Name It and Claim It: 6 Ways to Mark or Engrave Metal Permanently

So you’ve got your hands on a fabulous bit of metal and want to make it yours. Maybe it’s a watch that you want to pass down to your children, a ring that holds a lot of meaning to you, or a metal plate that you want to engrave with your family’s coat of arms.

So how do you engrave metal? There are a plethora of different techniques that you can use to engrave metal but which is best for you and your needs?

In this guide, we’ll take a look at the different methods of engraving metal and find the one that’s best for you.

Ready to learn more? Then read on!

1. Etching

Etching is one of the oldest ways of engraving metal. It bores small holes into the metal, with the different areas of depth producing a contrast. This can be done in any design that you like.

Laser etching is one of the most popular and precise ways to engrave today. Laser marking steel, for instance, is cost-effective and very accurate. A computer will carry out the etching process, which means that, as long as the design it has is accurate, you will get a flawless engraving every single time.

Traditionally, etching used strong acids to eat away the metal. You can still pay specialists to etch using this technique but for surefire results every time, you’re better off asking for laser etching.

The results, however, are the same regardless of method. You should be left with a fantastic, hardwearing, and bold mark on your metal. It will stand the test of time and look great many years down the line.

2. Rotary Engraving

If you’re hoping to engrave precious metals, you will probably want to use rotary engraving. This specific type of engraving uses a very small spinning blade to engrave precise grooves into the metal.

As there are no chemicals or high amounts of heat involved, you can use rotary engraving on basically any type of metal. There shouldn’t be any damage incurred, which makes it a very popular choice for expensive metals.

As you may expect, it’s one of the more expensive engraving methods. Yet if you want a precise and safe way to engrave precious metals, rotary engraving is a good method to use.

3. Surface Marking

While not strictly a way to engrave metal, surface marking is a popular way to mark metals. It uses ink or a stamp to leave a mark on the metal without actually changing its surface.

For impermanent markings, it’s okay, and very cheap. It’s not appropriate for heirlooms or precious objects, though.

Usually, surface marking will take advantage of industrial inks or hot stamps to leave a mark on the metal’s surface. We would recommend avoiding it unless you’re looking for a way to mark industrial parts.

A related, but higher-quality method is aquatinting. This process relies on covering a piece of metal with rosin powder. A process of cooking and acid baths will then stick this powder to the metal in the desired pattern.

4. Impact Pressing

An impact press can be used to stamp a design into metal. This kind of engraving is most common for industrial or governmental uses. For instance, the coins in your pocket will have been made with an impact press. A hallmark on any silver products that you own will also have been pressed into the metal.

This kind of engraving is not common for personal designs but it could be used. We’d recommend taking a look at other methods first, however.

5. Hand Engraving

This is the most traditional, most artisan, and, you’ve guessed it, the most expensive way to engrave your metals. Hand engraving relies on the same ancient skills that jewelers have used for millennia. 

The jeweler will use a hammer and a small tool to engrave by hand. It takes longer than other methods but it looks fantastic. A skilled artisan can give you a beautiful, well-made engraving and you’ll be able to brag about its old-fashioned charm.

It may not be the most cost-effective way to engrave these days but it’s got al luster and charm that makes people come back to it. For the truly personal touch, it’s hard to beat.

6. CNC Engraving

CNC stands for computer numerical control. This method of engraving uses a machine controlled by a computer to engrave with extreme precision. 

This kind of engraving can be very expensive due to the technology involved. It’s most often used to machine small details like serial numbers into car parts and other bits of industrial machinery.

The chief advantage that it has against other kinds of engraving is that it is very, very precise. There will be no mistakes and no issues with the engraving. You can guarantee a great quality engraving every single time but for one-off engravings, it’s probably not practical.

There Are Many Ways to Engrave Metal

There are a huge number of ways to engrave metal. Not all of them will be suitable for your needs or the metal in question. We’ve barely scratched the surface of different methods of engraving here, so we’d recommend doing in-depth research before deciding on your engraving method of choice.

The right method can make all the difference to the quality of your engraving.

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