November 13, 2022
engraving of knives
What is hand engraving?

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

There are many graving tools that 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 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 bank-note 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 ‘a 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, by means of manufacturer’s emblem or bladesmith’s name) or personalized (by means of an inscription or symbol referring to owner).

hand engraved knife blade

Where to get a knife engraved near me?

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 at your door in days. 

We offer:

  • A big selection of daintily hand engraved knives 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

Related materials
Heat treating is an indispensable process that transforms a blade from a soft piece of metal to a hardened steel possessing proper strength and flexibility. Proper heat treating imparts the required performance attributes of the finished product.
When you devote yourself to the ancient and noble art of sword-making, you are partaking in the history of the art at its latest evolution. With all the cutting-edge fanciful techniques we have today, the process of crafting a sword still bears a striking resemblance to what medieval bladesmiths did. So, what are the crucial phases of making a traditional sword? Dive into our step-by-step guide to learn the knightly art. 
If no power equipment is available, this can be done with files if the piece of steel has not yet been hardened. Grinding wheels, or small belt sanders are usually what a beginner uses. Well equipped makers usually use a large industrial belt grinder, or a belt grinder made specifically for knife making. Pre-polish grinding on a heat treated blade can be done if the blade is kept cool, to preserve the temper of the steel. Some knife makers will use a coolant mist on the grinder to achieve this.
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