Engraving Overview - Part 1:
UNDERSTANDING EQUIPMENT AND MATERIALS
Engraving Cutters - The term engraving cutter is an all-encompassing one that covers a multitude of different tools used in a variety of different engraving applications. If we are to get the most out of our equipment, it's important that we know what's available and where they are used.
Diamond Gravers - The most common engraving tool used in the trophy and awards industry is the diamond graver which is a non-rotating, diamond-tipped tool that is used to scratch lettering into metal - usually brass or aluminum. It consists of a steel shank which has a diamond set in one end that is ground and lapped to a conical point. It is used without a depth nose and, as downward spindle pressure is applied, the point penetrates the surface of the metal and scribes a fine line as the character is formed. Diamond gravers are not available in different tip sizes so we are limited to a rather fine, delicate line of about ten thousandths (.010) in width. A common practice used to enhance the effect of scratch engraving is to trace the letters two or three times. This tends to broaden the stroke and smooth it out. The use of multiple line fonts is also a good way to add dimension to this type of engraving and the lettering can be blackened with oxidizer to give it contrast.
Rotary Cutters - Rotary engraving is a term that is commonly applied to the type of engraving done on plastics and metals where we cut into the surface of the material. As the name implies, it is done with a rotating cutting tool in a motorized spindle. The rotary cutter is generally a single-flute tool (one with only one cutting edge) that works much like a router bit and produces a cut of specified depth and width. Depending upon how they are made and sharpened, rotary cutters can be used to engrave a wide variety of materials with plastic and metal being the most common.
Burnishers - Burnishing is a method of engraving on metals that tends to bridge the gap between scratch engraving and rotary engraving. It is capable of producing wider line widths than a diamond graver without having to rout deeply into the metal. It is a surface marking technique that is generally done on coated metals. It is most commonly used to produce decorative effects on trophy and plaque plates.
The tool used for burnishing is called a "burnisher" which is a rotating tool that is used in a motorized spindle. It is usually a carbide or carbide tipped-tool that is ground with four facets that form a cutting edge to the desired tip size. A burnisher is not a cutter. Its function is to remove the surface coating from the material and expose the bare metal.
Specialty Cutters - In addition to the standards listed above, there are many other cutter variations that are used for specialty applications.
Parallel Cutters - Cutters whose cutting edge is parallel to the shank of the tool. They produce a straight cut and are used for cutting out shapes or making cut-outs in panels.
Profiling Cutters - Cutters that have a narrow angle and are used for cutting through material in similar applications to the parallel cutter, but produce a slight bevel on the edge of the material.
Ballnose Cutters - Have a radius at the tip rather than a flat. They produce a cut with a rounded bottom and are typically used for reverse engraving.
Dovetail Cutters - Produce a cut that has a reverse bevel and are used for making signs that have removable legend strips.
Quarter-Round Cutters - Provide more clearance than half-round cutters.
Rotating Diamonds - Faceted diamond tools that are used in rotating spindles to engrave glass.
Rubber Stamp, Seal, Pens - These are variations of standard cutters that are manufactured and sharpened for specific applications such as engraving rubber stamp matrix, notary seals, coated pens, etc.
Definition: Sign material consisting of a plastic core overlaid with a surface cap of a contrasting color.
2) Flexible Types of flexible engraving plastic:
A) Laminated products
B) Micro-surface products
C) Coextruded products
General characteristics of flexible engraving plastic:
1) Can be shear cut (some manufacturers recommend saw cutting gauges thicker than 1/16")
2) Can be hot-stamped or screen-printed
3) Can be chemically bonded or glued
4) Heat bendable
5) Some are suitable for outdoor use
1) Trophy brass
2) Leaded or engraver's brass
1) Lacquered aluminum
2) Anodized aluminum
Other Engraving Materials
Simulated stone, e.g. FOUNTAINHEAD®, AVONITE®
Definition: Any alteration of sheet stock material into a smaller size or different shape.
Doing it yourself vs. buying materials pre-cut to size
1) More flexibility
2) Faster turn around time
3) Greater control over cost
4) Greater control of quality
1) Initial start-up expense
2) Safety considerations
3) Will affect your inventory control
Equipment and Techniques
Suggested "Starter Package" for the do-it-yourselfer
1) Table shear
3) Corner rounder
4) Hole punch
Future items for your consideration
1) Table saw (safety saw)
3) Drill press
Engraving Overview - Part 2:
ENGRAVING TECHNIQUES, EFFECTS, AND ENHANCEMENTS
FONTS AND TYPE STYLES - The lettering used in printing and engraving are referred to as fonts. The proper use of fonts determines to a large extent the overall appearance of the finished product.
1. Font Selection - Fonts range from the simplest, single-line Gothic to very ornate and elaborate styles such as Roman and Old English. By matching the appropriate style to the application we can achieve the proper degree of aesthetics and utility. Roman lettering would be out of place on a valve tag, but ideal for a presentation item like a plaque. Gothic is good for a machinery plate, but not decorative enough for a gift item. (Figure 1)