Looking for a way to make your jewellery designs stand out amongst the crowd? One way that you can add a unique touch to your jewellery is by learning how to engrave metal with a Dremel tool. Adding a distinctive engraving to your precious metal designs will set you apart from your competition, and help you adapt to your customers’ requests.
Just starting out? The Dremel engraver is an excellent investment for those who haven’t turned their hand to engraving before, making the entire process quick and easy. Read our guide below and learn how to engrave metal with a Dremel tool.
How to use a Dremel engraver step by step
1. Dremel engraver setup
All you’ll need to do to set up is:
- Make sure you wear protective glasses and a dust mask to prevent any metal particles from getting into your eyes or lungs.
- Remove the protective rubber cover from the engraving tip.
- Plug in, switch on, and you’re ready to start practising!
2. Which engraving tip?
Your Dremel engraver comes with a standard engraving tip that is 3.18mm in diameter. When you’re getting to grips with the tool this is sufficient to practice with, but as you progress you may want to try different tips for different projects.
Working with softer materials like wood and leather? A high speed cutter will do the job, but when you want to work on something a little more intricate and detailed, you may want to invest in a diamond wheel point. This will allow you to work on harder metals and glass in a much more precise way.
But if it’s your very first attempt at engraving metal, start with a softer metal such as brass or copper. This will make your Dremel engraver easier to control as you carve out your design. It’s also a good idea to start practicing on a completely flat surface – move onto engraving curved surfaces once you feel more confident with the tool and the technique.
3. Choosing patterns and shapes to engrave
Choosing a shape to engrave is tricky when you’re starting out – there’s so much you could do with your design! From personalised lettering to florals and patterns, you could take this wherever your imagination allows.
To help narrow this down, and to get you practising, your Dremel engraver comes with a calligraphy letter template. This can be used directly onto the brass or copper you’re practising with, so that you get a feel for the engraving tool and figure out which setting works best for you.
The Dremel engraver has five different settings, each one stronger than the last, so make sure you trial each one side-by-side to get to know the depth and power of each setting and whether it’s a good fit for your designs and the metal you’re working with.
After experimenting with the template provided, you can then go on to trial different shapes and designs of your own. Try sketching a design onto the metal itself using a marker or graphite pencil before you start engraving. Alternatively, if you want more accuracy and sharp lines, try drawing your design onto a piece of paper first. Once you’re happy with the design, stick this to the metal you’re working with using double sided tape, making sure it’s securely in place before tracing over your design using your Dremel engraver.
4. Engraving metal with a Dremel – your technique
When you’re learning how to use a Dremel engraver, you’ll want to have a firm grip with a loose wrist. Think about your grip on a pencil and how you still have enough flexibility to maneouvre and create free-flowing shapes.
The soft grip on the tool allows for a comfortable hand position which helps as you work, especially if you’re using one of the higher settings that is more powerful. And when you’re not used to working with a motorised hand tool for long periods of time, a loose grip will prevent you from straining your hand or wrist.
Comfortable with your grip? Now all that’s left to do is practise! When you’re learning how to use an electric engraver there’s no better skill than patience. It really does take time to perfect the look that you picture in your mind, especially if you have no prior experience in this kind of metal work.
Before you get to work, here are a few tips to help you improve your technique quickly:
- Start slow. There’s no point cranking up your Dremel engraver to the highest setting to start with. Build up to the depth that you would like so that you don’t take too much metal away to begin with.
- Mix up your textures. Depending on the design you’re working on, change up the way that you apply your engraver to the metal. Drag it to create subtle lines. Dot it to create texture. Add cross hatch lines for subtle shading.
- Don’t rely solely on a traced design. If you’re following a traced design placed onto your metal, you may want to use it as a guide, but only to a point. The paper may hinder the detail you can go into with your engraving so don’t be afraid to remove it once it’s done its job and you’re ready to add the finishing detail to your design.
- Experiment with raised relief. Instead of carving out a pattern, how about carving out negative space so that your design is raised and more prominent?
However your engraving technique evolves, the key is to stick with it and to experiment. Learning how to engrave with a Dremel tool is by no means straightforward, but with regular practice you’ll soon find a way of working that suits your jewellery making styles and your skill level.