With a little patience, the tools you need will become available to you at a price you can afford... save your money, put a little aside each week so when they become available, you can afford them. Don't jump into cheap knock-offs, they'll just end up costing you more in the long run when you have to muster up the cash to replace them.
Spend this time learning design and layout. Spend a little time drawing each day. A sketch pad and pencils will cost a lot less than tools, and time spent mastering the drawing side will pay great dividends when the time to cut metal comes around.
I say this as an absolute beginner myself. I've discovered that the more time I spend NOT engraving, but rather putting a pencil on that paper, the easier it becomes to see how layout is so very important.
Make a commitment to yourself to put a couple bucks every day in a jar. In very little time you'll have the money for some very high quality used (but not used up) tools. Ironically, many of the used tools will come to you from folks that jumped in with big wallets that bought every tool under the sun because they thought that the tools are what makes the craftsman... only to discover it's much harder than it looks. When they realize that they lack the skill and patience, it goes into a box in the back of the shed, and they take up a new hobby. My second Lindsay Airgraver Classic that I bought was from a guy that bought his tools and never even cut metal with them. They sat in a box for a VERY long time before he listed his tools on eBay.
Again, I'm a beginner myself, but I very quickly realized that learning this art is not a sprint... it's a marathon, and there is plenty of time to get it right.
Love of tinkering with building my own graver. There is great personnel satisfaction from designing, building and using a DIY graver. Plopping down $1,300 to over $2,000 is the quick but Expensive way to get started. I have a Lathe, Drill Mill, and purchased 304 SS rod stock for the Housing Tube, 01 Drill Rod for the Piston and Bit Holder, and 1-1/2" aluminum bar stock for the Palm Handle.
That said, I spent a lot of time figuring how the different systems work.. Once you figure out how the system works, make sketches of your idea. then detailed dimension drawings. Clue, the system operates with the Piston located in an unstable position.
Two basic requirements of any system are; #1 it works (starts easy and stays running) and #2 doesn't use a lot of air. It turns out, air usage is a huge problem as an Air Hog will run your compressor almost continuously.
I now have a graver design that runs on straight compressed air from 15# to 50#+, starts easy and uses much less air. It is NOT a Lindsay copy but a design of my own making that uses a straight Tube without a Constrictor Ring, but uses a spring at both ends of the Piston. It starts the instant the air pressure is applied. Initially, the Piston isn't striking the Bit Holder. Push the graver Bit into the work piece and the Piston now strikes the Bit Holder. The harder the graver is pushed the faster the Piston strikes the Bit Holder.
Question: There is about 1/16" lateral movement of the Bit Holder from fully extended to seated against the Graver main Tube Housing. Do the commercial systems allow the Bit/Bit Holder to move latterly or is the Bit Holder fixed in place which now vibrates the entire graver? I hope that one of you experience gravers can answer this question for my..
What I want to do with the air powered graver is to do Wire Inlay in both wood and steel. In steel, the grooves must be cut & under cut for the wire to rest in. In wood, the wood is slit to make a place for the wire ribbon to lay in.
If any of you have experience in wire Inlay, please give my guidance per your experience.