By Andrew Biggs
Hand Engraving FAQ
The art of hand engraving is a centuries old technique for decorating steel and precious metals such as gold and silver. Most commonly it is seen on jewellery, watches, ornaments, firearms, knives and other assorted edged weapons. Not to be confused with cheaper mall engraving or machine engraving that is often used with cups and trophies today.
With hand engraving the designs are unique and exclusive to the item being engraved. All the lines, relief work and carving is done by hand which is a time consuming process. Small hand tools are used to cut and bring the design to life in the metal. Often it involves the inlaying of fine silver or 24k gold into steel to add drama, value and prestige to the work. Because the work is so small and detailed some sort of magnifying devise like a microscope or loupe is needed to carry out the work.
What is the difference between hand engraving and machine or rotary engraving? Machine engraving is done by a Pantograph or laser machine that is often seen on cups, plaques, trophies and souvenir type items. Rotary engraving is done with high speed rotary burs and this is seen in shopping malls and is often done on name and pet tags. These types of engraving are at the low budget end of the engraving world.
Hand engraving is quite different. It is the fine art of cutting and inlaying metal by hand. This is achieved by using a variety of small chisels called gravers that cut lines into the metal. There are also various styles and types of hand engraving that are used on any one commission. All high end engraving on expensive watches, jewellery and firearms is done by hand and it's highly sought after all over the world for it's beauty and grace that only the human artistic eyes and hands can create.
Can all metals be engraved? The simple answer to that question is no, they cannot. Precious metals such as gold and silver are easily engraved and a lot of steels, including stainless, brass/copper are also perfect for engraving. However some steels cannot be engraved as they are just too hard or if they have been hardened or case hardened. Certain cast metals also can't be engraved very well and that can apply to cast silver jewellery. Metals that have been plated or coated are also unsuitable unless the plating has been removed first.
How much does engraving cost? Hand engraving is not cheap. It is extremely labour intensive work that requires great skill and artistic ability. There are no set prices for any engraving work and each project is priced individually. All work is quoted prior to commencing the job.
What are the payment options? A 25% deposit before commencing the work. The balance when the engraving is picked up or delivered. In case of a larger commission like full coverage of a firearm, then progress payments will need to be made over the course of the work.
Do you take commissions from all over New Zealand and overseas? Yes, that is no problem at all. In the case of firearms for international customers suitable import permits will be needed for sporting shotguns and rifles (sorry, no hand guns). With registered post and international couriers it is fast and convenient no matter where you live.
How long do I have to wait? Some work may only take a few hours while other projects can take weeks or even months to complete. If you are thinking of an anniversary or birthday present you will need to order the job weeks or even months in advance.
Can you engrave animals and people? Yes, animals and people can be engraved on suitable items like jewellery and firearms. The client provides the necessary photos to work from if it is a loved one or family member.
Can you inlay gold and silver into steel? Yes, 24k gold, coloured 18k gold and fine silver are often inlayed into steel along with platinum and copper. This greatly enhances the engraving.
Can I contact you and get some advise and pricing ideas? Yes, please do. Andrew is more than happy to talk you through the process of the work from start to finish and the suitability of the object to be engraved. Plus discuss various pricing options.