We’re all familiar with the sweet, heartfelt inscriptions professionally engraved on items such as wedding bands and lockets.
In the not-so-distant past, it was customary for a company to gift at retirement a wrist or pocket watch engraved with the employee’s name, years of service, and the company logo.
While fewer companies today may be giving engraved gifts at retirement, engraving in general is perhaps more popular now than it ever was.
Thanks to advances in technology and machinery, metals are far from the only option when it comes to engraving items at home.
What items can be engraved? A wide variety of items made of metal, wood, glass, plastic, leather, and even stone can be engraved easily with a handheld engraving tool. Flat objects made from softer materials, such as wood or plastic, are best for beginners to learn engraving.
Gone are the days when you had to take items to a professional to have them engraved.
You may be surprised at not only how easy the craft is to learn but also at the sheer number of items that can be engraved.
With just a little practice, you’ll be engraving like a pro in no time, and no items will be left unmarked.
Engraving Items at Home
Of course, you can take anything you wished to be engraved to a professional, give instructions, and pick it up upon completion, but more and more people are choosing to learn how to engrave items on their own.
Engraving your own items means that you have the option to create lovely gifts with a personal touch whenever you like, but that’s not the only reason that engraving is used. You can also engrave to:
- Identify personal belongings with your name or initials.
- Customize homemade and/or store-bought items.
- Add monograms.
- Add special graphics or your company’s logo.
- Create fun keychains and similar items.
- Make your own personalized pet ID tags.
What You’ll Need
All you need to get started is a simple engraving tool like the Original Easy Etcher, which I’ve used on multiple projects.
Engraving tools come in both corded and cordless versions and will engrave a wide variety of materials.
Of course, you’ll want to practice first before trying to initial your grandmother’s silverware set.
When just starting out, beginners should work on softer material like wood or plastic and practice forming straight lines, gentle and sharp curves, letters – both cursive and script, and whatever shapes or designs you envision yourself creating in the future.
Once you feel comfortable engraving wood, practice on harder materials such as glass. Get your skills up to speed before attempting to engrave something very valuable.
It can take a while to develop the steadiness and confidence required for detailed work, but practice will definitely help.
Once you get a feel for the process and experiment with different materials, you’ll likely want to engrave everything in sight.
It’s a fun and addicting hobby that’s really only limited by your creativity.
What Items Can Be Engraved?
The most commonly home-engraved items are typically made of wood or metal.
Wood plaques, cheese boards, ornaments, jewelry boxes, business card holders, wood clocks, and a host of other wood objects can be engraved easily with a handheld engraving tool.
All kinds of metal objects, such as tools, jewelry, pet identification tags, key chains, photo frames, toasters, and more, can also be engraved at home.
With the right bit on your engraver, it really doesn’t matter if the metal is soft, like aluminum or copper, or hard, like steel or brass; it can be engraved.
Engraving Other Materials
The list of engravable items doesn’t end with wood and metal objects.
Many people are surprised to learn that items made of glass, plastic, and leather can be engraved too. Even ceramics and stone can be engraved successfully with the right bit.
For most light engraving work, a standard engraving bit (usually made of tungsten carbide) will handle the job without a problem.
When working on hard metals or stone, you’ll want to switch to a diamond bit for the extra durability.
Need some inspiration? Consider engraving some of the following:
- Smooth, flat rocks for garden decorations.
- Leather wallets, bracelets, and journal covers.
- Furniture made from PVC (learn more here).
- Suitcases and luggage.
- Personal electronic devices.
- Door knockers.
- Pocket knives.
- Kitchen utensils, pots, and casserole dishes (no more losing your dishes at potluck gatherings).
The Basic Engraving Process
Let’s quickly go over the basic process of engraving wood to give you a rough idea of what’s involved.
The bare basics of the engraving technique will be relatively similar no matter what material you’re working with, so this will provide you with a general idea of the engraving process that you can customize for different materials.
For beginners, choose a flat, soft wood to practice on first. Pine or cedar are good choices.
You’ll basically have three options when it comes to how to add your design to the wood.
If you’re rather brave and artistic, you can simply use the engraver to create a totally freehand design.
Most people, however, either lightly draw their design directly on the wood with a pencil before engraving or they draw a design on carbon paper and then transfer it to the wood before engraving.
Once you have your design ready to go, secure the wood with clamps to your work surface to prevent unexpected shifting.
Don a breathing mask, gloves, and safety goggles before you begin to engrave.
Fire up your tool and, working slowly in the direction of the grain, begin to carve out your design using short strokes. Press lightly at first as you develop a feel for the process.
When the design is complete, wipe away all sawdust and sand the wood until smooth. You may fill in your design with paint or choose to stain the entire piece. It’s entirely up to you.
Best Mechanical, Handheld Engraving Tools
Although you can engrave using only handheld, nonelectric tools, using more modern equipment is faster, easier, and allows for greater control in most instances.
Choose any of the following engraving tools to try your hand at engraving a huge variety of objects.
This DIY engraving pen tool is comfortable to work with, even for extended periods, as it fits in your hand just as a pen would.
Engrave easily on any surface including wood, metal, plastic, jewelry, leather, and more.
The 12,000 rpm motor allows you to work at a slower speed for results with fewer mistakes.
Complete with an ergonomic handle for comfort, a light-weight aluminum design, a replacement diamond tip bit and tool, and 10 stencils, this engraving pen is a great choice for beginners and those who struggle with holding larger tools.
The Wen Rotary Tool Kit includes a 100-piece accessory set complete with various bits, sanding disks, polishing pads, and more, so you’re not just limited to engraving with this multi-tasker.
Complete a variety of projects that call for shaping, grinding, polishing, and sanding, all with one handy tool. This kit will allow you to engrave a variety of surfaces with ease.
If you’re looking for a deluxe, versatile engraving pen tool with tons of accessories, look no further.
Though an engraving pen won’t be quite as powerful as larger models, it’s quite capable of engraving materials as hard as stone.
This set includes 24 stencils, an assortment of disks and blades, various bits, and a bonus carbide scriber.
The Utool Power Engraver can be used to engrave wood, glass, plastic, leather, stone, metal, and tile.
Featuring a soft rubber grip for comfort while working and four replaceable tungsten carbide bits, this tool is easy to use, yet powerful enough for precision work.
A letter and number stencil is included, along with an Allen wrench for changing bits.
You have the option of changing the depth of your engraving for various applications with the easy-to-use five-position dial.
The corded Utool Power Engraver is backed by a 100% money-back guarantee if failure occurs within one year.