I purchased a piece of 1/8” square stock at the local hardware store. The first thing that we need to do is mark the square stock at 4”, this is where we will use the saw to cut it. Remember the piece is just regular high carbon steel. Notice that the stock has rounded edges, for larger hands like mine I recommend that you cut the stock at about 4.5”.
At this point we will now tang the graver. Using a file or a grinder, reduce the size of one end of the square stock on all 4 sides to about 2mm at the end and about a 1/3 of the length. Now is a good time to grind a 45 degree angle on the other end so you can distinguish the top and bottom.
At this stage we now have a piece of steel that could not cut anything! Its time to harden the steel. (Note: You may not get results the first time. The quality of steel these day’s make it unpredictable.) The first thing that we will do is heat the future graver to a cherry red color. Once the graver is cherry red quench it fast in water. Remember that over/under cooking are problematic so it takes some experimenting to get it right. Keep in mind that there is no such thing as a wasted piece of steel. If you get it too hot, just let it cool again; if it was too cold you will find out in later steps.
I used to always coat my graver with dish soap prior to hardening, I feel now it’s a waste of time. The quality of steel used to be better and you would never get surface pitting, now all the metal pits when you harden it. In the photo you can notice that the bright spots are going to be pitted cavities that will be removed later in the process.
Now that the graver is nice and hard, we now have to square it off on 2 faces. If you remember back in the beginning we started with a rounded edge piece of steel. Those 2 faces will now be refered to as the belly. I use a 400 grit emery for squaring on a piece of glass. Make sure that even pressure is applied to the entire graver.
After shaping the graver it is now time to temper the steel. If the previous steps we got the metal really hard, now we need to soften it up a bit. This is a tricky step. If the metal is still too hard the tip will break off, if it is too soft it will mush down while cutting. I like yellow not straw temper, seems to hold an edge longer. If you have an alcohol lamp and blow pipe this step will be a little easier for you. For the more modern jewelers here is an almost as easy way to temper the graver. Heat a metal block (don’t have one just use any metal that will retain some heat), place the graver on it and when the metal turns yellow, quench it in water fast.
Now that the graver is tempered and we have a belly, we can now angle the graver. For lettering I like to use about an 8 degree angle most folks use a 10-12 degree angle, for that I would use the ¾ rule. This is the angle that you will belly your graver.
Its now time to dress the belly. I would suggest that everybody invest in a 26-4002 if you are just getting started, your angles will be perfect. With that being said, holding the graver at the desired angle, back drag it over a piece of emery cloth on both sides of the belly to the desired belly pitch.
Now we have an 8 degree belly pitch prior to polish!
At this stage we now need to polish the belly. I used to use a 4-0 emery but now I use 11-0726, it really rocks for a great polish. Use decending grits of paper to a mirror shine keeping the graver very flat on the belly face and back drag till mirror faced.
Now that the belly is polished it is time to install it into a handle. This one gets a 37-8502. Make sure to secure the graver in a vice, drill a pilot hole in the handle and tap it in place with a rawhide mallet. Make sure to drill the pilot hole, the handle may split if you don’t.
The last step before we complete this project is to sharpen our new tool. You can use the fixture that I spoke of before or go commando like I do. Run your graver over a sharpening stone until you feel the graver is sharp. To test your new graver prick your thumbnail, it should not move.
Would like to give a special thanks to Mark for taking the time to write this up. Do you have a special technique and want to share please email email@example.com.