Full Version: Screwy Louie (Closed)

From: Stunt Engraver (DGL) [#1]
 21 Oct 2006

by David Lavaneri
Photos by Robyn Lavaneri


I've engraved many wrist watches over the years, but never
thought that by accepting this Louis Vuitton chronograph,
I'd be facing one of the more challenging of them all.

Engraving any item valued at thousands of dollars, isn't something to treat casually,
but when it comes to engraving watches, I employ a mindset of,
"A watch, is a watch, is a watch."

After all, the procedures for engraving watches are basically the same and after
doing enough of them, there's little difference between engraving a Timex or a Rolex.
Generally speaking, if the expense of a watch, or any item, for that matter,
becomes too big a distraction, it's better not to accept the work.

Why would this watch present such a challenge?

Actually, the challenge ahead didn't point to a single stumbling block;
rather a combination of factors, beginning with the fact that
the customer was in a hurry and reluctant to part with the watch at all.

There would be no time to fashion special fixtures, consult an expert on any
aspect of the watch, or in the event of catastrophe, order another watch back.

In fact, you'll see by the following picture, the back of
the watch itself, presented a major challenge.


Not only is there very little engravable area, but the only useable space is
around the outside edge and that surface is punctuated by small screws.


As if those factors weren't daunting enough, the amount of copy
I was being asked to engrave, presented another challenge.

Asking the customer to lower their expectations, as to
how much of their desired copy can be engraved,
is an option, although, I say, "If there's a will, there's a way"
and usually find a way to accomodate the customer's choice of wording.


Here's a sketch of the layout I decided upon. Certainly not fancy,
but ample enough to determine my layout.

The following photo, shows the shape of things to come and frankly, I don't like what I see.

Shape of Things.JPG

The thickness of the watch, combined with the fact that the sides
are tapered, (not parallel), means, not only will the shape of the watch
cause it to work its way out of a traditional holding jig, but there won't be
ample clearance between the engraving surface and the diamond graver.

This isn't going to be the slam-dunk I was hoping for.

What I would would normally do, is remove the back of the watch,
and engrave it as a single item, but not knowing if doing so
would, in any way, void the customer's warranty, I elected to perform
the engraving with the watch intact.

Deciding how the wording would be layed out, was much easier than
determining how the watch could be held securely in the machine.

Scene of the crime.jpg

The natural, half-round shape of my machine's vise
looks like a natural watch jig.
There would be plenty of clearance for the cutter,
although the troubling issue of the tapered sides of
the watch remained a concern.

Nice fit.JPG

Although risky, I surmised that the same physics that would force
the watch out of the vise, could also work in my favor.

Through experience, I generally knew how much physical resistance
to expect, during the diamond-drag engraving process.
I figured if I gently forced the watch downward, with my fingers,
along with the downward pressure of the cutter,
the watch shouldn't move, during engraving.


In order not to scratch the watch, I laid a cloth over the area
in which I would lightly clamp the watch.
This was a crucial adjustment, in that, I needed snug contact,
but also needed the face of the watch to
remain flat against the bottom ledge of the vise.

Any movement, during engraving and I'm in deep...well, at this point,
I can't afford to think along those lines.
Any loss of confidence paves the way for disaster.

Tale of The Tape.JPG

My confidence builds as the theory holds up, during a light
engraving of a segement of copy, on Scotch tape.
(shown at top of photo)

Hang On.JPG

Here we go! No turning back. The tape is removed and I'll
literally have to hang on while the computer cuts,
irreversibly, into the back of the watch.

When the machine was finished with its pass, I removed my fingers
from the watch. Everything looked good, except...uh oh...I hadn't
given the spindle enough downward (Z axis) depth and parts of the
name "Sheryl" hadn't engraved! Now what?

I was pretty sure the watch hadn't changed position, when I
removed my fingers, but had no way to be certain. I was about to take
and ultimate leap of faith. If the watch wasn't in exactly the
same position, as during the initial pass, there would be a double-vision.

This was it! Do or die!

I added more depth to the Z-stroke and with the cutter raised, let the
machine engrave up to the point with the missing characters.

I took the machine off pause and quickly placed my fingers back on
the watch, hoping nothing had shifted its position.

When the machine returned to its home position,
I was half-afraid to look at the engraving.


Here's a photo of the finished item. As you can see, my gamble paid
off and nobody, but the people reading this article, will ever know
there was a heart-stopping moment.

I keep saying to myself, that I should quit taking on risky jobs,
but I really do enjoy a challenge, so you can expect to see more
articles like this, in the future. :-)

EDITED: 28 Apr 2007 by DGL

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