What Are the Different Types of Engraving Tools?

Jean Marie Asta

Engraving tools come in a variety of models and makes. Many of these use different methods of engraving and engrave different types of materials. Engraved material can include metals, glass, stone, and print materials. The types of engraving tools include etching pencils and pens, sandblasting pens, engraving machines, and diamond wheel points, among others. Hobbyists and artists will find unique uses with these tools and differing contexts of use.

Engraving machines can engrave metals like brass.
Engraving machines can engrave metals like brass.

Resists and stencils are a common tool used for engraving either by hand or machine. They can be precut or they can be custom made, and the materials to make one can be found in craft stores. Resists and stencils can also be used in production lines for processing boards in computers and embossing numbers into products made of metal. In manufacturing, in conjunction with resists and stencils, chemicals are applied to the exposed surface of the metal, plastic, wood or glass product. The product, while still covered with the resist or stencil, is dipped into some kind of chemical bath where the exposed surface of the product becomes etched in the desired shape.

Engraving hand tools are commonly made of carbon steel and hardened steel.
Engraving hand tools are commonly made of carbon steel and hardened steel.

Etching pens, engraving pens and sandblasting pens are types of manual engraving tools. All of these tools use different parts and techniques to engrave onto certain materials. Etching pens can be used as a welding device or use electromagnetism to rapidly vibrate the pen, allowing a surface to be etched. Engraving pens have diamond tips on one end to cut surfaces, giving the engraver easy handling and the benefit of being able to cut in a free form fashion. Sandblasting pens etch and engrave surfaces, most likely marble or glass, by blasting an abrasive material onto the surface.

Machines for engraving are also a common engraving tool used by hobbyists and in commercial or manufacturing jobs. Common materials engraved with these tools include plastic, marble, glass, acrylic, brass, aluminum and wood. These types of engraving tools can use lasers or sandblasting, which engraves the material with a diamond point bit. Engraving machines may also use abrasive chemicals and stencils to do an engraving job.

Laser engraving machines are beneficial in that they do not use tool bits which are subject to wear and replacement. The technology of these types of engraving tools is complex and involves computer systems. It is also beneficial because it is fast paced and produces clean, precise engravings. This industrial engraving tool is not likely to be seen in a hobbyist’s workshop.

Engraving may be used to create designs on goblets and other metal tableware.
Engraving may be used to create designs on goblets and other metal tableware.

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Discussion Comments


@SkyWhisperer - Not all engraving is done for artistic purposes, as I think should be clear. CNC engraving tools are used to engrave metal part information, among other tidbits of data, on manufactured metal components.

Some of these CNC machines are programmable so that the computer basically directs the engraver and lathe tool and tells it what to do. This relieves you of the burden of having to engrave with your hands. Hand engraving is a challenge if your hands are wobbly.


@Charred - It sounds interesting. I imagine those kinds of machines would be expensive and outside the reach of the typical hobbyist.

I envision that the hobbyist will probably want to stay with stencils or resists to do his work or perhaps some hand engraving tools. If you’re just starting out you can even get an easy, handheld electric engraving tool.

With these tools you can engrave mainly on wood. You might be able to do glass but you’ll have to be careful. What I like about these tools is that they are portable and easy to hold, so they allow you to have the precision and the control that you need to make nice, fine carvings.

You can practice with them until you become expert at engraving, at which point you can graduate to the bigger engraving machines.


I think laser engraving tools are the best for the aspiring entrepreneur. I haven’t used them myself but I have a friend who’s a graphic artist.

He told me about these machines that can engrave on just about anything, including glass. With the laser engraving tool you can take your favorite photos or artistic designs and “etch” them onto any surface you can imagine.

This makes it possible for you to create memorabilia or personal mementos. Some shops build their whole business around creating personalized items and they make a lot of money doing it.

What’s neat is that customers can use stuff they already have for the materials, like vases or whatever. You are simply charging for the surface so you’re not incurring costs on materials.

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