John Barraclough's very clever gravers

John B.

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Nov 9, 2006
Los Angeles area, California.
How to make small cobalt graver blanks and punches.

By John Barraclough.

Some of you might like to try this.

Cut a short length of 3/32" X 3/32" square brass tube.

One inch is good for the older type spring loaded fixture.

You can make it shorter for the multi-angle or Hamler style fixture.

Cut it to a length to suit the type of gripping surfaces of your sharpening fixture.

This gives you four sided, indexable surfaces that makes shaping and sharpening very easy.

The tube I use is made by K&S Engineering, Chicago, Illinois. Stock #1503.

This tubing is also available from Micro-Mark Co, #82634.

You will find it is available at many hobby shops for car, plane and train modelers.

The inside if the square tube is a perfect fit for 1/16" round stock.

Buy 6 inch long X 1/16 inch cobalt aircraft drills from Enco for $3.01 each.

These have only 7/8" flutes and are hardened from end to end, unlike carbon steel drills.

Cut the shank portion Into 1-1/4 inch sections using a diamond wheel in a rotary handpiece.

This will provide four pieces of blank stock.

Then soldier it into the short piece of the square tube, using StayBrite soldier.

Now you have a nice small, indexable graver blank without too much surplus metal to grind

to produce a very useful small graver.

These can also be made into small scrapers, scribes or burnishing tools.

For punches I soldier in used 1/16" carbide dental burrs with StayBrite soldier.

You can then index them in your sharpening fixture for any shape you want.

And the price is right. Hope you give it a try and like the results.

Current pricing of materials allows you to make a nice small cobalt graver for about $1.00.


The gravers described above are for general and light engraving and shading.

They are very economical, giving four graver blades from each 6 inch drill.

If the gravers are to be used for sculpture, background removal, heavy work with flicking out etc it is advisable to cut the shank of the drill into just three sections and to soldier them into the square brass tube to completely fill it.

This type can be made for about $1.25 each currently and will prevent any bending of the brass by heavy pressure.


Chief Administrator & Benevolent Dictator
Staff member
Nov 6, 2006
Covington, Louisiana
John mentioned these homemade gravers in a previous thread, and graciously sent me some samples to try along with a nice description of how he makes them (attached photo). Using his method you can turn 1/16" (1.6mm) burrs, drills, or round stock into handy gravers, punches, stippling tools, etc. Not only that, but the square brass tubing they're soldered into allows them to be clamped and sharpened in a graver sharpening fixture. Obviously you can clamp round stock in a sharpener, but when it's time to resharpen there's no way to quickly orient the tool back to its original settings. This is where the square tubing comes in.

Thank you John for this great tip! I'll be testing the gravers this week. / ~Sam


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John B.

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Nov 9, 2006
Los Angeles area, California.
John have you ever tried Tix solder or putting the end that will be sharpened in water then hard solder or braze the other end to the brass. I haven't had a chance to make any yet so I don't know. I'm just asking.

Mike C.

Tix will work just fine, another great brand of low temp solder, even lower temp than StayBrite.
Only reason I use StayBrite is because I have a good supply in stock and it's reasonably low temp.
Your idea of standing the blade portion in water is a winner for those who want to silver solder them together.
Don't know why I didn't think of it! Thank you very much.
That's the method we use to anneal cartridge case necks when reloading. Great idea.
Take your idea a hair further, Mike.
Drill a small block of wood or alumimum with spaced 1/16" holes and epoxy it to the bottom of a tuna can.
Push the blades into the tubing. Put the end of the blades into the holes and add water to just below the brass.
Flux the end of the tube and drill rod with a flux wet tooth pick and place a tiny cut off piece of silver solder wire and apply the heat to the brass about a quarter inch down from the end.
The heat will draw the solder down into the tube and solder both parts together.
I know you know this Mike, but some folks might not have done much soldering.
I sure hope Tira or Sam (after teaching) will add your idea and link it to the original post in Members Tips.
Thank you for a very constructive idea.
Best regards. John B.

John B.

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Nov 9, 2006
Los Angeles area, California.
Peter E, Sandy, Swede and DEGS

Peter, drill rod will work for cutting the softer metals.
It needs to be in a fairly hard state to make into a graver.
You can buy hardened and ground drill blanks and/or dowel pins.
They will work pretty well to cut even mild steel.
Or you can buy plain oil or water hardening rod and harden it yourself.
I personally don't use the air hardening stuff and much prefer the oil hardening.
Either way you must take care to keep the blade cool when soldering.
See Mike C's great idea above and my reply to it for more information, please.
Enco seems to be only stocking the 6 inch length at the moment.
MSC has both 6 & 12 inch long, but a a little higher price.
Our forum friend Degs sent me a very good source of both sizes. Maybe he might share it here????
They offered them in HS and cobalt. You would have to check the HS for shank hardness.
That's why I prefer the cobalt.

You have a great idea too.
A section of discarded shotgun rib would be another holder to get an indexable little graver.
Mr. L. Bull and the other folks at Trinidad would be proud of you.
Lord knows, there were plenty of discarded ribs laying around the scrap piles at the school.
Thanks for your ideas and support.

You bring up a good point.
The shanks on most drills and SOME high speed steel drills are in the soft state.
That's why I use the cobalt aircraft length drills. Most brands are hard from end to end.
Always test the shank end with a file. A file should not cut it if it's hard enough for most graver use.

Hope this clear up some little housekeeping details on the small gravers.
Please be sure to see Mike C's post for a great idea.
John B.

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