Best Engraving Tools

Updated December 2019
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
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Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
How we decided

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

17 Models Considered
6 Hours Researched
1 Experts Interviewed
252 Consumers Consulted
Zero products received from manufacturers.

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Buying guide for best engraving tools

Last Updated December 2019

You don’t need to be an artisan to want an engraving tool. It’s possible you just prefer to engrave your name on items that are of value to you, such as the wrenches in your tool set. If you'd like to create art on a piece of glass, you can do that as well because an engraving tool is a highly versatile item.

You want an engraving tool that is lightweight, easy to hold, and has a wide assortment of bits so you can complete whatever engraving task you desire. Depending on your preference, you can purchase a manual engraving tool or a powered model that works as effortlessly as a pencil.

To learn more about engraving and the different features you may want your tool to have, keep reading. If you are ready to jump right in and start making your mark, consider one of the highly rated items we've spotlighted in this article.

When first starting out, stick to materials like plastic, wood, brass, and copper, which are softer and allow you to maintain greater control while engraving.

Key considerations

Type of power

Manual: This type of tool uses either a pen with a carbide tip or a chisel that is tapped with a chasing hammer to engrave the material. The pen type of engraver can be used on a wide variety of surfaces and beginners can usually achieve somewhat desirable results. The chiseling method is a bit more involved and requires a steeper learning curve.

Pneumatic: Modern chisels use air and a piston to create the same effect you get with a chisel and a chasing hammer, only it requires less effort. The problem with this type of engraving tool is the cost. If you are new to engraving and uncertain if you will stick with it, or if you only need to use your engraving tool occasionally, this is not your best option.

Corded: A corded engraving tool receives its power from an electrical outlet. You insert a bit or a burr into the tip of the tool, which spins rapidly and does the engraving. With this type of engraving tool, your speeds are consistent and you always have sufficient power to get the job done, though you are limited by the length of the cord.

Battery: A battery-powered engraving tool can be a basic tool that only does minimal engraving or it can be on the level of a corded engraving tool and be extremely versatile. The advantage to having a battery-powered engraving tool is that you are not limited in where you can work, but you may run out of power before finishing a larger job. Quality battery-powered engraving tools are a little more expensive than corded ones.

Weight and comfort

You hold your engraving tool in your hand for extended periods of time. During that time, you must focus on controlling your fine motor skills to achieve the best results possible. No matter which type of engraving tool you purchase, you want it to be lightweight, so your hand doesn't fatigue, and ergonomic so it’s comfortable to hold for extended periods of time.

Speed

The best engraving tools have a variety of speeds to allow you to better execute your work. Three-speed is good, but a variable speed lets you position the control precisely where it is best suited for your task.

Depth

Some engraving tools are adjustable to allow you to switch from wide grooves to fine lines with just the twist of a knob. If this sounds useful, you may need to look a little harder to find this feature.

Versatility

The majority of an engraving tool’s versatility is a result of the assortment of bits and burrs it has. These are interchangeable pieces that fasten to the tip of your tool. Some bits are made to engrave only certain materials while other bits can serve other purposes, such as polishing. The wider the assortment of bits and burrs that come with your engraving tool, the more versatile it is.

EXPERT TIP

Before trying to engrave a curved surface such as a glass, hone your skills on something flat, like a coaster or a phone case.


Staff  | BestReviews

Accessories

When you are engraving with a powered engraving tool, the bit is whirling around at high speeds, so you need to take some safety precautions. The following are a few accessories you can purchase and wear to help prevent injuries while using your engraving tool.

Mask: 3M Home Dust Mask

A mask is needed so you don't breathe in harmful dust. This five-pack of dust masks from 3M is a bargain, and you can stock up for future engraving sessions.

Eye protection: DEWALT Concealer Clear Anti-Fog Dual Mold Safety Goggle

Eye protection keeps small particles from entering your eyes. DEWALT makes an affordable pair of safety goggles that you could use for other projects around the house that require eye protection, too.

Headband magnifier: Carson Optical Pro Series LED Lighted Magnifier

This tool allows you to examine your work in great detail so you can be more accurate. Additionally, the light on the top helps you to see better, reducing the risk of an accident. We like the headband magnifier from Carson for its adjustable LED lighting.

Gloves: CLC Custom Leathercraft Work Gloves

A pair of leather work gloves can come in handy to help protect your fingers from cuts and scratches. We like the affordable pair from Custom LeatherCraft because they’re stretchy enough to bend with your fingers and hands but strong enough to protect them.

EXPERT TIP

When engraving wood, a clean, untreated surface is desirable. If the wood has already been painted, you will have better results if you first sand off the paint.


Staff  | BestReviews

Engraving tool prices

Inexpensive: The most affordable engraving tool you can purchase is an engraving pen with a carbide tip. These manual items let you etch a wide variety of materials the same way you would write or draw with a pencil, and they only cost $4 to $10, often per pair.

Mid-range: Mid-range engraving tools are plug-in or battery-powered tools which come with a small assortment of bits, and some may even feature a template or two for numbers and letters. These models are handheld, highly versatile tools that cost between $10 and $25.

Expensive: At the higher end of the price scale, you can find far more extensive kits that come with a much wider range of burrs and bits. These models may include a variety of handy adapters as well as a convenient case to transport and store all of your items. These kits can range from $30 to $60.

EXPERT TIP

Engraving builds up a great deal of friction, which can heat up the tip of your engraver and the material you are working on. Remember to take periodic short breaks while working so you don't build up excessive heat.


Staff  | BestReviews

Tips

Engraving is a craft that involves a great deal of skill. In order to get the most out of your engraving tool, here are five tips to keep in mind.

  • Start clean. Make sure the surface you are about to engrave is clean, dry, and free of any oils, which could cause problems while working.
  • Templates work. Even if you have a great deal of confidence in your freehand skills, a template provides the guide to allow you to do your best work.
  • Secure your material. If possible, secure the object you are engraving so it has no chance of moving while you are working. Just a little slip could ruin hours of work.
  • Use adequate lighting. It can be very tough to see details in poor lighting. To achieve your best results, make sure the area where you’re working is brightly lit in a manner that doesn't cast any shadows on your tools or materials.
  • Dust often. Maybe even more important than adequate lighting is blowing the dust away so you can actually see what you’re doing. Take the time to keep your work surface as clean as it was when you started, especially if you are working on materials such as wood, which can quickly obscure your design with sawdust.

Other products we considered

If you're looking for something a little bit different from the engraving tools we spotlighted elsewhere in this article, here are a few more models that stand out from the crowd. IMT Tungsten Carbide Tip Scriber features a pair of manual engraving pens that are sharp enough and tough enough to engrave hardened steel, stainless steel, ceramics, and glass. Populo High Performance Rotary Tool Kit is an affordably priced tool with 107 accessories, including a case. No matter what the engraving job requires, this handy tool set is up for the task. Lastly, if you want to engrave in comfort and style, consider the lightweight and versatile Dremel Flex Shaft Rotary Tool. It is important to note that this tool is an attachment and you must already own a Dremel or you have to purchase one in order for this nifty item to work.

One of the best investments you can make for your engraving work is a flexible shaft for your engraving tool. This accessory is lightweight and allows you to work like you were using a pencil.

FAQ

Q. What do I need to get started?
A.
Many veterans recommend taking a class before purchasing any equipment. However, with the affordability of modern engraving tools and their ease of use, we think you're better off purchasing a tool that fits easily within your budget so you can begin practicing. Having a hands-on experience is the best way to decide if this is a hobby you’ll enjoy. If you discover this is right for you, you can always expand the capabilities of your engraving tool with a wider variety of bits and burrs as you become more skilled.

 

Q. Besides the safety equipment already mentioned, are there any other precautions I need to take when using an engraving tool?
A.
An engraving tool spins at high speeds and tosses fragments and dust into the air, making it a hazard. Besides the previously mentioned accessories, be sure to wear long sleeves — but nothing loose that could get caught in the engraver. Remove any jewelry that could potentially interfere with your tool. Additionally, it’s important to work in a well ventilated area, using a dust extractor, if possible.

 

Q. Can I engrave an item without using an electric tool?
A.
Yes. If you'd prefer to engrave manually, there are a wide variety of hand tools you can use. These tools chisel, scratch, or score into a surface and allow you to "write" on everything from leather to metal, depending on the tool you purchase. Hand tools often require a little more skill and practice to get the effects you desire.

The team that worked on this review
  • Allen
    Allen
    Writer
  • Katherine
    Katherine
    Editor
  • Melinda
    Melinda
    Web Producer
  • Michael
    Michael
    Writer

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