thicker wire inlay - should I stick with hand tools or get a pneumatic graver?

somber crow

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Hello, looking for advice on this topic. I should preface this by saying I am a blacksmith doing inlay work on steel pretty much exclusively. I practice a kind of niche Japanese inlay style known as Kaga-Zogan. The problem is is that it's.. very slow. And as I'm maybe 75% self taught I'm probably not taking best advantage of what the style has to offer. Most of my inlay is with 18g or 16g wire. I should also note I currently make all my own tools from scratch out of W1 or O1 typically.

I'm thinking of getting some sort of pneumatic graver to replace my current process, but was wondering how people think it'll benefit me for doing these much wider/deeper cuts than I usually see done with automatic engraving tool systems. Maybe there are certain machines that are better for this type of work, but it is a realm I yet do not know much about. I actually bought a foredom power graver a while back, but was not very happy with it for my needs.

I am also considering the alternative of investing in a set of more standard GRS gravers or something and a proper sharpening system to match, and see if that fares better for me. I'm currently just hand sharpening (no jig) with oil stones (which I guess is the "traditional way" to do it for kaga-zogan), and wonder if my tools are just not sharp enough to speed things up. Anyways, maybe it is worth getting comfortable with western style hand cutting before jumping to a machine maybe?

These are some thoughts I'm having, wonder if anyone more experienced might have some input on my next step. Thanks!
 

monk

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i would think the modern pneumatic handpieces fitted with a heavier piston would serve you well. certainly an advanced sharpening "system" would be far better for achieving the exacting geometries one should have for doing inlays. post yer location. maybe there's someone near you that would let you "try before you buy".
 

mitch

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Depends on why you’re doing this stuff. Is it mostly for the experience of the process or would you be happier with a more efficient means to producing the end result? It can be deeply satisfying to do everything “the hard way”, but it ain’t the fastest route to enjoying the pretty thing you made.
 

Sam

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If you decide to go with a GRS pneumatic system, I would highly recommend their sharpening system as well, because the two are made for each other.

Pneumatic makes everything faster and easier and with more control.
 

somber crow

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could you share a little info about that inlay technique?
I think the overall order of operations is pretty standard for (flush) wire inlay. Cut channel, undercut channel, place annealed wire in channel, hammer down bur/wire with a specific tool, file/sand down as needed. I think it's just the tools that vary. They are typically all steel (no handle), and a few inches long each. And a slightly different hammer is used but that doesn't really matter. I won't be at my studio for a bit to take pictures of them, but if you're interested, attached are some images of what the various chisel tips look like (sorry they are sideways). The one labeled Mizo-Tagane is the main cutting chisel for line channels.

i would think the modern pneumatic handpieces fitted with a heavier piston would serve you well. certainly an advanced sharpening "system" would be far better for achieving the exacting geometries one should have for doing inlays. post yer location. maybe there's someone near you that would let you "try before you buy".
Depends on why you’re doing this stuff. Is it mostly for the experience of the process or would you be happier with a more efficient means to producing the end result? It can be deeply satisfying to do everything “the hard way”, but it ain’t the fastest route to enjoying the pretty thing you made.

Added my location to my account (Portland, OR). Certainly it would be nice to try, but I'm not expecting it. In response to the why I'm doing it, I was a full time smith for a while (now part time), and I added some light inlay to a lot of the tools I made. Now my studio time is more limited, and I've been wanting to dive deeper into more decorative work (and maybe eventually proper engraving), and am just looking to speed the process up a bit. I enjoy the "struggle" of doing it by hand, but it's getting to be a lot is all.

As for the sharpening stuff, honestly I would love to have one now, I just doubt things are compatible with the all steel ~4" long (~1/4" wide at peak) steel chisels I use. Although if anyone knows of such a thing let me know! Anyways If I got any sort of pneumatic machine / GRS gravers, I'd be getting a matching sharpening method for sure.

Thanks for the advice
 

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monk

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i would think that the metalworking skills you already have, with a bit of fiddling you could adapt yer cutters to the grs sharpening system. the nice thing about the grs "dual angler" as i call it, will allow any possible geometry that you would want. one feature of the grs tools is the quality. if after giving the tools a try, you can always get good value if you decide to sell the toys.
 

somber crow

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i would think that the metalworking skills you already have, with a bit of fiddling you could adapt yer cutters to the grs sharpening system. the nice thing about the grs "dual angler" as i call it, will allow any possible geometry that you would want. one feature of the grs tools is the quality. if after giving the tools a try, you can always get good value if you decide to sell the toys.
I shall look into that, seems like if it works great, and if it doesn't, I'll probably be needing it anyways if I get a pneumatic system.
 

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