I am thinking of doing could require that I remove a
shallow area of metal, perhaps an quarter inch square by.001 to.01
inch deep, so that I can make pockets for enameling. The next project
I am thinking of doing could require that I remove a shallow area of
metal, perhaps an quarter inch square by.001 to.01 inch deep, so that
I can make pockets for enameling.

It of course depends on your design, but to remove a large-ish area,
you might consider:

  1. Etching

  2. Making the ring (or part of it) in two layers, with the top very
    thin layer pierced (sawed out). This gives extremely fine definition
    to your recessed shape, and an even, flat base. To saw very thin
    sheet, glue it to cardboard with ordinary white plastic glue
    (Gluebird) before sawing.

Janet in Jerusalem


#12

Andrew,

How I would LOVE to have a piece of huckleberry pie! I remember
picking the berries on the hills around Kellogg when I was kid,
always worrying about if there were bears around. Haven’t had a
decent huckleberry ANYTHING since then.

John (now in Indiana)


#13
The next project I am thinking of doing could require that I
remove a shallow area of metal, perhaps an quarter inch square
by .001 to .01 inch deep, so that I can make pockets for enameling. 

It sounds like you are describing Champleve Enameling, where the
lower areas in the metal are typically cut out by etching. Or
perhaps Basse Taille enameling where the lower areas have a design
made by chisels or gravers. Or maybe some combination. There’s lots
of available on the various enameling websites.


#14

If you want to do plaque de jour enameling the correct way you back
it with highly polished platinum. enamel will not stick to platinum.
after firing remove the very thin platinum foil and you have a very
nice finish on both sides. if need be you can refire it carefully to
get a equal finish on both sides. Very seldom needed. You can reuse
the platinum many times…

Make lots of jewelry. While playing. we really never work:-) we play
a lot making things we would pay to make and have others that pay us
to do this job:-) love my life’s work .65 and still playing…

Vernon


#15

I always used sheets of mica as backing for firing plaque de jour.
Works great- you can probably get it from thompson enamel if they are
still in business. Good luck, Steph