How to Engrave Metal: 5 Creative DIY Methods for Beginners

How to Engrave Metal: 5 Creative DIY Methods for Beginners

Love the beautiful engraved metal designs you see online and wish you could do this for yourself? Keep reading to find out how!

Engraving on metal may seem difficult, but there are so many tools and methods that can make it easy, even as a beginner. There is something magical about taking a simple piece of metal and turning it into a work of art.

Plus, your engraved piece can make a unique accessory, the perfect present, or a new item to decorate your home.

The question to consider is: What’s the best way to engrave metal?

That’s exactly what we’re going to discuss now!

Why should you listen to us? We’ve been engraving and selling engraving equipment for many years! We love this stuff!

Hands down, our favorite method for engraving metal is laser engraving.

Method #1 - Laser Engraving

Laser Engraving on Metal

Image Source: xTool

Laser engraving is one of the best methods to use with metal and one of the most efficient. With just a few tools and the right outline, you can get the engraving done in just a few minutes.

Here’s how to do it:

  1. Prepare your laser engraver: If you're on a budget, we recommend the xTool F1. It’s affordable, easy to use, and does beautiful metal engraving with its built-in infrared laser. For even better results, use a fiber laser, like the one built into the new xTool F1 Ultra laser engraver that houses a fiber laser and diode laser in one machine. (The Instagram post above uses the F1 Ultra.) Follow your manufacturer’s instructions to set up your machine safely.
  2. Choose the material: Of course, we’re using metal here, but a metal blank for engraving will make the job easy. (Make sure to check your machine's documentation for what it can and can't engrave.)
  3. Position the blank: The metal needs to be positioned properly to get the design where you want it.
  4. Set up the design: Load up your design into your printing program of choice. Then choose your laser settings, including power and speed. (Each manufacturer can give you settings to start out with, but this is also up to trial and error.)
  5. Engrave: Use proper safety procedures recommended by the manufacturer, such as eye protection, and get to work. The laser engraving should also be done behind a safety screen. Make sure to use proper ventilation, too!
  6. Enjoy your engraved blank!

Another option for laser engraving is metal marking, where you apply a special coating to a metal object, then use a laser engraver to burn dark-colored marks into the coating.

Or you can engrave powder-coated tumblers or other coated items, then use an entry-level laser like the xTool F1 to remove the coating and reveal the design underneath. Here's an example of laser-engraved powder-coated tumblers 👇

Example of laser-engraving powder coated tumblers

[product=xtool-f1-fastest-portable-laser-engraver-with-ir-diode-laser]Check out the lightning-fast, portable xTool F1 that can do basic metal engraving with its built-in infrared laser.[/product]

Method #2 - Engraving by Hand

Engraving by Hand

Image Source: London Engraver

Hand engraving has been enjoyed by crafters for centuries. To do it yourself, you'll need a few tools like a graver, a ball vise to keep the metal in place, and sharpening stones or sharpener to help keep the graver sharp and precise.

When you’re ready to engrave, follow these simple steps:

  1. Prepare the design: Sketch the design you want to use or print it out. You can choose regular paper for this, but a vinyl sticker is a good option, too. The paper printout needs to be placed on the metal surface and dabbed with acetone to transfer the design to the metal.
  2. Secure the metal: Secure the piece of metal with a vise. This will keep the metal stationary so it won’t move around on you.
  3. Etch the design: Hold onto the graver and slowly glide it across the metal to etch the design. Add some angle and pressure to determine how deep things will go.
  4. Finish the piece: Clean off the metal as you go to help eliminate particles left behind. Continue until it looks like your original drawing! Consider coating the piece with a protective layer to help protect your hard work.

Method #3 - Power Tool Engraving

Power Tool Engraving

Image Source: Leah Design

Some metal engravers use a method known as rotary engraving. This is still manual engraving but with the help of electricity. You can also choose the depth and width of the engraving to help make the perfect design. You’ll need a rotary tool like a Dremel, tool bits, and clamps to keep your material still.

To use the rotary engraving method:

  1. Prepare the metal: Clean the metal that you want to use. Take a vinyl sticker and draft your design to apply it to the metal. Place on the metal and trace with a marker before removing the sticker.
  2. Start etching: Insert a bit into the rotary tool and turn it on. Slowly start to follow the design to etch it into the surface. Start with a lower speed and increase as needed. This takes some time and practice! You may need to go over this a few times to get a deeper engraving.
  3. Finish the piece: Use a cloth or a brush to remove the metal shavings, and enjoy the finished design!

Method #4 - Cricut Engraving

Cricut Engraving

Image Source: Cricut

You can use a Cricut machine to engrave metal, though it’s not as precise as a laser engraver. To do this, you need a Cricut machine that can use the Cricut Engraving Tip, a strong grip mat, and a computer with Cricut Design Space.

Here’s how it works:

  1. Prepare the design: Create your design in Cricut Design Space. You can start with a template or import a design that you already have available.
  2. Set up the machine: Set up the Cricut machine with the engraving tip attached.
  3. Load your material: Add the metal and the strong grip mat to the right spot. Consider adding some masking tape to keep the metal in place.
  4. Start engraving: With the metal in place and the design ready to go, you can load the mat into the machine and let it go. The machine will do all the work for you.
  5. Admire your awesome work!

Method #5 - CNC Engraving

CNC Engraving

Image Source: AT-Machining

CNC engraving works just like rotary engraving but on an automated machine. The CNC machine does all the engraving for you, which makes it super easy.

CNC engraving can go deeper than laser engraving, but it works on fewer materials. You’ll want to research what kind of materials each type of machine can handle to see if you can make what you want.

You’ll need a few tools for this one, including a CNC machine and tool bits, like a diamond cutter, twist drills, or v-bits.

To use CNC engraving on metal, simply:

  • Place the material: Secure the metal onto the CNC machine so it doesn’t move while engraving.
  • Choose the drill bit: Choose the right drill bit for your CNC machine. This depends on how thick the material is.
  • Prepare the design: Load your design into the CNC software and choose your engraving settings. (See your machine’s instructions for more info.)
  • Engrave: Push start to get everything rolling. The amount of time the engraving takes can depend on the metal and the complexity of the design. After the engraving is done, use a nylon flap to help clean and polish the area and remove the rough edges.
  • Finish it off: You can polish or lacquer the design to make it stronger and shinier. Enjoy your finished piece!

Final Thoughts

Now you know all the amazing methods for engraving metal! Which one will you choose? We can’t wait to see all the amazing things you’ll create.

If you’re interested in laser engraving, check out our beginner’s guide to laser engraving to get a more in-depth look at how this process works and how to stay safe while crafting.

And if you’re looking for an affordable and high-performance laser engraving machine with basic metal engraving capabilities, we can’t recommend the xTool F1 enough! Learn more in our guide to the best laser engravers for small business.

👀 ✨ And keep an eye out for the new xTool F1 Ultra that is even better for metal engraving!

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What type of metal should I choose for engraving?

Many types work well, including silver, gold, copper, brass, aluminum, and stainless steel. You can choose any of these metals, but research your engraving tool of choice to see what it can handle.

Can I engrave on plated or coated metals?

This depends on the material and if it’s designed for engraving. For example, powder-coated tumblers look amazing when etched with a laser engraver.

Do specific engraving methods work best for different metal types?

Laser engraving can work on most types of metal and is often the best option if you only want to purchase one tool to get it done. Choose an infrared laser for basic metal engraving that etches a few layers into the surface of metal, or a fiber laser if you want better quality and deeper engravings with more effects. However, other methods can work well on metals, too. It depends on the complexity of the engraving and the precision you’re looking for.

Can I engrave a picture on metal?

You can engrave almost anything on metal, including pictures, designs, text, logos, and more. You may want to go with laser engraving, which can handle the tiny details of intricate designs.

How deep can the metal be engraved?

The depth of the metal you engrave will depend on the method you use, how you intend to use it, and the type of metal. Hand engraving is shallower than laser engraving, so it may be better for a thinner piece of metal. CNC engraving is deeper than laser engraving, but it works on fewer materials. Fiber lasers are better for metal engraving than infrared, though both can work. CO2 and diode lasers can only mark metals or remove coating from them—they don't actually cut into the material.

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