That question has partly been answered by Shaun Hughes himself - he owns GRS professional gear but has chosen to use his DIY graver exclusively over the last several months.Like gtsport he has fine tuned it and as his youtube channel shows he has done the finest of work with it
Originally Posted by Elvis
I made up a simple system myself about a year ago when I was thinking I needed to send my Ngraver out for service.
A simple dental pump with a sewing machine motor, a handpiece made from an automatic center punch.
Start using it and forgot about sending out the Ngraver.
It's sitting on the shelf.
My home made tools (made more than one) work better for me, due to size and flexibility, than the flexshaft for mostly everything.
Really deep or heavy engraving, maybe the Ngraver might have more power, but haven't needed it yet.
No spring, different weight pistons, different tool holding designs all work out well with sharp, proper geometry tools.
I have briefly tried the GRS system, feels very similar to my tool, just works on a different principal.
That said, I am using the homemade tools to make side money, and saving up to pay for a good microscope and a professional engraving tool.
Even though I have a couple of $15 caliper from Harbor freight, I prefer my Starrett calipers for real work.
( Tool addict )
Thank you for sharing your setup and experiences. I have always been in awe of the ornamental engravings such as those on this forum, but it is only recently that I have allowed myself to actually pursue it as a potential hobby.
Through a very generous distributor I was able to attend a showing/workshop where the GRS systems were explained and participants were given the opportunity to use and test them. By exception, as an interested "hobbyist", I was allowed to partake.
It was absolutely thrilling to touch and use the very same tools "real" engravers use in their craft. Even over the span of an hour or two I went from disastrous scratches to "cleaner" lines which was highly motivating and exciting!
Perhaps it is actually within my possibilities to pursue this craft!
I have since bought the DVD on scroll design by Sam Alfano, worked through it, and am now reading/working through the book by Ron Smith on advanced scroll design.
I have always loved to draw and be creative and am even a schooled metal worker but I somehow ended up as a programmer. Engraving really seems to be a thing that encapsulates a lot of what I love.
With that said, there is a very steep investment when it comes to the (official) tools required. I am actually familiar with Shaun's channel (he was -very- encouraging when we had a small chat during a live cast) and also with Necj's channel (your parrot was beautiful) and the results they manage to aquire with their tools are very inspiring.
As a metalworker (schooled not employed as one) I fully appreciate the value of good tools but we are talking about a price difference of 15 to 20 times to that of the setup shown. That is not even including the compressor that has to be bought separately and needs to be oilfree for GRS tools which jacks up the price as well. I will be engraving from my (small) home, most likely a living room, so space is also a factor.
I am quite confident that I will be able to build this myself except for the handpiece. While I can work with metal I simply don't have the machinery available to me like a lathe. I think I remember Shaun modding an imposter handpiece, perhaps that is a viable solution.
I am also a little unclear on how to control these machines in a reliable manner. It seems to me there are several factors that dictate the "strength" of the tool.
- Piston weight
- Travel distance of piston
- Air pressure
- Pulse frequency
I am under the impression that, for a setup such as this to work, you are bound to a certain rpm range. If you go too low there simply won't be enough pressure generated because the displaced air volume is low compared to the time a single stroke takes. If you go too high I assume you "choke" the handpiece where the piston/spring combo won't have the resistance and time to reset before the next stroke.
Now this lack of control doesnt have to be bad perse, according to GRS manuals most handpieces seem to operate well somewhere between 2-3000 strokes per minute. I take those values as an indicator that a graver chiseling within that range will at least cut. The control schemes I've seen with footpedals for diy all seem to center around the idea of constraining the air flow to the handpiece. This appears to be in line with how the GRS setup worked that I used as well.
From what I remember you set a fixed stroke speed for the GRS G8 as well, then set the air pressure so the tool starts to vibrate by itself, then keep turning it a little further untill it stops again (I did not understand the mechanical reason behind this but am quite certain I remember correctly) and that should give you the optimal pedal control (play with bias knob for fine control if desired). The foot pedal felt absolutely great to use, it went from very light strokes when pressed just a little all the way to full power. It did not increase the speed, just the intensity of the "knocks".
With this diy setup I expect you set the rpm of the compressor so the tool knocks with the intensity and speed you desire when the pedal is fully depressed (assuming there is a sweet range where the rpm/air pressure moves the piston optimally). And then have the airflow to the handpiece fully choked when the pedal is not pressed/is in neutral. Am I correct?
If so does this not put a lot of stress on all the tubes and the compressor? Or are the pressure differences so small that the compressor can easily handle running this way? I'd love to hear a little more.
I think I have seen your setup on Youtube as well Elvis, you had stuff a little less tied down but I recognize the wooden frame and the fan in the back.
Last edited by jan-willem; 04-20-2017 at 08:14 PM.
here is a tidbit for thought--- the real struggle is less on tool choice, more on controlling the tool of choice. the hi tech stuff just reduces the curve.
Agreed, draw, sketch, engrave with whatever you can get, gain experience, save up to get better tools.
Monk and MoldyJim,
I currently do not have any tools so I can not "engrave with whatever I have". Hence why I am orienting myself on what is available, what costs are associated with the tools and the possibilities of DIY.
I am already drawing and studying scroll work design. No one in this thread ever implied drawing was unnecessary or that once a pneumatic engraving setup was acquired no practice was required.
I find the somewhat dismissive nature of your responses, when potential engravers talk about how to create a starting setup that is within their means and optimal for learning and progress, disappointing.
I am certain you mean well but your response is aking to artists discussing what brushes to use for paining and someone else responding that great artists should be able to create art with a stick in wet sand.
I don't think that was ever a topic of contention, however neither is it the purpose of this thread.
On the topic of saving up for better tools. I do not approach engraving as a way of making money. If it turns out to be as fun an rewarding as I am expecting it to be who knows what tools I end up using. That is no reason to either overextend myself at the start of this hobby by going straight for GRS tools or to start with hand pushing. I am certain a good starting point can be found somewhere in between those two extremes.
Last edited by jan-willem; 04-21-2017 at 08:54 AM.
Thank you for the parrot comment. This was however done without the machine (but could be done also with the machine) i choose clasical hand bulino method for the parrot.
Originally Posted by jan-willem
Now to answer your questions about the machine.. I don't choke the airflow to the compressor. It's like an opened walve with the air passing through until i start to close the gap. It doesn't make strain on the compressor. Sure the compressor gets warm and also a little hot after some time, but adding a fan can keep things cool enough. These compressors are quite tough. Also the tubing is not a problem. I can control the rpm of the motor/strokes with a potentiometer. The thing with the "hit power" is i made a handpiece with a thread so i can screw the lenght of the chamber area to fit my needs/hit power.
To keep it short.. This type of machine can be made/bought for a really minimum amount of cash compared to the Pro machines out there. I am really happy i made one. It's OK to start engraving for newbies and it handles whatever you decide to engrave from copper to steel. Also if someone decided that engraving is not his thing he only lost 100-200 bucks for the machine instead of 1000 for example. Also making DIY things is also fun and you learn a lot making it.
Not for everybody, but it sure was for me. Even now i can't wait to finish my job and go home - fire it up and engrave. It just keep getting better and better. It's fun for me. With time, i can save some money, buy a microscope etc..
Everything has Pro's and Con's it just depends what you need and what works for you.
If i was to save money for Gravermach/Enset etc. i would probably still be without a machine..
Once again many thanks go to Shaun Hughes and everybody on this forum to help me and others with great ideas and free advices. THANK YOU!
Air constriction and compressor pressure
You bring up a very good point and one I also thought about as I was doing research to build the machine. I am not sure I can fully answer your question as I have not yet built a pedal or hand held speed control yet. I think you are exactly right in your assessment of what controls the power of the graver and how it is administered. The speed controller I bought (like the one Shaun uses) has a digital readout that shows increasing numbers as the speed control knob is turned. I am not sure what these numbers measure or mean but it really doesn’t matter as it mainly provides a comparative reference that can help you gauge the relative speed of the piston impacts and it makes setting the speed consistent. From what I can tell, Shaun and others seem to crank the knob until the numbers are running in the 40 to 50 range – then control the airflow to the graver by constricting the air flow – with a pedal that squeezes the air tube shut or cuts off the air supply mechanically. I have found much beyond 50 the stroke is too fast and the engraver doesn’t cut. I first thought of somehow rigging the knob up to a pedal control. But the knob controls the speed of the stroke, so a slow speed say of 20, will have considerably less strokes (and power) than when the speed is cranked up to around 40 and the hand piece is choked down by constricting the air flow. In other words, when the machine is set at 40 you are still getting a much higher number of strokes even when you choke down the air supply to slow the cut. As for the pressure - I have squeezed the air tube completely shut with a pair of pliers and there is no noticeable difference in the way the compressor runs. You would think it would strain the compressor or blow the tube out of the head but it does not seem to have an effect. I guess with the suck/push action there is really no significant pressure build up in the system that would cause adverse effects. I am sure all the kinks are worked out of the commercial systems but with a little experimenting and some fine tuning I think this type of set up will perform very well – at least for the type of engraving that I like to do. I haven’t posted anything to YouTube but I did model my box after the one I saw there (see attached link). My machine works just like his.
I just saw your last post and found your YouTube video. Excellent. I wish I had seen it before I made my machine. Jan-Willem, please defer to Sticks last post as I believe he has solved the constriction/pressure issue with his innovative pedal design. I believe I will make one of those myself. Thanks. I’m sure we would all love to have a Steve Lindsay engraver but it would probably be a waste for me given the limited numbers of guns, knives and tomahawks that I make and engrave each year. My engraving style is simple, crude and unsophisticated when compared to the art I see on this site. I do most of my engraving with a hammer and 3 chisels that I made out of a hay rake tine 15 years ago. I do all the wrong stuff like not properly preparing the metal surfaces and I often engrave free hand without any type of pattern in mind. There are plenty of mistakes, but to me, it’s the imperfections that make the pieces more interesting – perhaps more human. I have no desire to engrave tedious scroll work with machine like precision. So, not having a top of the line, commercial set up is ok for my purposes. In another context, I am usually trying to replicate a historic style from a time gone by where gunsmiths (not professional engravers) often working with crude tools did their own engraving – usually nothing fancy just a few lines – so simple and crude often works for me in that context. Attached a few photos of some of my work below. Elvis
OOPs, I think I must have been less than clear with my contribution. I am sorry if came across as dismissive.
Originally Posted by jan-willem
I meant to do the exact opposite.
My comments were meant to be SUPPORTIVE of making DIY engraving machines, tools and devices.
I use a DIY setup that cost probably less than $50 to make.
Not nearly as clean and neat as yours, but it does the job.
Spending thousands of dollars on the finest, most expensive tools makes the most sense if you are doing it professionally and for profit.
You are doing it for love.
Going out and buying an expensive guitar/rock climbing equipment/motorcycle etc without trying it out first is a sure way to go broke.
I try to make a little side money with my engraving to pay for more or better tools.
Wife has me on a budget, side money is outside her oversight.
Been married to her for 30 years, I know when to say "yes Dear" and walk away.