Engravers are artists that etch specific designs, words, and even images onto different types of materials. The design or the image is based on a client’s specifications or the artist’s own personal designs. A modern engraver can use precision lasers to achieve their final results, or they may use hand tools and a magnifying glass depending on how they have been trained. They can work on glass, metal, stone, wood and other materials, and they can also engrave and create custom plates made of metal or wood that can be used for stamping images on paper.
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Depending on the artist, certain engravers will work with hand tools to create custom pieces of art by first stenciling their design pattern onto the chosen medium and then carefully, slowly, and patiently etching away the design using the tools of their choice. While engraving they will wipe or blow away the material from the chosen medium and then sand down the edges to create a beautiful finished project. Depending on the specifications they may then go further and embellish their design with jewels, paint, or other materials.
Images or phrases can also be engraved onto stamps and a variety of surfaces, including picture frames and wedding rings. Depending on where they work there may be customer service aspects to the position. Potential customers may want to see examples of an engraver's work or to work closely with the artist to create a unique design. An engraver who works with customers will often work independently or through a shop or a network of specific vendors. Engravers can also be independent artists who sell their artwork at stores, craft fairs, and online stores.
Engravers who work with lasers instead of hand tools will still be able to create beautiful engravings on jewelry or many other types of material. In fact, many artists prefer working with a laser, as it allows them to work on many different types of materials and create even more exact and precise designs. Engravers who work with lasers will also have employment options with larger corporations on projects of larger scale. The United States Bureau of Engraving and Printing uses lasers to create custom plates that will be used as the bases for stamps and currency, and many organizations use lasers to etch information onto materials.
There are two ways to become an engraver. Some engravers will apprentice directly after graduating from high school. The apprentice will learn how to select materials and keep tools in good working order while practicing the art of engraving. Depending on the type of work the artist plans to do, the apprenticeship can last anywhere from three months to several years.
Other aspiring engravers may attend art school, where they can learn the skills needed. An artist who attends a college-level art school will also learn many other aspects important to engraving, like choosing the proper medium and a variety of techniques. Most engravers who plan to work with lasers will need some type of formal education or on the job training from their employer.
Engravers must be able to work under pressure and meet deadlines dictated by their clients. They will need to maintain a clean workspace and keep their equipment clean and sharpened. Some will work in a retail environment, where they will have to be able to talk with customers one on one to create customer-specific engravings.
There is also work available on larger projects, where the engraving is completed with lasers. The engraver will still create the plates or other objects to specifications and maintain deadlines. They will also be responsible for keeping their equipment and workspace clean and in good working order. Engravers must also understand ordering the necessary supplies for specific projects, including the tools and medium to be used.
Artists employed in this field must be self-motivated and have attention to detail in order to create lasting and beautiful engravings. They will have to push themselves to meet deadlines and make sure that the finished product is perfect. As well, when they make mistakes, they should be able to recognize when a project can no longer be corrected and when they should start over from scratch.
After completing their schooling or apprenticeship, engravers can expect to earn around $18,000 a year. As they continue to work and build experience and a solid clientele, they can increase their average pay to around $30,000 a year. An expert can expect to earn around $44,000 a year.