engraving studio

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.  

1 Comment for “Jewelry Engraving Journey–My Giant Mistake”

  • Hi, Lynne. I might suggest to you that you use an engraving guide. I like to use sheet copper from Home depot, and then practice on that. You can draw your design on wax paper, use an exacto knife to cut along the designs, tape it over your piece, and then go on with it. That’s one way. I also found that certain stencils with the curly q’s are a help as well–if you are trying for a paisley effect. Stippling is roughing up the metal (sort of like the pointillism type of painting). I prefer hand engraving my pieces and using a graver ball. You can get the supplies from Otto Frei, but I see you already have a decent supplier. Do you use beeswax to protect your work when you are doing the cutting?It’s also handy for when you just want to skip the wax paper and just draw with a pencil on your work. I hope that helps.

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