Engraving is an effective and attractive means of permanently adding decoration to stone or other hard materials. Engraving in stone takes patience and a steady hand in addition to the right tools, since even a slight mistake will remain forever. The process of engraving, however, is not especially complex. With practice, you can engrave elegant, intricate designs into stone objects, turning ordinary rocks into works of art.
Secure the stone, if necessary, using a desk vise. Place pieces of soft leather or felt between the clamps of the vise and the stone to create a solid grip without the stone slipping out or getting scratched (skip this step if your stone piece is large enough to sit securely on its own and flat enough that it won't roll).
Sketch the engraving design you want on the stone. Use a pencil on rough or porous stones; use a permanent marker on stones with a glassy surface. Erase pencil or wipe away ink with nail polish remover and work to get the engraving exactly the way you want it. If you like, use a stencil.
Choose a power engraving tool for your work. For detailed engraving, use either a dedicated power engraving tool or a rotary power tool with a flexible shaft or “snake” extension. If the engraving job needs to have power more than precision (basic shapes but lots of depth or area), use a rotary tool. Fit the tool you use with a bit hard enough to cut stone. In most cases, this will be a diamond engraving bit.
Fit your tool with a bit and turn it on. Start with a speed setting in the lower third of the tool's capability so you can turn it up as needed later.
Run the engraving tool once over the design to roughly scratch out its shape. This light groove will direct the moving tip into the proper shape on repeated passes, keeping it from skipping over portions of the stone you don't want to engrave.
Repeat the process of running the tool lightly over the engraving lines and shapes. Keep the engraving tip moving steadily and fluidly. Continue until you have an engraving of the depth and shape you want.
Tips & Warnings
- If doing a large engraving, engrave the outline of the design before filling in the insides. This will ensure well-defined edges to the shape.
- Practice with your engraving tool on a piece of scrap stone, if possible. If not, start the engraving process from the inside of the shape, rather than the edge. This way, mistakes you make while mastering control of the tool won't show in the finished product.
Things You'll Need:
- Desk vise
- Leather or felt scraps
- Pencil or permanent marker
- Nail polish remover
- Rotary tool or power engraver
- Carbide or diamond engraving bits
- The Mini Power Tool Handbook; Zachary Taylor and Colin Bullock
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