Professional Jeweler Archive: Gravers

March 2003

Professional Bench/Tool Tips


Knowing how to professionally prepare gravers for use with hand techniques contributes to high quality and safety at the bench

Gravers are small cutting tools used for stone setting, texturing, deburring and applying decorative embellishments and traditional hand-engraving. They are among the most useful tools at a jeweler’s bench.

The steps required to prepare new gravers include mounting, sizing, shaping, sharpening and proper storage. Failure to properly prepare and maintain gravers creates a hazard and affects the quality of work, proper technique and time efficiency. Here are some steps for preparing gravers for use with hand techniques:

Gravers are available in various shapes. Most commonly used by bench jeweler generalists are the onglette (point), flat-bottom, round, knife and liner shapes. Each shape comes in six or more sizes for a variety of applications. Several handle shapes and sizes are available also. A round ball handle is pictured.
Gravers aren’t ready for use as supplied. Preparation includes modification, mounting and sharpening. This photo shows three critical details: the brand (GMT) what it’s made of (high-speed steel, or HSS) and the size/shape (3/0 onglette).
The first step in mounting the graver is to reduce the size of the tang using a standard bench grinder. Grind a point on the end of the tang to facilitate mounting. Then drill about a 3/16-inch hole into the handle to about 60% of its depth. Place the graver into a bench vice and pound the handle into place with a hammer.
After it’s mounted, place the graver assembly into the palm of your hand. Mark the graver just beyond the tip of your finger.
Place the graver assembly into the vice, exposing the tip to be removed. Using a hammer, break off the tip of the graver. For this step, be sure to wear safety glasses and strike the tip away from yourself. Don’t do this in a room with other people.
To reduce the area that requires sharpening and polishing (the cutting end), grind away about an inch above the point. Periodically dip the graver in water to keep it cool during this step. Overheating it will cause loss of tool temper and point strength.
Complete the shaping of the point at the bench using a heatless grinding wheel. For the last step of shaping, grind a 45&Mac251;-60&Mac251; angle on the tip of the graver to prepare for the sharpening process.
Use a Foredom medium ceramic polishing wheel to remove the grinding marks and rags of metal from the area ground. These wheels can be used at 28,000 rpm, so they’re ideal for use with the Foredom Micro Motor, which delivers a top rpm of 45,000. Most flexible shafts provide a top speed of 15,000 to 18,000 rpm.
For sharpening, use a combination India bench stone to create a precise 45&Mac251;-60&Mac251; angle. Next, use a natural Arkansas stone to create the final cutting edge. You should use oil to lubricate the surface of the stone to facilitate the sharpening process. After each step of the sharpening, force by hand the tip of the graver into a small piece of hardwood (such as your bench pin) to remove the flashing of metal.
For easy identification after the graver is mounted, grind a small, flat area on the back of the ball handle. Let the grinding process “burn” the surface of the wood, making it dark.
Use a small ball bur to scribe the number of the graver into the burned flat portion of the ball handle.
Keep your gravers sharp. A dull graver or one prepared with an improper cutting point can slip off the work surface and gouge you or another unintended target. If you store gravers in a drawer, always place protection over the point (such as a cork).
This photo shows a finished round bottom graver (top) and a new one (bottom). Preparing gravers requires time, which you will more than compensate for when you use your properly prepared tools.

High-speed steel gravers, such as these GMT gravers, hold a cutting edge considerably longer than carbon steel gravers. The cost of high-speed steel is slightly higher but well worth the investment.

Graver preparation for automated techniques will be covered in a future installment. For questions related to this process, contact Mark B. Mann at

This installment of Tool Tips educational content is sponsored by Euro Tool Inc., Lenexa, KS. For information on the company’s tools and equipment or for a list of distributors, call Tina Berry at (800) 552-3131.

– by Mark B. Mann

Photographs by Mark B. Mann
©2003 Visual Communications

Copyright © 2003 by Bond Communications