How to Engrave Stone
Learning to engrave stones provides you with a way to create decorative, artistic pieces that will last a lifetime from material you can find just about anywhere. While the material itself is very hard, engraving doesn't have to be. With the right tools, a few skills, and some practice you can learn to engrave beautiful designs into stones for your home, your garden, or to give away as gifts.
Gathering your Supplies
Find a stone.Your skill level and the design you want to create will determine the type of stone you need.
- Stones with a flat surface, such as river rocks, work best for beginners.
- Softer sedimentary rocks (such as sandstone, limestone and soapstone) are easier to drill into.
- Keep your eyes open for stones when you're outside at the beach, in your garden, etc, or purchase engraving stones from your local arts and crafts store.
Purchase an electric engraver or rotary tool.Alternatively, you can use a point chisel and mallet or hammer to do your engraving, but an electric engraver will make the process much easier.
- Look for an electric engraver or rotary tool that allows you to change out the tip.
- A carbide tip is appropriate for engraving softer stones like sandstone, limestone or soapstone. A diamond tip is best for engraving harder stones or glass.
- Engraving tips come in various shapes and widths. For a basic design, the standard carbide tip that comes with your tool will be enough. Over time, you can add to the complexity of your designs by using a cone tip to create detail lines and a cylindrical shaped tip for shading and dimension.
- Electric engravers or rotary tools can be found at your local hardware store, craft store or online.
Get a wax-based pencil, marker, or stencil materials.Sketching your design onto your stone or creating a stencil before you start engraving will save you a lot of missteps along the way.
- Wax-based pencils, china markers or permanent markers can be used to draw your design directly onto the stone.
- You can make an easy stencil using cardboard or acetate and a craft knife.
- Beeswax and latex paint are optional design supplies that can be used to add color and shine to your stone.
Purchase safety goggles.Safety goggles should be used during all of your engraving projects. Engraving throws small pieces of stone and dust into the air that can damage your eyes.
Get a bowl of water.Prepare a bowl of water large enough to submerge the stone. This will be used to cool and clean the stone during the engraving process.
Creating a Design
Select a design for your stone.Your skill level, the size and shape of your stone, and your intended use for the stone will all play a part in creating your design. Inspirational words, a name, flowers, leaves, the sun, or other basic shapes are great design choices for beginners.
- Create your own unique design or write out a word you want to engrave.
- Look for stencil designs online that you can print and cut out.
- Create a design on your computer. Draw an image or write a word in a font you like. Size the design to fit your stone and print it onto black and white paper.
Create a sketch or stencil of your design.Whether you're engraving an image like a flower or feather, or writing out a word, having a sketch or stencil to follow will make the process much easier and will leave you with a nicer finished project.
- Practice drawing your design on a piece of paper before sketching it directly onto your stone.
- Make a stencil. If you printed out a picture to use, lay a piece of tracing paper on top and go over it with a pencil. Tape the traced outline onto your cardboard or acetate and cut out the design with your craft knife.
Practice engraving on an extra stone.Get a feel for the engraving process using a stone similar to the one you're saving for the final project.
- Use the engraving tool to create straight lines across the stone, moving in different directions.
- Vary the pressure you use to draw lines. Draw lines using light, feathered strokes. Go back and draw lines using more pressure. Notice the differences in the look of the lines.
- Draw circles or other shapes in the stone.
- If you're writing a word on your stone, practice making the various letters.
Prepping the Stone
Clean the stone.Start by wiping any dirt or debris off of the stone with a damp cloth. Let the stone air dry or dry it with a clean cloth.
Transfer your design to the stone.Sketch your design onto the stone directly using your wax pencil or marker, or attach the stencil to your stone.
- Use a wax-based pencil to draw your design if the stone is rough or porous. Use a china marker or permanent marker to draw on stones with a smooth, glassy surface.
- Position your stencil where you want it on the stone. Secure the stencil with tape so it doesn't move while you're engraving your design.
Secure the stone.Once a mark is engraved you can't erase it, so make sure your stone isn't going to move while you're working.
- If the stone is flat and won't roll or slip, simply place it on a flat surface.
- Placing a piece of non-slip shelf liner under your stone will help ensure it doesn't slide.
- If the stone isn't flat on the bottom you can secure it using a desk vise or clamp, which can be found at your local hardware store.
Engraving the Stone
Go over your design with the engraver.Set the engraving tool on a low speed and slowly trace over your design using light, continuous strokes.
- Start by going over the primary lines in the design. Roughly scratch out a shallow groove to create an outline of the design.
- Continue to trace over the lines of your design with the engraving tool. Rather than pressing hard to carve out your design, go over the lines repeatedly using a light-hand.
- Periodically dip the rock into the bowl of water to cool it off. This will also help clean debris out of the grooves of your design so you can better see what you're doing.
- Continue to etch out the lines of your design until they are the depth you'd like for them to be.
- Add shading or other details to your design. Engrave lighter lines, going in the same direction of the primary lines of your design, to create shading.
Clean the stone.When you're done engraving, clean off the stone in the water bowl or wipe it off with a damp rag. Allow it to air dry or dry it off with a clean cloth.
- If you want your stone to really shine, use beeswax and a rag to buff and polish it. This will help your design stand out and give the rock an extra gleam.
- If you want to give your design some color, use latex paint to fill in the grooves. Black paint on a light colored stone or white paint on a darker stone can really make your design pop.
Show off your engraved stone!Place it inside your home, on your porch, in your garden, or give it away as a unique gift.
- Larger stones can be used to make unique stepping-stones for a garden.
- Heavy stones can be used to make door stoppers or bookends.
- Small pebbles engraved with inspirational words or special dates make great gifts.
QuestionIs there a way I can engrave stone without a rotary tool or electronic engraver?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerYou can use the old method: hammer and nails. Hit the stone repeatedly to get the result and pattern that you're looking for.Thanks!
QuestionWhat kind of tools are used to engrave stones?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerHammer and chisels, like a small point, punch, and V blade. You need to know how hard your stone is because regular steel chisels will dull too fast on very hard stone such as river rock or granite. Tungsten steel tip chisels are the strongest.Thanks!
QuestionWhere can I find good rocks?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerYou can find good flat rocks in rivers or in creek beds. I tend to find rocks that have been there awhile and are usually flat and smooth on one side, you can just clean it and start engraving. The rocks are harder, so be sure to use a diamond bit.Thanks!
QuestionCan I engrave any gemstone, and can I use an electric nail file instead?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerNot without proper equipment. Diamond, for example, requires special tools for engraving. An electric nail file would probably not work well, if at all.Thanks!
QuestionCan I use the same tool that is used for wood?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerIt depends on the tip of the tool. Some tools work for both. A Dremel tool or an engraver with a carbide or diamond tip will work with almost anything.Thanks!
QuestionHow do I put a hole in it to make it a necklace?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerA diamond drill bit in either a rotary tool or drill would work best. A Dremel tool would be effective, but a drill would be ideal.Thanks!
I would like to make a head stone out of lime stone. I have access to house foundation lime stone rocks-what kind of tools do I need?
How do I shade and etch a white buffalo?
How do you make a rock into a bust?
I received a large bolder for my yard. How can I find out what kind of stone it is?
Could I engrave black granite by chemical?
- Grinding on stones creates stone dust & this stone dust is harmful to humans and animals. Stone dust can cause silicosis which is fatal. When grinding into stone you should always wear an approved respirator with p100 dust filters. Governments in Canada & USA have banned the use of silicon products for this reason.
- Keep your engraver or rotary tool away from your bowl of water to avoid risk of electrocution.
- Always use safety goggles when engraving stone.
- Follow all manufacturer guidelines when using your engraver or rotary tool.
Things You'll Need
An approved respirator with P100 dust filters
Electric engraver or rotary tool
Wax-based pencil, china marker, permanent marker or stencil supplies
Bowl of water
Optional items: beeswax, latex paint
Sources and Citations
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