Looking to try your hand at etching or engraving? Both are great for creating unique, personal jewellery designs, but it can be tricky figuring out which is the best process for you. To help you understand the fundamentals of each technique, we’ll discuss etching vs engraving, and engraving and what each process involves so you can make a more informed decision. Learn more below.
The difference between etching and engraving
The etching process
A technique traditionally used in printmaking, the etching process is used to create designs on metal, dating back to the Middle Ages. Etching is typically performed on copper or zinc, but it can work on most other metals too. The sheet metal is prepped with an acid-resistant wax or ‘ground’ to draw the lines into, then once submerged in acid the exposed metal is ‘bitten’, leaving incised markings.
As technologies have progressed, new forms of etching have become available – such as laser etching. This method is significantly different to the traditional etching process, as you’ll find out later on.
The engraving process
So how is the engraving process different to etching? The main difference is the amount of metal that’s removed. Where etching only takes away the top layer, engraving leaves a much deeper incision. Developed as a printmaking method in the 15th century, engraving is a technique where a plate of soft metal is cut into with a ‘burin’ tool to create an image. To preserve the engraving, the ‘steel facing’ process was made in the mid-19th century in France and is still used to this day.
Thankfully, in today’s age various tools have been invented to make the job easier and a more versatile technique. For example, the Dremel Engraver is a handheld tool used to engrave on not just metal, but a range of other materials like wood, plastic and ceramics.
What is laser etching vs laser engraving?
Now we’ve gone through the traditional methods, it’s time to compare the new methods of etching vs engraving. Predominantly, the laser technique. Similar to the traditional processes, it’s important to understand the key difference between laser etching and engraving. With both methods using a high heat beam to melt the material, they’re equally as effective at making designs in a metal of your choosing. However, there are a few things to consider when weighing up the pros and cons of laser etching vs laser engraving for jewellery making.
When it comes to laser engraving, this is likely to withstand more wear and tear from handling than laser etching. Although, laser etching may be a more appropriate choice for safety-critical parts as engraving can cut too deep and subsequently damage vital parts of the design. Discover Cooksongold’s range of engraving machines and accessories online. Our selection of GRS jewellery tools are designed to speed up the process, so you can produce more of your designs.
So, etching vs engraving – which is the best process for you? Now you know more about the differences between the two methods, hopefully you’re feeling more confident to try out each method and find out whether etching or engraving is best for you. Make sure you have all the sheet metal and jewellery tools you need before you begin.