Friday, November 19, 2010

How to Sharpen a Graver

This is the third in our series of tutorials on engraving. Earlier we discussed:
Recently, we were asked how to sharpen a wriggle graver.

A graver is a piece of metal sharpened for engraving and then stuck into a handle that is usually made of wood. The tip is the end of the graver that you sharpen. Graver tips can be shaped into different types of gravers. The wriggle (also called a wiggle tool) is a specialty engraving tool shaped like a flat chisel. The wriggle engraving tool is used to engrave zigzag lines. It is important to keep the gravers sharp as you work. Most engraver like to sharpen their gravers before begining to  engrave. Moreover, gravers tend to get fatter and less sharp as you cut. As you engrave, you will need to stop from time to time as needed to sharpen the wriggle and other gravers.

To sharpen your graver, you will need to remove some metal to make the graver thin again before you can bring the edge to a knife like point. Here is a brief overview of how to sharpen a graver (including the wriggle):

Step 1
Use a grinding wheel or flex shaft to reduce the size of the tip of the graver. Quench the metal graver tip often in water to retain the temper. Quench the metal tip and not the handle of the graver. Do not allow the graver to turn blue or you will need to reharden and retemper the graver tip.
Step 2
Place a sharpening stone on a smooth flat surface. Lightly oil the stone. Clamp the graver so it is secure and will not slip. Rub the graver against the stone. Use a rotary tool and stone attachments to hasten the work time.
Step 3
Repeat using a a finer grit stone. Continue using increasingly finer grit sharpening stones until all scratches are gone from the graver.
Step 4
Remove burrs from the graver tip, if any, by jamming the graver tip into a block of hardwood. You need not purchase specialty products. Hardwood found in your yard will work.
Step 5
Tape a piece of fine grit sandpaper to your worktable or other flat surface (we like to use boards to create sanding boards in different grits). Polish the graver by rubbing the graver tip against the sandpaper.
Step 6
Test the graver to see if it has a "bite" when rubbed against your fingernail. If the graver slips rather than bites, then it is not properly sharpened. Continue sharpening.
Step 7
Rub the sharpened graver against a piece of crocus paper or cloth impregnated with rouge (a specialty product). Rub the graver until the surface has a mirror finish. You can purchase crocus paper or cloth impregnated with rouge from most companies selling tools for metalsmiths, many art supply stores and some automotive supply shops.

Note: Crocus paper or cloth is really, really fine. Rouge is a type of polish. The two are used to bring things to a high polish. There are many specialty suppliers that combine the two together so they are less messy.

3 comments:

Jaipuria Brothers said...

Great method for sharpening a graver.......

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Cindy Dy said...


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