Graver Detailing and Sharpening

A sharp graver can improve cutting performance at the bench. There are several approaches to use when detailing a graver, including the following.

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By Arthur Anton SkuratowiczMore from this author

A sharp graver can improve cutting performance at the bench. There are several approaches to use when detailing a graver, including the following.

What You'll Need For Graver Detailing and Sharpening

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Start with a Good Point

Traditionally, hand-sharpening with an India stone (coarser) followed by an Arkansas stone (fine) does the job well, but you must position the graver carefully against the stone and keep a good angle while grinding the edge back and forth (figure 1). Good sharpening techniques take practice and trial and error to develop over time.
%image_alt%Using a positioning device can help. The traditional Crocker fixture allows you to grind the graver tip at a pre-set angle. Sliding it along a piece of glass gives it smoother travel against the sharpening stone.
%image_alt%A more advanced tool, the GRS Power Hone is a complete sharpening system with a variety of holding jigs and diamond abrasives. The latter are needed when shaping and sharpening carbide gravers, but also work well with carbon and high-speed steel gravers. The GRS basic Power Hone fixture adjusts for the graver angle only.
%image_alt%It is fast and efficient, but limited. Because of its simplicity, it is the go-to sharpening fixture for fast re-sharpening.
%image_alt%The high precision of the GRS dual-angle sharpening fixture allows for precise shaping and sharpening of the graver.
%image_alt%This is useful when multiple surface angles are needed.

Improve the Cutting Edge

%image_alt%Once the graver is sharp, you can improve the cutting edge several ways:

After sharpening, poke the tip of the graver into a block of wood to remove metal flashing from the tip.

%image_alt%Grinding the initial shape of the graver reduces the size of the point, allowing for better visibility and faster re-sharpening. Take care to avoid overheating the tip while grinding the initial shape.
%image_alt%Try using an abrasive wheel to soften the newly shaped back of the graver. This removes any rough edges leftover from grinding.
%image_alt%Using a piece of leather and Fabulustre steel polishing compound, strop and polish the face of the graver to a clean cutting point.
%image_alt%Polish the belly the same way, as in the example of this flat-bottom graver.
%image_alt%When polishing carbide and steel gravers, try using 50,000-mesh diamond spray on a scrap of leather. Available from tool and gem-cutting suppliers, the spray is commonly used for gem faceting. Add a ceramic lap to the mix and you can get ultra-precise and ultra-sharp edges.
%image_alt%Other than judging by eye, you can measure the angle of the point with a relatively inexpensive angle gauge.
%image_alt%As with any cutting tool, the final test of sharpness is to cut metal and inspect the cleanliness of the cut.

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Arthur Anton Skuratowicz

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