Engraving is the practice of incising a design on to a hard, usually flat surface, by cutting grooves into it. The result may be a decorated object in itself, as when silver, gold, steel, or glass are engraved, or may provide an intaglio printing plate, of copper or another metal, for printing images on paper as prints or illustrations; these images are also called engravings.
Engraving was a historically important method of producing images on paper, both in artistic printmaking, and also for commercial reproductions and illustrations for books and magazines. It has long been replaced by various photographic processes in its commercial applications and, partly because of the difficulty of learning the technique, is much less common in printmaking, where it has been largely replaced by etching and other techniques.
Traditional engraving, by burin or with the use of machines, continues to be practised by goldsmiths, glass engravers, gunsmiths and others, while modern industrial techniques such as photoengraving and laser engraving have many important applications. Engraved gems were an important art in the ancient world, revived at the Renaissance, although the term traditionally covers relief as well as intaglio carvings, and is essentially a branch of sculpture rather than engraving, as drills were the usual tools.
Other terms often used for printed engravings are copper engraving, copper-plate engraving or line engraving. Steel engraving is the same technique, on steel or steel-faced plates, and was mostly used for banknotes, illustrations for books, magazines and reproductive prints, letterheads and similar uses from about 1790 to the early 20th century, when the technique became less popular, except for banknotes and other forms of security printing. Especially in the past, "engraving" was often used very loosely to cover several printmaking techniques, so that many so-called engravings were in fact produced by totally different techniques, such as etching or mezzotint.
Engravers use a hardened steel tool called a burin to cut the design into the surface, most traditionally a copper plate. Gravers come in a variety of shapes and sizes that yield different line types. The burin produces a unique and recognizable quality of line that is characterized by its steady, deliberate appearance and clean edges. The angle tint tool has a slightly curved tip that is commonly used in printmaking. Florentine liners are flat-bottomed tools with multiple lines incised into them, used to do fill work on larger areas. Flat gravers are used for doing fill work on letters, as well as most musical instrument engraving work. Round gravers are commonly used on silver to create bright cuts (also called bright-cut engraving), as well as other hard-to-cut metals such as nickel and steel. Burins are either square or elongated diamond-shaped and used for cutting straight lines. Other tools such as mezzotint rockers, roulets and burnishers are used for texturing effects.
Originally, there was only hand engraving. In that process the burin is held in the hand with the handle in the palm of the hand. The point of a new tool is snapped off to a length just longer than the engraver's fingers, and the point reground. The actual engraving is done by a combination of pressure and manipulating the workpiece. That process is still practiced today, but modern technology has brought various mechanically assisted engraving systems. In essence they are handles which resemble burins, but inside are pneumatic pistons that drive the point much like a jackhammer, but at speeds up to 15,000 strokes per minute, thereby greatly reducing the effort needed in traditional hand engraving.
In addition, there are engraving machines. They are usually used for lettering, using a pantographic system. There are versions for the insides of rings and also the outsides of larger pieces. Such machines are commonly used for inscriptions on rings, lockets and presentation pieces.
Hand engraving is a term for engraving not used for printing plates, but to personalize or embellish jewelry, firearms, trophies, knives and other fine metal goods. Each graver is different and has its own use. There are round gravers which make round cuts, and V-point gravers which make angled cuts. V-point can be anywhere from 60 to 130 degrees, depending on purpose and effect. These gravers have very small cutting points. Professional engravers engrave with resolution of up to 40 lines per mm in high grade work creating game scenes and scrollwork. Dies used in mass production of molded parts are sometimes hand engraved to add special touches or certain information such as part numbers.
Musical instrument engraving on American-made brass instruments flourished in the 1920s and utilizes a specialized engraving technique where a series of different width flat gravers are "walked" across the surface of the instrument to make zig-zag lines and patterns. This technique is necessary due to the unusually large size of musical instruments versus firearms or jewelry.
History and usage
The first evidence for humans engraving patterns are hatched banding upon ostrich eggshells used as water containers found in South Africa in the Diepkloof Rock Shelter and dated to the Middle Stone Age around 60,000 BP. Engraving on bone and ivory is an important technique for the Art of the Upper Paleolithic, and larger engraved petroglyphs on rocks are found from many prehistoric periods and cultures around the world.
In antiquity, the only engraving on metal that could be carried out is the shallow grooves found in some jewellery after the beginning of the 1st Millennium B.C. The majority of so-called engraved designs on ancient gold rings or other items were produced by chasing or sometimes a combination of lost-wax casting and chasing. Engraved gem is a term for any carved or engraved semi-precious stone; this was an important if small-scale art form in the ancient world, and remained popular until the 19th century.
However the use of glass engraving, usually using a wheel, to cut decorative scenes or figures into glass vessels, in imitation of hardstone carvings, appears as early as the first century AD, continuing into the fourth century CE at urban centers such as Cologne and Rome, and appears to have ceased sometime in the fifth century. Decoration was first based on Greek mythology, before hunting and circus scenes became popular, as well as imagery drawn from the Old and New Testament. It appears to have been used to mimic the appearance of precious metal wares during the same period, including the application of gold leaf, and could be cut free-hand or with lathes. As many as twenty separate stylistic workshops have been identified, and it seems likely that the engraver and vessel producer were separate craftsmen.
In the European Middle Ages goldsmiths used engraving to decorate and inscribe metalwork. It is thought that they began to print impressions of their designs to record them. From this grew the engraving of copper printing plates to produce artistic images on paper, known as old master prints in Germany in the 1430s. Italy soon followed. Many early engravers came from a goldsmithing background. The first and greatest period of the engraving was from about 1470 to 1530, with such masters as Martin Schongauer, Albrecht Dürer, and Lucas van Leiden.
Thereafter engraving tended to lose ground to etching, which was a much easier technique for the artist to learn. But many prints combined the two techniques: although Rembrandt's prints are generally all called etchings for convenience, many of them have some burin or drypoint work, and some have nothing else. By the nineteenth century, most engraving was for commercial illustration.
Before the advent of photography, engraving was used to reproduce other forms of art, for example paintings. Engravings continued to be common in newspapers and many books into the early 20th century, as they were cheaper to use in printing than photographic images. Engraving has also always been used as a method of original artistic expression.
The first music printed from engraved plates dates from 1446 and most printed music was produced through engraving from roughly 1700-1860. From 1860-1990 most printed music was produced through a combination of engraved master plates reproduced through offset lithography.
In music printing, engraving is an intaglio technique. The first comprehensive account is given by Mme Delusse in her article "Gravure en lettres, en géographie et en musique" in Diderot's Encyclopedia. The technique involved a five-pointed raster to score staff lines, various punches in the shapes of notes and standard musical symbols, and various burins and scorers for lines and slurs. For correction, the plate was held on a bench by callipers, hit with a dot punch on the opposite side, and burnished to remove any signs of the defective work. The process involved intensive pre-planning of the layout, and many manuscript scores with engraver's planning marks survive from the 18th and 19th centuries .
By 1837 pewter had replaced copper as a medium, and Berthiaud gives an account with an entire chapter devoted to music (Novel manuel complet de l'imprimeur en taille douce, 1837). Printing from such plates required a separate inking to be carried out cold, and the printing press used less pressure. Generally, four pages of music were engraved on a single plate. Because music engraving houses trained engravers through years of apprenticeship, very little is known about the practice. Fewer than one dozen sets of tools survive in libraries and museums . By 1900 music engravers were established in several hundred cities in the world, but the art of storing plates was usually concentrated with publishers. Extensive bombing of Leipzig in 1944, the home of most German engraving and printing firms, destroyed roughly half the world's engraved music plates.
Because of the high level of microscopic detail that can be achieved by a master engraver, counterfeiting of engraved designs is well-nigh impossible, and modern banknotes are almost always engraved, as are plates for printing money, checks, bonds and other security-sensitive papers. The engraving is so fine that a normal printer cannot recreate the detail of hand engraved images, nor can it be scanned. In the U.S. Bureau of Engraving and Printing, more than one hand engraver will work on the same plate, making it nearly impossible for one person to duplicate all the engraving on a particular banknote or document.
Many classic postage stamps were engraved, although the practice is now mostly confined to particular countries, or used when a more "elegant" design is desired and a limited color range is acceptable.
The modern discipline of hand engraving, as it is called in a metalworking context, survives largely in a few specialized fields. The highest levels of the art are found on firearms and other metal weaponry, jewelry and musical instruments. In most industrial uses like production of intaglio plates for commercial applications, Another application of modern engraving is found in the printing industry. There, every day thousands of pages are mechanically engraved onto rotogravure cylinders, typically a steel base with a copper layer of about 0.1 mm in which the image is transferred. After engraving the image is protected with an approximately 6 µm chrome layer. Using this process the image will survive for over a million copies in high speed printing presses. Engraving machines such as GUN~BOW (one of the leading engraving brands) are the best examples of hand engraving tools
Nowadays hand engraving has been replaced with milling using CNC engraving or milling machines. Still there are certain applications where use of hand engraving tools cannot be replaced.
Engraving machines such as the K500 (packaging) or K6 (publication) by Hell Gravure Systems use a diamond stylus to cut cells. Each cell creates one printing dot later in the process. A K6 can have up to 18 engraving heads each cutting 8.000 cells per second to an accuracy of .1 µm and below. They are fully computer-controlled and the whole process of cylinder-making is fully automated.
Retail engraving machines tend to be focused around ease of use for the operator and the ability to do a wide variety of items including flat metal plates, jewelry of different shapes and sizes, as well as cylindrical items such as mugs and champagne flutes. They will typically be able to do a variety of surfaces including metal, crystal, plastic or glass. With state-of-the-art machinery it's easy to have a simple, single item complete in under ten minutes.
The engraving process with diamonds is state-of-the-art since the 1960s.
Today laser engraving machines are in development but still mechanical cutting has proven its strength in economical terms and quality. More than 4,000 engravers make approx. 8 Mio printing cylinders worldwide per year.
In traditional engraving, which is a purely linear medium, the impression of half-tones was created by making many very thin parallel lines, a technique called hatching. When two sets of parallel-line hatchings intersected each other for higher density, the resulting pattern was known as cross-hatching. Patterns of dots were also used in a technique called stippling, first used around 1505 by Giulio Campagnola. Claude Mellan was one of many 17th-century engravers with a very well-developed technique of using parallel lines of varying thickness (known as the "swelling line") to give subtle effects of tone (as was Goltzius - see picture below). One famous example is his Sudarium of Saint Veronica (1649), an engraving of the face of Jesus made from a single spiraling line that starts at the tip of Jesus's nose.
The earliest allusion to engraving in the Bible may be the reference to Judah's seal ring (Ge 38:18), followed by (Ex 39.30). Engraving was commonly done with pointed tools of iron or even with diamond points. (Jer 17:1).
Each of the two onyx stones on the shoulder-pieces of the high priest’s ephod was engraved with the names of six different tribes of Israel, and each of the 12 precious stones that adorned his breastpiece was engraved with the name of one of the tribes. The holy sign of dedication, the shining gold plate on the high priest's turban, was engraved with the words: "Holiness belongs to Adonai." Bezalel, along with Oholiab, was qualified to do this specialized engraving work as well as to train others.—Ex 35:30-35; 28:9-12; 39:6-14, 30.
- Paul Gustave Doré (1832–1883)
- Jacopo de' Barbari (active 1500-1515)
- Theodore de Bry (1528–1598)
- William Blake (1757–1827)
- Giulio Campagnola (active c.1505-1515)
- Albrecht Dürer (1471–1528)
- Master ES (active c.1450-1470)
- Maso Finiguerra (1426–1464)
- Hendrick Goltzius (c.1558-1617)
- Francisco de Goya (1746–1828)
- Stanley William Hayter (1901–1988)
- William Hogarth (1697–1764)
- Lucas van Leyden (1494–1533)
- Andrea Mantegna (c.1431-1506)
- Claude Mellan (1598–1688)
- Israhel van Meckenem (c.1445-1501)
- Matthäus Merian (1593–1650)
- Alardo de Popma, (1617-1641)
- José Guadalupe Posada (1852–1913)
- Jan Saenredam (1565–1607)
- Martin Schöngauer (c.1450-1491)
- Maerten de Vos (1532–1603)
- Anthonie Wierix (1552–1624)
- Hieronymus Wierix (1553–1619)
- Sam Alfano
- Malcolm Appleby
- A. B. Bradshaw
- Thierry Duguet
- Geoffroy Gournet
- Ken Hunt
- Harry Kell
- Harry Morris (sometimes Henry Morris)
- Jack Sumner
Of postage stamps:
- Godfrey Lundberg (1879–1933)
- ^ "Abraham Bosse". Bibliothèque nationale de France. 1645. http://expositions.bnf.fr/bosse/grand/214.htm. Retrieved 2008-07-15.
- ^ Texier PJ, Porraz G, Parkington J, Rigaud JP, Poggenpoel C, Miller C, Tribolo C, Cartwright C, Coudenneau A, Klein R, Steele T, Verna C. (2010). "A Howiesons Poort tradition of engraving ostrich eggshell containers dated to 60,000 years ago at Diepkloof Rock Shelter, South Africa". Proceedings of the National Academy of Science U S A. doi:10.1073/pnas.0913047107 PMID 20194764
- ^ a b Caron, B., A Roman Figure-Engraved Glass Bowl. Metropolitan Museum Journal, 1993. 28: p. 47-55.
- ^ a b Fleming, S.J., Roman Glass; reflections on cultural change. 1999, Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology.
- ^ Poole, H. Edmund (1980). Music Printing and Publishing. New York: Norton. pp. 40-54.
- ^ Gamble, William (1923). Music Engraving and Printing: Historical and Technical Treatise. London: Pitman.
- A. M. Hind (1923, repr. 1963). History of Engraving and Etching. Dover. ISBN 0-486-20954-7
- A. Gross (1970). Etching, Engraving, and Intaglio Printing.
- G. Duplessis (1989). Wonders of Engraving.
- Carles Codina (2002). "Hand engraving". Goldsmithing & Silver Work: Jewelry, Vessels & Ornaments. Lark Books. pp. 38–43. ISBN 1579903568. http://books.google.com/books?id=ZguWW8mK2Z8C&printsec=frontcover&cad=0#v=onepage&q&f=false.
- Steve Lindsay (2003). "The Art of Modern Hand Engraving". In David Darom and Eric Eggly. Art and Design in Modern Custom Folding Knives. Tipografia Edizioni Saviolo. pp. 33–44. ISBN 9650711740. http://books.google.com/books?id=JDaOu2-RVPEC&printsec=frontcover&cad=0#v=onepage&q&f=false.
- Engraving from the Metropolitan Museum of Art Timeline of Art History
- Links to thousands of museum online images of engravings from Bodkin Prints
- Engravings from the Armenian early published books 1512-1800
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