Basic Engraving Techniques: Approaching the Job
The methods for approaching the job are basically the same for both pantograph (manual engravers) and computerized systems. The steps are simple once the process is understood. The next few steps are basically a snap shot that you would most likely use each time you started a new engraving job. Although the steps referring to the selection of a cutter directly relate to first surface rotary engraving, the concepts are the same for all jobs.
Step One: Size up the job.
Every job has variables that may determine which set-up is right for you. As discussed previously, factors to take into consideration are the type of material to be engraved, the physical size of the plate, the size of the characters to be engraved, etc. We'll focus on rotary engraving here since it represents the greatest challenge for most new engravers.
Step Two: Determine how deep you need to engrave and the type of cutter required.
Depth is best broken down into three categories.
- Shallow Cuts .001" - .020"
- Medium Cuts .020" - .050"
- Deep Cuts .050" - very, very deep
We can further break down shallow cuts (the most common), based on the type of material to be cut. For this example, let's use a standard plastic engraving stock favored by many engravers with a single cap layer. This material would be the 1/16" -thick stock used for most name badges, desk plates and signs. Remember that the cap layer or surface color covers the core layer underneath, the part you need to expose by cutting; red over white, for example.
Depending upon the processes used to create the stock and the thickness of the cap layer, different cutting depths are required to expose the core layer. Why is this important? Well, the whole idea in cutting these materials is to not cut any deeper than necessary to reach the core layer. The reason is simple. Any cut deeper than what is required will probably result in a finished appearance that isn't very attractive. For example, when using a multi-line font, if the cut is too deep, the architecture of the cutter will cause the individual lines to overlap. All character definition will be lost resulting in a look that is not an accurate representation of the true letter style and certainly not pleasing to the eye. Cutting depths can typically range from .003" to .012". As I mentioned before it's a good idea to refer to the material manufacturer's specifications for the recommended depth of cut.
Step Three: Select the appropriate width tool for the letter height required.
You may be engraving graphics rather than text, or a combination of the two, but don't worry; the principle is the same for both. Refer to the recommended cutter chart in Appendix B.
Step Four: Zero the cutter and you're ready to engrave!