When you’ve made the decision to learn hand engraving, you have basically 3 options:
You can also find plans and directions for making your own engraving ball, gravers, and other bench tools in these forums. At last estimate, I saw a price estimate of less than $200 for a pretty complete homemade setup. This included an engraving ball – made out of a recycled bowling ball and lathe chuck, half a dozen hand push gravers – made from 1/8″ lathe tools, a diamond disc power sharpening system – using a mixer, blender, or can-opener motor, and a bench – made out of a government surplus desk. It can be done! When I began, 30 some years ago, we did not have this resource. It was much harder to find information and techniques were not shared. There were far fewer engravers in those days, and they were very protective of what they regarded as the “trade secrets” that made it possible for them to make a living.
If you are in your 40’s or older and seriously want to produce a good body of work before it is too late time is extremely important. Money may be a bit easier to come by. Short, intensive, private skills workshops can be focused on exactly what you need. The cost of these workshops is not expensive. (I see people spend 3 or 4 times as much for a set of rims for their vehicle!) You have an opportunity to find out whether hand engraving is something you’d like to continue as either a hobby or on a professional basis without investing thus ands of dollars in advance.
Learning precision skills like hand engraving without formal instruction is not impossible. I have done it myself. It was a pretty long and miserable experience. Had I had the opportunities available today, I know I would have found a way to take advantage of the intensive training, and saved myself many years of eating beans and rice! Think about your future customer. Would you like to be the first patient of a surgeon who learned everything he knew from books and tapes? Or take the first flight with a pilot who learned exclusively from his online buddies?
The right instructor can stand over your shoulder and gently tell you that what you are trying to do is upside down or backwards. Or maybe even physically impossible! That you are holding your tool improperly, or have chosen the wrong tool for the job. That there is an easier, faster, or shorter ways to get the result you want.
My last advice is that if you do choose to learn from an instructor in an intensive workshop or class, find someone who has done or is doing specifically what you want to do. I also advise you to find an instructor who is flexible and will teach you what YOU want to know – not what has been printed in some curriculum. Someone who is current in the field, as much has changed in 30 years. There are plenty of incredibly gifted working instructors out there. It may not always be easy to find someone in your particular area, you may have to travel, but if you persevere – you will find what you are looking for.