Making my own engraving tools

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Sep 2, 2013
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Thread starter #1
I've always been a do-it-yourselfer my whole life - usually b/c I was poor and had to do things myself. Auto mechanics, plumbing, electrical, and so on. Some jobs were more difficult because I didn't have the right tools, but since I've been making pens I've been able to afford some of the different tools to do this or that, and things have been nice.

Then... then a customer asks me to engrave on her pen. And I do. And the response has been huge. At least to me. It's opened a whole new door with my pens and I'm very excited about it. But the tools are EXPENSIVE. Now, pen making has allowed me to afford more tools than I ever thought I'd own, but I haven't spent this much on anything besides the lathe that I use now. So I didn't really put a ton of thought into getting any of the air gravers or anything, and have only looked at the hand push gravers a little bit. The aluminum handles on some of the ones I've seen have really put me off. Maybe I'd like them - I dunno. I haven't looked too terribly hard either though.

But - this morning I woke up and just said shoot, let's make one before school. So while the boys were eating cereal I was in the shop with a piece of steel rod from a hot dog skewer grinding away at it (camping section at walmart). I put a nice looking point on it and then had to put it down. This afternoon I played with it a bit and WOW what a difference. Now I know why the tool tips are shaped the way they are. Here are pics of my old burins and the new tool I just made up.

All I have to do now is turn a handle for it on the lathe and I'll be off to the races!

So glad I found this place. All the reading about grinding your own tools has pushed me to make my own - and with good results. :) I couldn't be happier.



 

mitch

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#2
it looks like you do good conscientious work. you'll be a lot happier putting your efforts into better tool steels than hotdog forks...
 

Brian Marshall

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#3
I would agree with Mitch...

Hot dog forks"ll probably work... on wood/plastic and maybe some soft metals like aluminum or copper...

But why? Time IS money.

Someday you will want to cut something harder. You'd be spending a lot of time constantly resharpening a metal alloy specifically chosen to poke in a hotdog...

You can buy 1/8" lathe cutter blanks for around $2 - they even have 5% or 10% cobalt alloys.

These alloys are MADE for cutting metal! And they are already about the size, shape and length you'll be after.

When the time comes that you want to engrave metals (and it will) - you've already got what you need.

If it's the $2 that scares you off - send me your address and I'll send you a couple.


Brian


I just had the thought that even if the hotdog stabber WAS made out of "good enough" alloy - if it was a well used one, it may have been annealed by constant exposure to fire. (Think little kids... and "branding" irons) :)
 
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Thread starter #4
$2?? Where do I find this? ...runs off to google...
:)
Thanks!
And I dropped the damn thing, tried to get my point back...

yeah. not having any fun with this.
 
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Thread starter #13
Have ground an old allen wrench into a decent lozenge shaped tool. Will have to hold me over for now. :)
 
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Thread starter #15
Yep - it cut pretty good.
But then I had the genius idea of grinding back the tip of my elliptic tool so it's shorter and fits my hand better. also made the face more perpendicular to the bottom of the tool. Works MUCH better.
 

monk

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#16
i fully support those who choose to make their own things. beware- such can deliver diminishing returns. don't go with the burins made for print makers. they're intended for use on copper. the steel in them might not be good for retempering to do tougher materials. you'd be wise to buy modern gravers, as they are made specifically to meet the needs of engravers who work on many different materials. you may also find that even the good gravers may not work at their best on all materials. that's why many of us will have an outhouse full of gravers. different shapes/sizes & different specific alloys for cutting different materials.
 

glstrcowboy

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#17
As someone who spent countless hours trying to reinvent the wheel, (lathe tools in various shapes, drill blanks, reamer blanks, etc) I think you will find the purpose made 3/32 graver blanks are the way to go. 1/8 drill blanks work pretty good too, but it takes some finagling to make them work in the sharpening fixtures.
 
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Thread starter #18
Thanks for all the advice guys.

My main intent is to cut into fountain pens - mostly plastics, but sometimes celluloid, polycarbonate, ebonite, delrin, and other materials like that. When (if) I ever move up to engraving metals, I'll save up to invest in one of those air powered jobs. I really want one for the pens to be honest. I think it would make my life so much easier.
:)
 

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