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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)Engraving Tools

Why diamond for your engraving tools?

Diamond is the hardest substance known to man and even more importantly, the most resistant to abrasion. Diamond is the tool of choice for many machining and engraving applications in a wide variety of industries. The unique geometry of the diamond engraving tool, with its highly polished surface, provides the brilliantly reflective lines of top quality engraving. The point of the drag engraver and cutting edge of the diamond burnisher are sharpened to micro-precision tolerances that simply last and last.

What is diamond burnishing engraving?

Engraving by diamond burnishing is the newest and most progressive form of engraving, offering the ultimate in increased quality and versatility. The new diamond burnishers are engraving tools that can be used in all manual and computer-operated machines equipped with rotating spindles.

Burnishing is the process of removing a surface coating while polishing the background material, such as coated brass or aluminum. In the example of black brass, burnishing simply is the removal of the black lacquer while polishing the brass itself. The polished brass attains the lustrous look of gold, contrasting beautifully against the black.

Burnishing will expand your engraving capabilities and, thereby, your business horizons. It adds the potential to engrave many new materials and creative engravers expand the list daily; from glass, mirrors and acrylics, to black brass and anodized or coated aluminum. Many engraving problems can be solved and, most importantly, the technique of burnish engraving will add to your productivity by saving you time.

What will diamond burnishing do for me?

Diamond burnishing can cut your engraving time in half and, at the same time, give you a superior product. A drag-engraved line has width limitations, while a diamond burnishing tool can be selected from 10 tip sizes from .003″ to .050″. Therefore, the appropriate line width most suitable for a specific letter height can be engraved. In contrast, to produce a readable letter with the drag engraving method, a more time-consuming multiple-line font is required.

In an actual test, we drag-engraved 1/4″ letters on a black lacquered aluminum plaque. A three line font and two passes were needed to complete the job effectively. The plaque contained 78 letters and took 14 minutes and 22 seconds to engrave. A second plaque was engraved using a diamond burnisher. Again, 1/4″ letters were engraved but this time we were able to complete an 84 letter plaque in just 6 minutes and 18 seconds using a one line font and needing only one pass. Less than half the time! At that rate, you could double a day's production and profit or simply take the afternoon off. Since Bruce Diamond's introduction of these diamond burnishing tools, many engravers have abandoned drag engraving totally, in favor of diamond burnishing.

What will diamond burnishing tools do?

Diamond burnishing tools will do it all! Bruce Diamond's standard burnishing tools are available with tip sizes of: .003″, .005″, .010″, .015″, .020″, .025″, .030″, .040″, .and 050″. Custom tools are also available for unique applications. For those wishing to give diamond burnishing a try, a .015″ or .020″ tool would be recommended as an excellent starting point.

(Note: Your diamond burnishers also double as glass engraving tools!)

Do you have any tips for getting the best results with diamond burnishing tools?

Certainly we do! Light pressure is the key to successful burnishing. Remember, you are only removing a surface coating and polishing the base material. It is advisable to use a "Feather Weight" spring-loaded cutter knob to replace the standard brass knob. This attachment will allow the constant light touch that burnishing requires and allows the tool to glide over any slight imperfections in the surface, especially when engraving glass. The surface of glass is always somewhat wavy. Without a spring system, the tool will cut too deeply into the high areas, showing some chipping, and may totally skip over low areas.

Can you tell me more about your diamond rotating pen engraver?

The Bruce Diamond rotating pen engraver brings high quality to the difficult task of engraving coated pens and will engrave many pens that were previously deemed un-engravable. The diamond pen engraver is similar to the burnishing tool and is cut to a .003″ tip for fine engraved lines. Unique side cuts in the diamond help to cut away the pen's hard surface coating. These pen engravers are available for rotating spindles utilizing the 1/8″, 11/64″ and 1/4″ diameter shanks. A Feather Weight cutter knob is, again, recommended.

(Note: For those engravers without a rotating spindle, Bruce Diamond Corporation manufactures a very sharp, highly polished 90 degree engraver for coated pens.)

What is drag engraving?

The art of engraving with diamond dates back almost 2,000 years. Actually, the first diamond tools were, in fact, engraving tools. Through the use of crude diamond engraving tools, man first learned of the superior qualities of diamond.

The drag engraving tool features a cone shaped natural industrial diamond, permanently bonded into a stainless steel shank. The tool draws a line in the engraved material as it is drawn along by cutting a groove. The hardness of the material and the angle of the tool allow for some slight changes in depth and line width. As a general rule, softer materials such as gold require wider angles (140 or 150 degrees). These wide angle tools produce a somewhat wider line with brilliant engraved interior surfaces. The sharper angle tool may dig in too deeply, leaving rough and jagged lines.

Pressure is an important part of drag engraving and should be varied when changing tools, angles and materials. A softer material and a sharper angle will require less pressure. Too much pressure and hard materials can break the sharper angle tools. Always choose the proper tool for the job and regulate pressure to suit the application.

What traditional diamond drag engraving tools do you offer?

We manufacture diamond drag engraving tools in 6 standard angles in all shank diameters and lengths.

Inside Ring Engraver with Flat for Set Screw:
1/8″ x 1/2″
1/8″ x 1-1/8″
1/8″ x 4-1/2″
11/64″ x 6-1/2″
1/4″ x 6-1/2″

(Metric, collet and custom shanks available on request.)

What are the characteristics of the various angles of diamond drag engraving tools?

The Sharp Angles (90 and 100 Degree Diamonds)

The 90 degree diamond graver has the sharpest angle of the available engraving tools and was designed to produce very fine lines, small and delicate engraving and it is the tool of choice for coated pens. It also provides additional reach around a small diameter curved piece such as a pen.

The 100 degree graver produces a slightly wider line, will not cut quite as deeply and is a more heavy-duty tool. Some caution must be exercised when using the sharp angle tools. They should not be used for general purpose engraving. The sharper angle allows the tool to cut deeper and pressure must be correspondingly adjusted. Deep cuts are not desirable as there is a tendency to build up a berm on the sides of the engraved lines. Damage to the work can also result.

The Standard Angles (120 and 130 Degree Diamonds)

These are the work horse angles and are designed for general purpose engraving. There is very little effective difference in the performance between the two angles. The 130 degree diamond will cut a slightly wider path and somewhat less deep.

The Wide Angle Tools (140 and 150 Degree Angles)

These engravers are for soft metal, such as gold and pewter. They produce the widest lines and have the least tendency to dig into the soft material. Again, there is little difference between the two angles. The 150 degree diamond will cut a slightly wider line.(Note: All Bruce Diamond engraving tools are marked with the appropriate diamond angle.)

What is the secret to making an excellent diamond graver?

Polish is the key to an excellent diamond graver. Proper diamond engraving tools are first cut and shaped to a perfect cone, then polished and lapped to a mirror-like finish. The mirror-like finish at the very tip of the diamond provides the high quality brilliant engraving. It is easy to inspect diamond tools for polish with a jeweler's loupe.

There is a remarkable difference between a polished and non-polished stone. This will also become noticeable in your work. Rough tools have higher friction and tend to rip and leave tracings of their roughness in the engraved lines.

The desirable high luster can only be obtained by a highly polished graver.

How can I ensure that I have the right tool for the job?

In order to select the right tool for the job, every engraver should have one graver from each angle group (Sharp Angle, Standard Angle and Wide Angle) and a backup for the tools that are used most often.

What do I need to know about Tool Wear and Replacement?

Diamonds last a long time. They are the hardest substance known to man and have abrasion resistance qualities that are superior to all other materials but diamonds do not last forever. Worn tools can damage your work and place excessive strain on your machine.

Remember, your work can not be good if your tool is worn or of poor quality. The most elaborate and expensive engraving machine or the most talented engraver is only as good as the tool that is being used.

How to judge when a tool needs to be replaced:

It is difficult to exactly estimate the life expectancy of a diamond graver because there are so many variables: amount of use, types of materials, experience of the operator, etc. Further, the tools wear slowly and the decline in quality is so gradual that it is difficult to notice.Periodically inspect your diamond gravers and your work. If your work begins to loose brilliance when compared with work done with a sharp diamond, replacement will bring back the quality. When you change your diamond, compare the last work done with the old and the first work done with the new. The new diamond will cut a sharp "V." The old will dig a furrow with a rounded bottom, resembling more of a "U" shape. More pressure is required with a dull diamond and excess material will be pushed up on the sides of the groove. This excess pressure can damage your work and your machine. Change to a fresh diamond tool.

Changing tools by the calendar:

The best approach is to evaluate the amount of work you do and the types of materials that you engrave. Then establish a schedule by following these general rules of thumb. Note the dates on your calendar. Here are some suggestions:– Survey of Engravers. A survey by "The Engravers Journal" estimated an average period of 8 weeks for busy engravers and trophy shops.

  • High Volume Shops: Can change as often as weekly. Industrial engravers doing both high volume and hard materials like stainless steel or abrasive materials may be changing daily.
  • Moderate Volume Shops: Change semi-annually to quarterly, depending on the nature of work and previously mentioned variables. These dates should be set by your seasonal demands and actually marked on the calendar.
  • Low Volume Shops: General purpose engraving. Change annually.
    (Note: Occasional engravers can stretch that if their work on close inspection remains good but when you hear of tools lasting for several years, quality is suffering.)

We’ve done our best to answer these common questions. If you cannot find the answer you need – or if you have a suggestion for how we can improve these FAQs, please contact us.