Day 19 – It Actually Works?!

17 days have gone since I started the process of making myself a homemade engraving machine, following the instruction of Mr. Shaun Hughes’ YouTube video. I toiled so many hours in sweat and frustration while created so much mess which ate up all the space in my already tiny bed room. It’s the dust from filing, sawing and drilling that irks me particularly since this is where I sleep after all.

This afternoon I sat it down properly and seriously attempted to try engraving with it. To my pleasant surprise, after a bit of tweaking, even with the current setup, my homemade machine kind of works!



Of course, it is far from perfect. The biggest problem now is that it lacks power; which I believe can be adjusted with a new piston and spring (which are both making their way to me at the moment). Other minor adjustments can be experimented with and made as we go along.

The most important bit of information I got is that my 3D printed hand piece is usable! That made me really happy. I will need to shorten my existing gravers though (Ugh. Most dust.). Not sure if the saw blade on my jeweler’s saw can cut through high speed steel though. *Shrug* There’s only one way to find out.

I will probably have to change the tubes too. These silicone tubes are too soft; sometimes blocking the air flow from the compressor at bent corners.


0830 PM

Tried to engrave something impromptu on my copper test plate. I don’t know what better way than to give the machine a try.

First thing on the top of my mind? A flower, of course.

Quickly sketched an imaginary 5-petals flower on my copper test piece with a pencil and went to work. Here are my observations.

  1. The piston. As it is nothing more than a bolt with several nuts in a resin casing, I had to take it out of the barrel and tighten the nuts every once in a while. It works well enough until those damn ball bearings arrive.
  2. The spring, at the moment, is nothing more than a flat piece of 925 flat wire I found in my jewellery tool box which I coiled up around a Chinese paint brush and work hardened by keep stretching and closing repeatedly. It works surprisingly decent. Still waiting for my box of compressed springs.
  3. My existing gravers are too long. I reckon the best length to work with, when using the GRS tool holder combined with my 3D printed hand piece, is anything around 50mm. Laughably, I tried to use my jeweler saw and to cut the 2mm round high speed steel rods I have; didn’t even make a scratch. Amazing. I am learning a lot about the hardness of various metals in the progress of this project. Did a quick search online on the subject of cutting high speed steel, the recommended method seems to be cut a groove with an abrasive disc, then snap the steel apart on a vise and a hammer. I have placed an order for some abrasive discs online this afternoon.
  4. When the piston hits the back of the tools holder, it can get really loud. Since I don’t have a microscope (yet) and with the magnifying glass, I need to keep my face relatively close to my work to see what I’m engraving, the constant impacts from the piston can extremely noisy and annoying. Not wanting to disturb the slumber of my family if I ever work through the night, I did a little test by turning on the machine, set to a certain speed, and stepped out of my room and closed the door. Then I walked around, listening and try to imagine if the noise is audible enough. It wasn’t that bad, but it might be different case in the dead of the night.

    I will probably put on my earplugs to keep out the impact noise and listen to some music while I work.

That’s all the observations I have during my first trial run with my machine. Although I have made many purchases for this project, luckily for me, they are inexpensive items.

Like Mr.Shaun Hughes said (not in exact words), spending this small amount of money to get a tool which averagely cost thousands of dollars and works almost just as well, is money well spent. Nothing to complain really.

Now, while I wait for my online purchases to arrive, I will do some designing on what I want to engrave and learn the proper way to transfer my design on my copper practice plate.

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I design fine jewellery for a living.