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