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Kai Lawson

Suggestions for engraving hardened steel

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I have a finished, heat treated sword blade, likely of 6150 steel, and I'm curious about the best method to engrave it, to allow for wire inlay. The blade is a production blade from a few years ago, so there was never a chance for me to request engraving prior to heat treat.

Do people have recommendations for the best approach to this (pneumatic/electric graver, hand graving, etc...)? Additionally, would etching the base letter forms, then undercutting them work for wire inlay? The letters themselves would be fairly narrow.

I know this is a pretty open-ended question, so I'm really just hoping for tips, suggestions or advice with this. Thanks!

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That'll be difficult at best.  I would suggest carbide rotary burrs with a Foredom or similar handpiece. Cut a fine line and undercut both sides.

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What Alan said. You could always go well outside the box and use salt water etching to etch ridiculously deep and then undercut the edges for inlay with a rotary tool? Never done it but makes a little sense in my head.

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2 hours ago, Alan Longmire said:

That'll be difficult at best.  I would suggest carbide rotary burrs with a Foredom or similar handpiece. Cut a fine line and undercut both sides.

Yes, as the steel is already hardened, a rotary cutter would be the best option. A pneumatic engraver will work, to engrave, but probably not inlay.  It will play havoc on your standard graver. Your undercut will be the tricky part. 

An acid etch, to make one deep, will have some bleeding, it may not make a nice crisp line like you want. But is may be possible with some clean up work.  

Is there any chance of softening the area you want to inlay? And what material are you inlaying with?

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My suggestion: dont touch it. I think you might regret it. 

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I'll vote with Zeb on this one.  Rotary tools can get away from you rather easily and, as Daniel said, deep etching might not give you the even results you want.

Doug

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16 minutes ago, Zeb Camper said:

My suggestion: dont touch it. I think you might regret it. 

This is my gut feeling based on sad experience, but you asked how I'd do it, and if I absolutely had to, what I said would be it.  You can always have it silk screen printed with gold ink.  Or laser engraved, that works on hardened steel.  It's just not gold-colored.

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Thanks for the suggestions guys. I was hesitant beforehand to actually commit my blade to any modification like that, but I may send it out for laser etching--hadn't thought of that. I may try the etchant method, which is something I asked about in the OP, as doing that in stages with wax, and then coating the sides and non-etched area of the blade with a resist would be slow, inefficient and maybe messy, but might work...

I will likely just leave the piece alone, or make a very shallow etch with striations to look like iron inlayed letters. 

Again, thanks for the suggestions and advice!

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