Jewelry Engraving Journey–My Giant Mistake

My GIANT mistake….    engraving studio

I knew this was going to be a journey that would have it’s trials and frustrations.  And I made a huge mistake in purchasing my equipment.  When I looked at Graver Machines, I found an enormous price range–from $260-$1,850 for those that would be for jewelry engraving.  When I initially looked at these machines, it seemed to me that the $260 machine looked very much like the one that was in the $850 range and being on a tight budget, I went for the lower price.  It was a machine made in China, called “Graver Helper.”  This machine was a problem from the start.  First of all, none of the fittings were compatible with our compressor, causing us delays, as we had to find special size hoses and couplings.  Second, it came with very few directions, and they were poorly written. Graver Helper We had to “patch” together solutions to make it work.  Once I got this machine working, I began to play with engraving.  My engravings were very crude.  The hand tool vibrated horribly, and controlling the tool was difficult.  My hands hurt after 30 minutes.  While I gained better control each time I practiced, I found that even though I continuously sharpened my gravers, it was still difficult to get them to engrave smoothly.  Air was escaping from the couplings, and I had to constantly turn on the compressor to get the pressure back up.


I began getting discouraged.  I am very embarrassed to post this picture of my practice plate on brass, but I want others to know how bad it can be!  My hand-piece slipped constantly and the vibrations made control nearly impossible–I thought I invested in all this equipment for nothing…

First Crude Engraving


Then I found an engraving forum that I joined, and saw that there were other beginning engravers who made the same mistakes I did, and struggled with the same issues.  Bottom line–I WISH I HAD DONE BETTER RESEARCH!  These new engraver folks subsequently purchased the GRS GraverMax G8 GraverMax G8and they found they were able to control the hand-pieces and their engraving actually looked great!

So I wasted this money–maybe I will be able to sell the machine to someone, but I don’t know that ethically I would want to.  It is a poorly made “copy” of American made gravers.  I have now ordered the GRS GraverMax machine, at 4 times the cost–so it is a very significant investment.  My machine should arrive early next week.

Even though I have had a terrible beginning, I do think I will enjoy this art form.  I downloaded some wonderful designs that I can’t wait to try.  In the long run, I think it will make my jewelry more beautiful and unique.  I want to combine this art form with the beautiful stones I use in my jewelry.

All I can say is–LIVE and LEARN!  (Sometimes in a very expensive way).  And thus I will continue my journey into learning how to engrave….


Lynne Patnode is a jewelry artist living in Torrington Connecticut.  Her business is SilverSpiral Creations and she creates wearable jewelry art made with sterling silver and nature’s most beautiful stones.  

My Journey into Learning How to Engrave Jewelry

Well, here I am, on the road to learning how to engrave jewelry! Lynne and Vise

When I decided I really wanted to learn about engraving, I thought that it wouldn’t be that hard. I knew, of course, that there would be a learning curve, but I never understood how much equipment I would need to do it well– and how much skill it would take!

So how did I even get started on this journey? I have always loved the look of engraving on jewelry. I really love to learn new things.

So the first thing I did was to order some DVD’s on how to engrave by Sam Alfano, Master Engraver. This is an example of one of his rings.

engraved ring

His videos are a bit pricey, but if I had to take a class in person, it would cost much more, and of course, no one in my geographical area is teaching it. So I watched the videos, and he made it look pretty easy (experts always do).

What became immediately apparent was that I was going to need a LOT of equipment. I needed a good size air compressor (or so I thought) and got one at my local Home Depot.
I had not anticipated how large this would be–as I ordered it online. When I received it I realized it was HUGE!. air compressorI needed to rearrange my studio to make it fit. I also knew that I needed to buy an air graver machine to hook up to the air compressor.
I had no idea how it worked, as I could find very little information online, including how to set these machines up. I watched videos about air compressors, and tried to figure out which couplings I needed, and how to not blow up my machine. I get nervous when dealing with machinery I don’t understand. It is both scary and exciting!    graver machineToday, I figured it all out and got them hooked up and running! I am so proud of myself!

I also learned that gravers (the steel thing-a-ma-bobs that actually mark the metal), have to be “prepared” and sharpened. So I got some gravers, some handles, and then I had to get a graver sharpening machine, since I didn’t trust myself to do it right by hand.

This is a “lap” machine with diamond disks along with a ceramic disk. Another intimidating machine! I watched a video on sharpening gravers, and realize it is an art unto itself. Another big learning curve and another significant investment!

I learned I needed something that holds the metal and allows you to rotate it freely to make scrolls in the metal, and that required another piece of equipment–a turntable and low profile vise.vice2

So I ordered those, along with a whole lot of graver tools, flat gravers, ongelett, square, 120 degree etc. I have NO IDEA how to use them yet, but I am equipped!

It is a risk, for sure. I have invested a lot of money into equipment for a technique, that I am not even sure I will like. Of course, the purchases have now committed me to learning the process. I know that I will experience frustration, and that I will make several errors, and that I will feel like going over a cliff at times–but I really, really, really, like the outcome of engraving designs. I just found this great website from Tirra Mitchell, who offers engraving help and designs for beginners. I would love to start out by making this beautiful ring Ring engraved which she shows on her site. This ring is elegant, and has a lovely little stone. The engraving has flow and flourish. This adds a feminine and lovely character to the ring. PLEASE WISH ME LUCK–I THINK I WILL NEED IT!



Lynne Patnode is a jewelry artist from Torrington, Connecticut. You can find available jewelry in her Etsy Shop. If you would like jewelry made especially for you, you can request a custom order.