check out our store
check out our store

How to Engrave a Knife?

Written by:
Aleks Nemtcev
February 3, 2024
engraving of knives

Hand engraving is an artistic process in which an engraver uses a special hardened and sharpened piece of steel (a ‘graver’) to dig into the surface of a material to create a design or picture. 

Hand engravers work on a variety of materials, including wood, metals, glass, stone, gems, leather, and print materials. For engraving on metal, a variety of steels and alloys are suitable (however, you need to consider the level of metal’s hardness), as well as aluminum, titanium, gold, and other non-ferrous or precious metals.

Hand engraving requires a lot of skill, patience, and attention to detail from the craftsman, and gives each article a genuinely artistic and unique look.

knife engraving process

Tools and Techniques of a hand engraver

Many graving tools help hand engravers make their refined cuts. Engraving tools (called ‘gravers’) are miniature chisels made of hardened steel. These sharpened tools are pushed through the metal surface at a specific angle, with a due amount of pressure applied, to form a chip and push a curl of metal away as it cuts. To do their job finely, gravers must be properly shaped and sharpened to specific angles and fitted into comfortable controllable handles. 

Engraving tools come in a variety of designs and makes. As gravers are precise instruments, they are made from high-quality steel, such as highly refined tool steel or high-speed steel (for working harder materials and higher durability). Also, there are gravers with carbide-cutting tips.

Engraving Tools

Many types of engraving tools use different engraving methods and engrave different types of materials. These include: 

  • etching pencils and pens
  • sandblasting pens
  • engraving machines
  • diamond wheel points

Various types of graver tools are employed by hand-engraving artists to create a range of cuts: 

  • knife graver
  • beveled graver
  • Onglette graver
  • oval graver
  • flat graver
  • round graver

While some engraving tools are very thin to create tiny lines, other wider tools are used by artists to produce larger and darker strokes in the material. Among the many types of graver’s tips, the flat head and the V-head are most usual. Of course, personal preference and project’s objectives will play a significant role in choosing a tool to create detailed cuts required for a particular style of engraving or the chosen design. Resists and stencils are a common tool used for engraving either by hand or machine. They can be precut or they can be custom made, and the materials to make one can be found in craft stores.

hand engraving

The principal engraving techniques (processes) are as follows:

  • Before applying a design to the surface, the engraver first grinds and polishes the surface.
  • The image/pattern is applied with a thin pencil and/or the engraver outlines the contours of the future drawing with steel needles.
  • The master engraves the desired image/ornament with dots or carves. For planar engraving, the background is also processed with special notches.
  • To emphasize contrast, varnishes or oxidants are used to darken cut grooves, and polishing agents are used to lighten areas without engraving.
  • The surface is sanded for better smoothness.
  • Most engraved items are quenched to make the steel more resistant to corrosion.
  • In the end, the handiwork is often blackened with a special paint to enhance the contrast of the image.

Types of Hand Engraving

The three principal hand-engraving methods are hammer-and-chisel, push-graving, and pneumatic graving. Some advanced methods include Bulino engraving and banknote style. 

  • The hammer-and-chisel method is the most basic: the engraver holds a hammer in one hand and a chisel in the other, and makes minute taps on the chisel to produce cuts in the material. 
  • In push-graving, a chisel unit is held from the back with one hand, while the other hand is used to feed and rotate the material (often held with a vise) into the chisel. 
  • Pneumatic graving uses a mechanical engraving unit with a piston that forces the graver’s tip to move forward slightly. The method is similar to hammer-and-chisel, but the engraver has a second hand free to move the material.

Highly skilled masters use advanced methods, such as Bulino or bank-note techniques, to craft exquisite picturesque renderings in metal. The word ‘Bulino’ is derived from the Italian term meaning “small hand-held graver” and today loosely represents the method of creating hundreds of small dots or lines in the metal for emphatic light and dark contrasts. The bank-note style is a method of creating hundreds of individual lines with different lengths that form superbly detailed renderings or ornamental images, like those seen in old books or on paper currency.

Types of Hand Engraving

Can you engrave a knife blade?

Hand engraving is one of the biggest value additions to a high-end custom knife. Fine weaponry has been engraved for centuries. If you’ve seen old-time hunting knives, you might have noticed that they are often embellished with an engraved floral ornament which usually has a symbolic meaning. Even nowadays, engraving is a great way to personalize your very special cutting tool. Via engraving, a knife is identified (for example, using the manufacturer’s emblem or bladesmith’s name) or personalized (using an inscription or symbol referring to the owner).

hand engraved knife blade

Where can I get something engraved?

Noblie is an online knife store that offers high-end hand-engraved knives with delivery at your address in the USA, Europe, and all over the world. Explore our selection of custom knives and choose one to your liking to be delivered right to your door in days. 

We offer:

  • A big selection of dainty hand-engraved knives, engraved daggers, and swords is already in stock that you can buy today: this saves a lot of time for a knife lover, as otherwise, you should be waiting for weeks for a custom knife to be engraved. 
  • Fast delivery: we ship international orders with DHL Express or UPS. Each order is insured for the full value.
  • Each custom knife is beautifully packed in a luxury wooden knife box, thus increasing the overall showy impression of your gift.
  • You can buy your hand-engraved knife in just two clicks! Explore Noblie’s knife collection.


engraving knife

Author: Aleks Nemtcev | Connect with me on LinkedIn

Leave a reply

We don't allow links in the comments. Any comment containing links will be declined.

Thank you for your comment, it is currently under review.
Fill in all fields for commenting!


    There are no comments for this article yet.

Related materials
Although to a beginner it might seem that a quality blade is everything required to make a knife a perfect cutting tool, the reality is a bit more complicated. The grind is an aspect often overlooked by knife owners, and every true knife lover has to understand how the grind impacts the use of a knife. The word ‘grind’ stands for the shape of knife’s blade and depicts how exactly the blade is made thin enough to cut with it. Explore the different edge types, their properties and strengths, to better understand how to have the best of your knife.
In the production of a custom knife, great attention must be given to the selection of steel used for the blade. Blade steel, along with edge geometry and design, is a critical factor that determines the performance of the knife.
Knife making takes some skills in metalwork, woodwork and designing, much endurance, carefulness and tranquility. You’ll need to take it easy and not hurry to make sure you’ll succeed. Fine projects take practice, and you might craft dozens of knives before making your excellent one. 
Rating: 4,9 - 64 reviews