It's difficult to develop the skills needed for hand push engraving, and that development can go on for years before one gains a "feel" for the tools. It's a seemingly simple process - pushing a graver through metal - but there is a huge amount of practice that goes on through an engraver's lifetime to have the confidence to push gravers with your hand.
Sorry, there are no simple solutions or brief answers that can substitute for the time you will have to spend at the bench getting into the routines of hand push engraving. There are some good suggestions here that will help, and I suggest that you read all the material described.
Attached is a photo of an Original Henry I am currently working on. This is hard brass, and as Roger suggested, it is difficult to work with - entirely different from engraving steel or precious metals like gold and silver. I had to retrain myself in the process of cutting all the detail of the Stonewall Jackson portrait. The scrolls, borders, and letters in this composition were cut with an air graver - the portrait was cut entirely with hand push gravers using dots and lines.
There are a lot of beautiful engravings shown on the cafe, but this one really stands out for me. The scroll work, portrait and lettering just blend together so well. The lettering especially is so wonderfully done. It sounds crazy but I'm drawn to the lack of a serif on the top left of the N in Jackson where there normally would be one. But if there was one it would bump into the O and impede the flow of the lettering. The portrait is great. And even though you said the brass is hard to cut it has a great color that gives it a unique look. Just a great job. Congratulations.
I haven't done much hand pushing so I am not be an authority. What I have found is that you keep the graver pointing is the same direction as you cut and you rotate the gravers ball. Don't turn your wrist to maneuver a curved line. Is there an experienced engraver on the forum that will support my suggestion.
One thing Mike forgot to mention on the brass frame Winchesters is the fact that the frames are cast while the sideplatescare machined This creates another sometimes not so subtle challenge as each of these cuts differently. when you engrave a line going from one to the other you must be aware of and ready for a change in feel and resistance from one to the other or your line will get totally screwed up
Great job and design mike now please tell me the rifle is not a real vintage Henry but a Uberti
td, you are partially correct, at least in jewelry or small object engraving. When I started engraving, there were only push tools and sharpening tools was an art form. The first year was learning to do nothing but controlling the tool as it cut. Line after line after line.
On a curve the hand holding the tool stays firm while the other hand rotates the block into the work.
With straight lines, like cutting block letters, its different. I learned a technique where the tool is pushed from the back of the hand forward with the thumb anchoring the cut. In fact the thumb of the hand holding the block steady is on top of the work anchoring the other thumb in place. Took a bit of getting used to but it worked.
And the underlying reason you do this is because of slippage. This was one of those things I was told never to explain to a customer, otherwise they'd think the piece was ruined.
Imagine you're pushing hard against a door and someone unexpectedly opens the door from the other side; the result is you flying uncontrollably into the room. That's slippage.
The same is true about engraving. Imagine you're cutting a gold or silver charm pushing with your arm; and then the point of the tool breaks. Your arm continues pushing the tool across the charm across creating a gash that has to be removed. And when you get paid by the piece, spending time fixing a slip is costly.
But even when not using your arm, slips happen when the point of the tool breaks, but since you're just using you hand, the gash is not as deep or as long and more easily repaired. Saves time which saves money.
I used to have to repairs slips once or twice a week. Kind of unavoidable. But I've been using the Lindsay tool for over twenty years ( and I'm sure the same is true of the GRS and Enset tools ) and the amount of time I've spent repairing slips is ZERO. It never happens. Mainly because if the point breaks ( and you're not helping it by pushing a little ) it just dances in place a little. The most is a little scratch. The Lindsay airgraver paid for itself in the first year because of this.
MD, I'm curious about why you dredged up this old thread after it has been dormant for almost a year and the OP hasn't visited this forum in all this time, so he probably will never read your comment. Just the same, your post generated some interesting later comments.
RB: I spend lots of time engraving but little time on the forums...so it all seems new to me. "Hand Push" caught my eye, and because I was into the Stonewall portrait at the time, it seemed like a good time to respond.
i failed to mention that some of the old engraving books are free on the net. the entire book can be enjoyed on your computer, one page at a time. one can even print some of the pages. i don't think there's a copyrite problem. you can get them using google.
Winter's School of Jewelry Engraving Is a good book to study. I think it will be impossible to find a copy, but the book can be found on archive.org. You can view all the pages. Some older books have been reprinted but I don't think this one has.