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 It has long been replaced by photography in its commercial applications and, partly because of the difficulty of learning the technique, is much less common in printmaking, where it has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 practiced 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 jewellery, 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 moulded parts are sometimes hand engraved to add special touches or certain information such as part numbers.
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.
In antiquity, the only engraving on metal that could be carried out is evident in 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.
However the use of engraving to cut decorative scenes or figures into glass vessels appears as early as the first century AD, continuing into the fourth century CE at urban centres 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.
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, hand engraving has been replaced with milling using CNC engraving or milling machines.
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.
Typically the image is created in some PDF-like format and enters a work flow where it is processed and automatically imposed to the huge printing cylinders. Today up to 192 pages can be engraved on the same cylinder. Since the cylinder serves to print one color, four cylinders are typically used to print one side of the substrate. Rotogravure has a major share in publication, packaging and decorative printing.
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.
Of postage stamps:
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Engraving is the act and art of cutting letters, figures, and the like, on stone, wood, or metal. The account of the equipment of the high priest (Ex. xxviii., xxxix.) evidences that this art had been developed to a high degree among the Hebrews at an early period. To designate the skill of the worker the word (missing hebrew text) and its derivative (missing hebrew text) are employed, while (missing hebrew text) and (missing hebrew text) and (missing hebrew text) denote the process and the finished result (Ex 28:11, 21,36; xxxi. 5; xxxv. 33; xxxix. 14, 30; Zech 3:9; 1 Kg 6:18, 19, 32, 35; vii. 31; [ (missing hebrew text) , Ex 28:11, 21, 36, is probably a scribal error for, or a dialectic form of, (missing hebrew text) ]). The seal-engraver's art is cited to indicate the manner of work to be done on precious stones (Ex 28:11). Of the Phenicians it is known that they had attained proficiency in the engraving of signet-rings (Benzinger, "Hebräische Archäologie," p. 258). As the same necessity for using signet-rings (to sign contracts and other documents) existed among the Hebrews, it is reasonable to assume equal proficiency in this art among them, especially since the signet-ring is mentioned as among the usual appointments of men of standing (Gen 38:18). As in the case of Bezalel (Ex 31:2), engravers were looked upon as endowed with a divine spirit of wisdom and understanding. Phenician artists were imported (2 Sam 5:11) at a comparatively late period.
The precious stones in the ephod and the breast-plate of the high priest, as well as the inscription on the gold plate in his head-dress (Ex. xxviii., xxxix.), are specially mentioned as specimens of the engraver's art. The ornaments on the walls of Solomon's Temple (1 Kg 6:18, 19) are products of the wood-engraver's skill (comp. 2 Sam 5:11). The instrument used is known as (missing hebrew text) , with the usual qualification (missing hebrew text) ("the iron style"), tipped with a diamond point (Jer 17:1), and used for engraving letters (Job xix.24), or, more properly, as (missing hebrew text) , the graving-tool by which incisions were made (Ex 32:4). Both relief-engraving, as in the case of the cherubim, and intaglio-engraving, for signet-rings and gems, seem to have been known. Job 19:24 has been construed as showing that for purposes of inscriptions lead was used. In the "pesel" (graven image) the form and figure are completely separated from the block of material used. According to Maimonides, Abraham ben David, and other Talmudic authorities (Giṭ. 20a; "Yad," Kele ha-Miḳdash, ix. 2), relief-work alone (pressed out from beneath) was permissible in objects connected with sacerdotal service. For this reason, as gems could not be worked in this way, in the case of the precious stones on the ephod and the breastplate a miracle was assumed: the worm SHAMIR traced the letters which appeared on them (Soṭah 48b; Naḥmanides to Ex 25:7).
Bibliography: Benzinger, Hebr. Arch. pp. 257 et seq.; Nowack, Lehrbuch der Hebräischen Archäologie, i. 245 et seq.; Leopold Löw, Graphische Requisiten und Erzeugnisse bei den Juden, part 1, Leipsic, 1870.
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fighting the Centaurs , engraving by Sebald Beham]]
Engraving is putting a design onto a hard, flat surface, by carving into it. The result may be a decorative piece in itself, as when silver, gold or steel are engraved, or may provide a printing plate of copper or another metal, for printing images on paper which are also called engravings. Engraving was an important method in history of making images on paper, both in artistic ways, such as making a decorative print, and also for printing books and magazines. It has long been replaced by photography in its commercial uses and, is nowadays much less common in printmaking, where it has been almost completely replaced by etching and other techniques.
Engravers use a steel tool called a burin to cut the picture or pattern into the surface, mostly a copper plate. Gravers come in a variety of shapes and sizes that give different line types when used. The burin gives us a line that is unique because of its steady appearance and smooth 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 on them, used to do work on larger areas. Flat gravers are used for doing work on letters, as well as most musical instrument engraving work. Round gravers are commonly used on silver as well as other hard-to-cut metals such as nickel and steel.
In ancient history, the only engraving that could be made were the shallow grooves found in some jewellery after 1000 B.C.
In the European Middle Ages goldsmiths used engraving to decorate metal. 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 make artistic images on paper in Germany in the 1430s. The first and greatest period of engraving was from about 1470 to 1530, with such masters as Martin Schongauer, Albrecht Dürer, and Lucas van Leiden.
Thereafter engraving tended to lose popularity to etching, which was a much easier technique for an artist to learn. By the nineteenth century, most engraving was for commercial picture-making.
Before the invention 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, because they were cheap to use in printing.
When two sets of parallel line hatchings crossed each other for higher density, the pattern was known as cross-hatching. Claude Mellan is well-known for his technique of using lines of different thicknesses. One example is his Sudarium of Saint Veronica, an engraving of the face of Jesus from a single spiralling line that starts at the tip Jesus's nose (pictured).
Because of the high level of detail that can be done by a master engraver, faking engraved designs is almost impossible, and modern banknotes are almost always engraved, as are plates for printing money, checks, bonds and other papers that should not be faked. Engraving is so fine that a normal printer can not make the detail of hand engraved images properly. In the U.S. Bureau of Engraving and Printing, more than one engraver will work on the same printing plate, making it nearly impossible for any person to duplicate all the engraving on almost any 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 amount of different colours is acceptable.
Engraving machines such as the K500 or K6 by Hell Gravure Systems use a diamond "pen" 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 0.1 µm and below. They are of course fully computer controlled and the whole process of cylinder making is fully automatic.
The engraving process with diamonds is state of the art since the 1960s.
Now, laser engraving machines are being made and even today the mechanical cutting has proven its strength in economical terms and quality. More than 4,000 engravers make about 8 million printing cylinders worldwide per year.
by Hendrik Goltzius 1591]] The earliest allusion to engraving in the Bible may be the reference to Judah’s seal ring. (Genesis 38:18), followed by (Exodus 39.30). Engraving was commonly done with pointed tools of iron or even with diamond points. (Jeremiah 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 Jehovah.” 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.