If you’ve ever wondered what is engraving or how it works, you’ve come to the right place. Read on to discover how experts like The Engraving People engrave surfaces to perfection, time and time again.

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    How Does Engraving Work?

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    The metal plate is first polished to remove all scratches and flaws from the surface, leaving only the intended lines visible. The printmaker incises or cuts a composition straight into the surface of a metal plate using a sharp tool called a burin to make an engraving. A steel shaft with a bevelled diamond-shaped tip set into a rounded wooden handle may also be employed.

    The printmaker grasps the burin with their thumb and third finger while holding it by placing the wooden handle against their palm and securing the shaft with their third and fourth fingers. The burin is then set to touch the plate’s surface. When pressure is applied, the burin cuts away a thin layer of metal to form a recessed line or groove in the plate. When a circular saw is used to cut through the plate, this thin curl of metal residue is sliced away as well.

    The diameter of the grooves produced by a burin is determined in part by the size of its blade. The pressure that the printmaker applies to the burin can also be used to produce thinner or thicker grooves in the plate. In order to create clean edges, both power and precision are required from the printer.

    To assist realign and manoeuvring the plate, the printmaker applies a metal plate to a sandbag or pillow.
    The printmaker uses a system of hatching to improve a purely linear piece with tone—lines, dots, and dashes, among other things, are placed closely together to build denser parts in the print that hold more ink. The closer the marks are placed together, the darker those spaces will become. The printmaker must be careful not to cut the lines or markings too closely together, as this might cause the ink to seep between them.

    After the complete composition has been sliced into the plate, it’s time to ink it. In order to distribute ink uniformly over the entire face of the plate, a cloth ball, cardboard tab, or equivalent medium is used; this same material is also used to remove most of the extra ink from the surface. The platter is then wiped clean with a tarlatan rag (starched cheesecloth).

    If all else fails, printmakers may use their hands or the backs of their hands to wipe away the last few droplets of ink. A printmaker might, in some cases, rather than cleaning the plate completely, leave a thin layer of ink on it to create tone instead.

    It’s time to print after the plate has been cleaned to the appropriate level. Hand-pressing the paper against the plate, however, was not always required to create intaglio prints. The most the frequent press used to force the paper into the finely cut lines was a press with rollers in most cases.

    Rubbing alcohol is poured into the ink chamber and a clean, dry cloth with a little bit of rubbing alcohol on it is pushed through the dampened paper. Before they’re put through the press together, they’re wrapped in printing blankets, which are often composed of felt, to minimize strain on the metal plate.

    When the plate passes through the press, a negative impression of the original engraved composition is imprinted on paper. The pressure from the press not only pushes ink onto damp paper, but it also forms an outline of the metal plate’s outer edges, known as a plate mark.

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