Full Version: Stunt Engraving: Don't Try This at Home

From: Stunt Engraver (DGL) [#1]
 14 Jun 2006

Well, I guess I can't really make that admonishment.

Home, is exactly where I engraved these items. :-) 

From the following photo, the project seems harmless enough.


The color-filled emblem on the cast, pewter tankard was part of the original manufacture. The customer wanted to personalize each tankard, aftermarket.

No big deal; right?

Well, no big deal if the group would have settled for diamond-drag engraving. They wanted names engraved, that would have the same impact as the black, color-filled image on the front of the tankard.

Now, that's a pretty tall order!

The organization also wanted the characters to be large, meaning 3/4" on the capital letters.

Now, they're getting ridiculous! I mean, who in their right mind, would, or could, meet such a requirement?

I never claimed to be in my right mind, at any point, during my career as a Stunt Engraver. In fact, I don't recommend taking these types of jobs on at all.

For me, it's too late to take my own advice. As tedious and difficult as these jobs can be, I truly enjoy the challenge.

Here's how I went about the project.

First, I wanted a typeface with some style to it, but not a multi-line font. I chose "Cursive."

Hurdle #1: My brass set of type would never generate a 3/4" capital letter.

That's why I used a computerized rotary engraving system, to engrave 1 1/2" high charcaters on plastic templates, which, when engraved at 2:1 on a manual pantograph, would render 3/4" characters.

Hurdle #2: Since using a nose-regulator, for depth control, would scratch the surface of the tankard and the item has tapered sides, there wasn't much choice, but to engrave without a depth regulator at all!

That means I would have to control the depth and width-of-cut, strictly by sight and feel! Yikes!

I really don't recommend that method of depth control, unless you have a lot of practice on scrap material. Of course, this job didn't leave any margin for error.

I was in my comfort zone. :-) 

Using a .060, carbide-tipped cutter, I began to make the irreversible incisions. Starting at the higher end of the taper (bottom section) and carving my way down the taper, I watched the "walls" of the engraved characters, to guage depth, while visually tracking the width-of-cut.

It's important to do this type of work under ample lighting, or ideally, natural daylight, in order to see how consistent a stroke you're developing. You don't want to be fooled by shadows.

Using multiple passes and going over areas that needed "beefing up" I engraved all characters at an approximate depth of 1/16".

That's pretty deep, in anyone's book.

Hurdle #3: Paint-filling on a curved surface.

On tankards with longer names, color-filling all the letters at the same time, meant paint would run out of some of the characters. I had no choice, but to fill the letters in sections, going back to unpainted letters as previously-filled sections partially dried.

Final cleanup was done with WD-40; enough solvent to break down the dried enamel, and enough oil content to "glide" across letters without pulling the paint out.

With 32 tankards to engrave, I didn't take pictures of the process, but I did make a point of capturing a sample of the finished product.


Hurdle #4: Getting the desire to ever engrave these items again!

But we know I will. :-) 

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