Preparing to Engrave Inlays

Engraving Layout:

The art of engraving is used to introduce fine, detail to your pearl inlays where it is not practical to be done by means of cutting the MOP inlays.

The engraving is done by means of scratching, gouging or cutting the smooth surfaces of the inlays in such a manner so a black filler can me later added to highlight these engravings.

The smooth surface of mother-of-pearl is scratched, cut or gouged to be later filled with a black material. These cuts add tremendously to the depth and 3D quality of the shell and really finish off a fine inlay project.

The essential first step in any engraving job is careful layout on the surface of the inlays themselves. This task is, of course, completed after the inlays have been completely inlayed in the wood and finished and buffed.

I wish to really stress that you absolutely need to get your pearl inlays polished and free of any scratches, as these small scratches will hold a small amount of black filler that we will be using to feature each engraving line.

Take either a sharp #2 pencil or a Pentel .5mm HB lead mechanical pencil to start your layout. Carefully mark all of the engravements on the surface of all of the inlays. You can do this with the aid of Draftsman’s Erasing Shields and Draftsman’s French Curve Sets to get nice consistent arcs on your layouts.

Once you have everything laid out, I prefer to spray a bit of artist’s spray fixative which will keep the soft lead lines ‘in-tact’ with no smudging so you don’t have to bother with re-tracing the outlines after working near them with the gravers.

Tools and Materials:

Pentel .5mm Mechanical Pencil
Draftsman’s French Curve Templates
Draftsman’s Erasing Shield
6-Piece Engraving Set
Honing Oil:
Medium Diamond Sharpening Stone:
Medium India Sharpening Stone:
Fine Arkansas Sharpening Stone:
8,000 Grit Water Stone:
Leather Sharpening Strop:

Prepare Your Gravers Before You Use Them:

As with anything associated with cutting MOP and woodworking, the best tool is a sharp tool, and a dull tool is a dangerous tool. This goes double with your engravers. You need to use a very sharp graver to make the job easier.

Make sure the front face of the graver is angled back at about a 45 degree angle. Also this angled surface should be sharpened and polished to a highly mirrored finish. A sharp graver is needed to make the work go well.

The front face of the graver is angled back about 45 degrees, then ground and polished to a mirror finish. The edges of the graver need to be kept square and sharp. A curved edge is a no no. Just make sure you take the extra little bit of time to keep your engraving equipment sharp and in tip-top shape.

How to Sharpen Your Gravers:

You can use the same sharpening equipment to sharpen your gravers as you use for your fine woodworking chisels. I would recommend that you start with a Medium Diamond Sharpening Stone with Honing Oil for fast cutting to do the initial shaping.

Next follow up with the Medium Indiana Sharpening Stone and the Fine Arkansas Sharpening Stone. Finish up with #8000 grit Diamond Stone and get the tip polished to a mirror finish with the Leather Strop.

Pull The Scribe Along The Templates:

The easiest way to begin the actual engraving process is to actually pull a scribe along the French Curves to lay out all of the curves. This will create a small channel for the gravers to following and will minimize the graver from ‘drifting’ from the pattern.
The scribe is pulled along the template to lay out uniform curves and straight lines.

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