How to Engrave: A Beginners Guide

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Have you been thinking about giving engraving a go? Whether you want to liven up everyday household objects or make a personalized gift for someone special, engraving is all about practice, confidence and perseverance. In our handy beginner’s guide, we run you through everything from picking the right materials to the Dremel accessories that go with them, so you can start your journey in no time.

Step 1: Choosing the right accessories for your engraving. What’s what?

There are dozens of accessories to choose from, and finding the right one can seem like a daunting task. To make it simple, we’ve chosen the top 3 accessories you should use for engraving ranging from more general purpose bits to accessories that let you engrave those precise details.

High Speed Cutters- Use these for engraving, shaping, hollowing and grooving soft materials like wood and leather.  (Recommended accessory model numbers in this category include: 125, 192, 194)

Engraving Cutters - Perfect for more detailed work, especially when the material isn’t so hard. Engraving cutters also work just as well on wood and plastic as they do on softer metals like brass. (Recommended accessory model numbers in this category include: 106, 107, 113)

Diamond Wheel Points- Now we’re getting big on detail! Diamond Wheel Points like the 7134 5/64 are designed specifically for fine-detail work. The bits are covered in diamond particles, which make them perfect for engraving harder materials, like glass.  (Recommended accessory model numbers in this category include: 7103, 7134, 7144)


Looking for something special or the accessories mentioned above?

Click here to view the full array of Dremel accessories


Step 2: Set yourself up for success, find the right attachment.

Think of attachments as the things that help your project go that little bit more smoothly.  For this engraving, we used the Dremel Flex Shaft. This flexible shaft attaches to your Dremel rotary tool in seconds, and the 36 inch cable provides comfort and flexibility during use. Our favorite part of using the flex shaft is that it minimizes the weight of the original Dremel tool. Weighing only 15 ounces, the flex shaft is extremely lightweight – perfect for engraving more fragile pieces like wine glasses.

Alternatively, for improved tool balance and control, use the Dremel Detailer’s Grip. It transfers the weight of the tool to the palm of your hand to give that perfect balance and control needed for precise work like engraving, carving, etching, and polishing. The Dremel Detailer’s Grip also fits on any rotary tool with a threaded nose piece. 


Helpful Tip: For extended use we recommend using the new Dremel Stylo+ Versatile Craft Tool. The Stylo+ works similarly to the flex shaft.  Further, it has a thinner cord, remains cooler in operation, and is lighter to maneuver since you do not need to connect it to a separate tool. The comfort and ergonomic design similar to a pen make long engraving sessions with the Stylo+ even easier on your hands.

Step 3: You’re ready to engrave! But engrave what? Here’s how to choose the right piece for your first engraving

Material - For your first engraving, it’s better to choose a material that is on the softer side. Why? Softer materials are easier to control, especially if you’re not used to handling a rotary tool. Metals like brass and copper are the softest (so leave that titanium watch until you’re a little more experienced!) Other soft materials we recommend trying for your first couple go-arounds are leather, plastics and wood.

Shape - In addition to finding the right material, you’ll also want to pay attention to the surface shape. For your first few times engraving, go with a flat surface. This way, you don’t have to worry about angles or continually re-positioning the object or the tool. Now you can focus on getting used to how the tool feels during engraving. Think glass coasters, metal plaques, leather phone cases and wooden cheese boards.  These objects make great starting points.

Step 4: Think smart, be safe!

Now that you’ve got the right tools for the job and a surface that’s ready to be engraved, you’re probably itching to get started. But before you do, it’s time for a quick safety recap. Protect your hands with leather gloves; not only will they prevent cuts and scrapes, they’re also more resistant to wear and tear. Goggles and a dust mask are also etching essentials – you don’t want to be breathing in tiny glass or metal shards (or getting it anywhere near your eyes). And if the antique serving platter you’ve got your eye on shows any signs of rust, be sure to clean it up before engraving! Use the 428 ¾” Carbon Steel Brush to remove rust and let that true beauty shine.

Step 5: Prepare the material

If you’re engraving glass, make sure it’s clean and dry. All traces of grease and washing liquid should be completely removed so you can see clearly, but also so you don’t encounter any issues during the transfer stage (step 6). Engraving wood? Make sure it’s untreated. If you’ve got your heart set on etching wood that’s already been painted, you’ll have to sand it back and wipe it with a damp cloth before you begin. Once your surface is clean and dry, you’re ready to go.

Step 6. Transfer your pattern onto the material

You can always engrave free-hand, but having a pattern to trace over is a great way to start out. To transfer a pattern onto a metal surface, use carbon paper. Simply place the paper on the metal surface, lay the pattern on top and trace over it with a pencil. Etching glass is even easier: pop the pattern underneath the glass, and you’ll be able to see straight through and use it as your guide. Just be sure to stick it to the glass so it doesn’t move around halfway through engraving.

Helpful TipWhen engraving a glass or cylindrical objectalways look straight on.  Looking at an angle means your lines have a greater chance of becoming skewed.


Ready set engrave!

Now you are all set to start your first engraving! Be sure to share your next project in the Community Cafe or on your social media feed with #sharemydremel! Do you have all the tools you need?