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Hand-engraved pierced pendant

Learn how to use a graver to add detail to a pierced pendant

Perhaps you’ve received or inherited a piece of jewelry that’s been engraved to commemorate a special date or sentiment. This kind of engraving is usually done with a machine — and is entirely different from the one-of-a-kind hand-engraved design that graces this pierced pendant. But different doesn’t mean unattainable.

With a few tools and some practice, you’ll be able to complete this hand-engraved pendant and add panache to your next jewelry piece. We’ll show you what tools you’ll need to get started engraving and how to use them.

See guidelines for using a graver and creating an engraving station below. For complete step-by-step instructions to make the pendant, click here for the free project PDF

Materials

  • Cabochon: 15 mm x 10 mm
  • Sterling silver sheet: 16-gauge (1.3 mm), half-hard, 3 x 2 in. (76 x 51 mm)
  • Bezel wire: 28-gauge (0.32 mm), height to fit your cabochon
  • Sterling silver jump ring: 16-gauge (1.3 mm) (optional)
  • Chain: 1 mm diameter
  • Clasp

Tools & supplies

  • Graph paper
  • White craft glue
  • Center punch
  • Flex shaft:
    - 1 mm drill bit
    - Buffs
    - Polishing compounds: white diamond, rouge
  • Jeweler’s saw, 4/0 blades
  • Needle files
  • Sandpaper: various grits
  • Flush cutters
  • Soldering station: torch, solder (hard, medium), firebrick or charcoal block, pickle pot with pickle, flux, cross-locking tweezers, copper tongs, soldering pick
  • Denatured alcohol
  • Borax powder: fine
  • Paintbrush
  • Acetone
  • Chinese white, white tempera paint, or matte white spray paint for metal
  • Sealer: clear
  • Graver: 3⁄32 x 3⁄32 in. (2.4 x 2.4 mm) square shank 25⁄16 in. (59 mm) long; handle
  • Engraver’s block or other apparatus
  • Liquid Bur-Life
  • Scrap copper or brass sheet: 16-gauge (1.3 mm)
  • Fine-tip permanent marker
  • Bezel pusher
  • Burnisher
  • 2 pairs of pliers (optional)
Hand engraved pierced pendant using a graver hand graver
Hand graver
Hand engraved pierced pendant using a graver power assisted graver
Power-assisted graver
How do I use a graver?

To get a feel for using a graver, we’ll walk you through how to practice on a piece of scrap brass or copper that you’ve secured in an engraving block or other stabilizing apparatus. 

Lubricate the tip of your graver with liquid Bur-Life before you do any cutting. Keep the graver’s tip lubricated as you work.

Whether you’re using a hand graver [above left] or a power-assisted system [above right], hold the graver in your dominant hand.

Using a sliding stroke, push the graver along the metal to make a straight, shallow cut. Practice making a series of shallow cuts, and then progress to deeper cuts.

Do not use a scooping stroke or excessive pressure to push the graver. If you find that you are using force to move the tip of the graver, you could break the graver’s tip and make excessively deep cuts in the metal.

Hand engraved pierced pendant using a graver 2

Do not make more than one pass in the same cut. (Once you’ve gained enough experience, you’ll be able to make a second pass with precision and without marring the original cut or the surrounding metal.) 

To vary the width of a line, slightly roll the graver on its side as you push it along the metal.

To make curved cuts, use your nondominant hand to rotate the metal and keep your graver stationary [right].

For more information, visit www.engravingschool.com.
What you need for an engraving station

You’ll need to keep your metal secure while you’re engraving it. Here are some common methods and equipment you can use. 

Engraving block

The optimal piece of equipment for steadying the metal is an engraving block (also called an “engraving ball” or “engraving vise”). Its vise jaws hold the metal you’ll be engraving, and its spherical shape allows it to tilt in any direction on a stand. When you’re done engraving, the metal simply releases from the jaws.

Pros:

  • Easy to clamp and unclamp the metal
  • No prep or clean-up
  • Easy to rotate the metal for engraving

Cons:

  • Expensive

A bowl of red pitch

A less expensive option is to use a bowl filled with red pitch to hold the metal in place. Compared with black pitch, red pitch has the advantages of being both easier to work and less brittle. Also, red pitch doesn’t have to be burned off after you use it, unlike black pitch. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for warming the pitch.

Pros:

  • Relatively cost-effective
  • Reusable

Cons:

  • Messy
  • Need to buy both the bowl and the pitch
  • To remove metal from the pitch, the pitch bowl must be warmed (typically with a torch), and the metal pried from the pitch
  • Remaining pitch on the metal must be removed with a solvent (such as hot paraffin, linseed oil, turpentine, or kerosene) 

Flake shellac or thermoplastic compounds

An even more economical option is to coat a support, like plywood, with flake shellac or with a thermoplastic compound, such as Jett Sett. These compounds are made pliable by warming them according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Pros:

  • Least expensive option
  • Reusable and not nearly as messy as pitch

Cons:

  • You’ll need a container or accessory, which you can make or buy, to secure the compounds

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