Using a pantograph

I have a pantograph which I rarely use because I can’t get a steady
line tracing. What am I doing wrong? Is it just a matter of practise?

I have a great drawing of a dragon that I’d like to be able to reduce
for making into a piece of jewelry.

Any suggestions would be appreciated.

Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Well, you could get a Polygraph (duplicating device)

Or you could scan it into your computer and reduce it using

Dianne, A very easy way to do this would be to scan your sketchinto
the computer of someone who has AdobePhotoshop or Adobe Elements. In
those programs you can easily change dimensions then print out the
dimension you wish. There are other software programs that can also
be used, I just happen to be proficient in these two. Perhaps Picasa
can do this. I believe it’s free.

Gary Strickland, GJG

Use a “xerox” machine.


My Toronto suggestion is to contact "Transcontinental Tool Supply"
and speak directly with Michael. He will guide you along this route
and solve your problems. BTW, mention my name “Gerry Lewy” he is a
very good friend of mine. 416-363-2940!



It might be practice, but there might also be some technical issues.
Are all the moving parts in good shape? They should be easy to move,
but not loose – resistance to movement can make your lines shaky,
by requiring too much force to get the pen going, but if the joints
are too loose there won’t be a good connection, and the lines will be

Make sure it moves freely, but not loosely, and make sure you have
both the original and the target firmly fastened down.

Try a few practice strokes with a guide, i.e., follow a straightedge
or a French curve to ensure that your own movements are not a
factor, and see how the resulting stroke looks. If it looks good, but
you still get iffy results by hand, then it’s a matter of practice in
following the original.


Hello Dianne, My recommendation would be to make a copy of the
drawing and glue it to a piece of plastic sheet that will fit into
your pantograph. Follow the lines with a ball bur making a groove
your stylus will follow without slipping around. Now you will get a
clean dragon tracing. Have fun.

Tom Arnold

Are you tracing a design freehand? If so, I doubt you’ll get decent
results without an inordinate amount of practice. I used a
pantograph engraver for nearly a decade and a half and I’d never
attempt to do it freehand. If you could get the design etched onto a
brass plate and make sure the etching is very well polished and
smooth, you’d have little problem.

Good luck.

There is normally a method of adjusting the pantograph vertically so
you can keep a good trace or to lift or lower 1 side. I used to have
a pantograph engraver and found that using it to make a line
freehand for cutting out etc was much harder than doing a deeper
engraving as keeping the balance required a very steady hand.

I have a pantograph which I rarely use because I can't get a
steady line tracing. What am I doing wrong? Is it just a matter of

No. It’s a matter of method. The pantograph engravers CAN be used to
trace freehand, but that’s not the best way, nor the way they’re
intended. If the tracing point is riding in a groove, such as what
you find in the premade type fonts sold for use with those machines,
then assuming the machine is properly maintained, bearings etc,
tight, and all that, then the engraved/traced line can be very
uniform. It does take some practice to know how deeply to go with a
diamond drag engraving point. Too deep looks blurred, not deep
enough may not last all that long.

I have a great drawing of a dragon that I'd like to be able to
reduce for making into a piece of jewelry. 

So what you need is a “master” pattern that you can use to guide the
tracing point. There are several ways to do this. Hand carve your
pattern, substantially enlarged so your engraving will use it’s
maximum reduction settings, into metal or something else. One common
material that’s been used is linoleum, such as is used for linoleum
block printing. Using the same ordinary V cutting knives use for
cutting such stuff into a printing block, you can cut your design
into the linoleum. Take care with the depth of cut so it’s unoform
and not too deep or wide, so the tracer will fit it well.

You can also use the photo etching process to produce a usable
master pattern. Etching tends to produce patterns that are somewhat
uneven in depth or angle of the side walls or an etched line, so this
may take some experimentation. Or send your graphic image to a
graphic arts house that can produce etched metal printing plates.
Once, these were zinc, now mostly magnesium, they do the same thing.
The etched lines you can get with these, if the initial pattern is
well drawn, can work very well as an engraving master pattern.

And finally, find another engraving shop that’s equipped with a
motorized rotating cutter instead of a diamond drag engraving point.
(if you’re already has that, you’re all set, once you get suitable
cutters for it) These cutters are primarily intended to cut signs and
such in plastic, often dual color plastics, like you see for name
plates, signs on the restroom door, or the like. The same cutters can
engrave either that same type of plastic, or brass, to give you a
usable pattern for your final engraving. Because you’d be first
tracing a much larger drawing in order to reduce it into the master
type pattern, inaccuracies in the initial freehand tracing won’t be
noticable. There may be traces left on the much reduced master
pattern, but that pattern will itself be much larger than the end
engraving, and after two reductions like that, it will appear
virtually perfect on your jewelry. If your pantograph doesn’t have
such a motorized cutter, then you’ll have to have another engraving
shop do it, but many such shops have computerized machines that can
take a scanned digital image and engrave from that.

Hope that helps
Peter Rowe

Hi Dianne,

I found pantographs (when I used them (20+ years ago)) to be deeply
fussy things. The anchor point needs to be firmly attached to the
drawing board. (Like screwed down to the board kind of firm.)

Might I suggest just using a xerox with a reducing function? (Or scan
it into your computer, reduce it in a graphics program, and print it
back out.) Much easier way to fly.


Take your drawing to Print In, Ashley Gilbert, or any of the other
large architectural printing houses in Toronto and get them to reduce
it for you. They can reduce a dwg from 36 x 48 and larger down to any
size, and it will cost you under 20.00 ( they have minimum charges)


Dianne, I’ve never used a pantograph, but wouldn’t it be a lot
quicker and easier to copy your drawing on a photocopy machine which
will reduce it for you?

Judy Bjorkman

I used to have a pantograph engraver 

Not that I know either, really, but there seems to be an assumption
that the OP is talking about a pantographic engraving machine. My
own assumption was that she(?) was talking about a plain old every
day pantograph. I have one myelf, tucked away somewhere. It clamps
onto a desk, and has legs that are adjustable for the scaling of the
drawing, and a stylus on one end and a pencil lead on the other.

Damn tricky to use, those things. You need to hold each point with
each hand, and do a little dance with it all. I use a copier -
computer is good, too but a little more ponderous.

If it will fit onto a scanner, I’d just scan it in and reduce the
size in a photo program. The reprint. If it is larger, take it to a
copy place and they can scan it and give it to you on disc or
reprinted in the size you want.


I have a great drawing of a dragon that I'd like to be able to
reduce for making into a piece of jewelry. 

If it’s not 1) a drawing to which you hold the copyright, or 2) the
copyright is expired, or 3) you otherwise have permission to use,
then don’t do it at all, you’ll violate someone else’s rights.

If you do have the right to make the reproduction then reducing copy
machines or scanners and computer image manipulation are likely to
work far better than freehand pantograph efforts.

James E. White

I am always amazed how over reliance on technology creates
complications. This thread is a testimony to that. How do you think
the reduction to size was done, let’s say 200 years ago? Pantograph
was used occasionally, but pantograph has built in defects. It works
fine on geometric designs, but for reducing art drawings it could be
problematic. Drawing which looks fine on original scale, very
frequently looses it’s attractiveness if mechanically reduced or

Here is the method used by goldsmiths for centuries. It does require
some familiarity with drawing however, but basic drawing skills is a
necessary attributes for goldsmithing practice.

Overlay original with transparency sheet. Draw grid on the overlay
with size of 10 mm. Take metal plate and scribe grid on it according
to reducing factor. ( if 5x reduction is required, than grid would
be 2mm in size ) Using intersections with grid cells as reference
points, pencil in the design, adjusting as necessary to preserve
artistic integrity.

It is actually quite easy with just a little bit of practice, and
takes far less time than running around, messing with copiers,
computers, and god knows what.

Leonid Surpin