Engraving Overview
©1998-2004 Antares,  Inc.

Engraving Overview - Part  1:


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.

Engraving  Materials

Definition: Sign material  consisting of a plastic core overlaid with a surface cap of a contrasting  color.
Different kinds:
1) Phenolic
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


Stainless Steel

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
2) Beveler
3) Corner  rounder
4) Hole punch

Future items for your  consideration
1) Table saw (safety saw)
2) Router
3) Drill  press

Engraving  Overview - Part 2:


- 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)

2. Proportion - Font size and attributes should be  aesthetically pleasing and proportional. A bold font that is too condensed  looks crowded and is difficult to read. One that is too light in  proportion to its height looks equally unappealing. The best way to keep  fonts in proportion is to size them according to the space available  (height and width) and then apply the appropriate attributes keeping  things readable and pleasing to the eye. (Figures 2 & 3)

3. Justification - This term applies to the  horizontal position and spacing of text on a plate or sign. (Figure  4)

Center Justification - The most common style in the awards and  engraving industry. The center of each line of text is positioned on the  vertical centerline of the plate or page. This balances the text but  leaves a "ragged" appearance in relation to the margins.
Left  Justification - Is where the first letter of each line starts at the  left margin.
Right Justification - has the last letter of the  line of text at the right margin.
Full Justification - has the  first letter of the line on the left margin and the last has the letter on  the right margin.

There are no hard and fast rules as to which is  best or most desirable, but as for rules of thumb, centering seems to work  for trophy and plaque plates, left or right justification lends itself to  more creative effects for architectural signage applications and full  justification is often preferred in mechanical or technical  applications.

4. Kerning - Before computers,  typesetters and engravers had to be concerned with the space between  letters or "kerning". Most characters in our alphabet can be placed along  side each other with equal spacing and the look is uniform, while others,  due to their shape, need to have their spacing adjusted in order to  maintain uniformity and a pleasing appearance. Most computer engravers  have an kerning option, so there's no reason not to have perfect spacing.  (Figure 5)

5. Color filling - One method of further  enhancing the appearance of our fonts and lettering is color filling. By  adding color and contrast we can improve the readability and add eye  appeal and decoration to many of our engraved products.

Diamond  drag or burnished brass plates can easily be oxidized which creates black  letters on a brass background. The letters on rotary engraved metal and  plastic plates can be filled with paint or other materials. Color filling  is a finishing touch that can both utility and  value.

Engraving Overview - Part 3:


A few fundamental guidelines to help the new engraving  or award retailer.

Define Your Market
Keep stress levels  to a minimum
Control costs
Determine your strengths and weaknesses

Join Trade Organizations
Practical training
Product  knowledge
Industry education
"Rub elbows" with others

Regional market: Yellow Pages
National  market: Yellow Pages, trade journals, industry publications
Be  specific to attract buyers

Choose a Good  Supplier
Service means more than fast delivery
Learn to  recognize the differences between suppliers

Manage Your  Inventories
Get the best buy on frequently purchased items and buy  only what you need of less frequently used items.
Group your orders

Avoid Complacency
Recognize market changes
Watch for  opportunities
What are your competitors doing?

Be  Professional
Need to overcome  the "new kid on the block" image
Be a business person
Stress a  quality product and professional service
Sell what you do best!

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