Both etching and engraving are techniques to form permanent marks, patterns and textures on an object.
The usual question that I get is:
“What is the difference between etching and engraving?”
Engraving is the removal of material by physically working the surface texture through mechanical means.
Examples of this range from:
- Simple hand points tapped against the glass to produce a dotted effect (referred to as stippling).
- Gravers or burins used to scratch the surface of the glass (as used in scratch or line engraving).
- Use of cutting wheels on a lathe or mandrel used in combination with a cutting fluid. This is the modern descendant of traditional cut-glass techniques used to create fine glass drink and glassware.
- Application of high speed rotary bits (such as powered drills, shanked abrasive stones and shaped cutters) to work the surface, this is often referred to as drill engraving.
Etching is the removal of the surface of the material usually by either application of an acidic substance, heat or by use of a harder material that is mechanically projected or fired onto the surface.
Examples of these are:
- Acid etching – by application of an acid or mordant solution (French for biting) which chemically dissolves the surface layer. This has traditionally been used in lithographic techniques and was originally used for creation of printing screens and plates.
- Abrasive basting (also known as shot, grit or sand blasting) – this uses compressed air to physically project abrasive particles at the surface at high speeds, physically removing the surface through micro-chipping. The type of blasting depends upon the abrasive material being used which changes the aggressiveness and effect of the blasting. This is my primary technique and I have developed several different combinations of abrasive, pressure and application depending of the effect that I am desiring.
- Laser etching – the application of ultra-focused collimated light to heat up a single spot (typically circa 0.012” or 0.3mm in diameter) to physically spall the surface off through thermal shock. This is then moved over the scanned over the surface to treat the desired area. Laser processing was how I first got into etching
- Waterjet etching – this technique uses ultra-high pressure water to project the abrasive particles against the surface in a similar manner to abrasive blasting, the only difference is the propelling medium (in this case water rather than compressed gas) and the size and complexity of the cnc machinery required to undertake the work. Waterjets as industrial machines usually reserved for cutting large and extremely hard materials.
Both engraving and etching are similar and there is a broad spectrum of overlap between the techniques. My primary focus is on abrasive blasting and drill engraving, although I use these for my own techniques.
In respect to all the artists out there who create such stunning pieces of engraving work and the time and skills involved with traditional and modern engraving methods, I refer to all my works (as does this website) as etchings rather than engraving as that is where my primary expressive abilities are.
But I don’t just employ standard techniques, after all I’m self-taught and may have picked up many bad habits along the way, but that has allowed me to develop my own unique techniques that are not part of traditional etching or engraving.
After in taking inspiration from the late, great Frank Sinatra: I do it my way!