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Engraving a Coat of Arms

Hand engraving is not a dying art, but it seems that the number of engravers who engrave seals is dwindling. Many seals are now mechanically reproduced, often using computerized wax carving machines. While this is certainly faster and less expensive than hand engraving, they are often absurdly deep and lack the elegant and classy appearance of true hand-cut work. There are also plenty of examples of poorly engraved seals. You need not look far to find them.

The seal is usually cut into a signet ring which can be pressed into warm sealing wax to seal a letter or document. The engraver is essentially engraving a die which stamps a raised, 3-dimensional design. Seals can present quite a challenge for the engraver, as they are a radical departure from the 'normal' day's work of scroll cutting or lettering. I would encourage you to give this a try. There is demand for quality work, and learning to do them will make you a better engraver.

I would also encourage a short study of heraldry and to learn the different components that make up a coat of arms, their meanings, and how direction of cuts or patterns are be used to indicate the different colors.

The best rings for seal engraving are die-struck signet rings. Die-struck rings engrave beautifully and do not have the unpredictable nature (voids, porosity, etc) of cast rings. Some of the best gold die-struck rings are made by Church & Co., and GRS has excellent die-struck signets in sterling silver which are far less expensive than gold and perfect for the engraver who's new to seal engraving.

In this photo I have applied Tom White's Transfer Magic solution to the ring and positioned my printout for burnishing. I drew half of the shield in Adobe Illustrator, then mirrored it. I will not need or use the center line.
The transparency sheet is burnished with a small burnisher which transfers the black inkjet ink from the sheet to the ring.
The rest of the coat of arms will be drawn by hand, but laying out the shield on my computer gives me far better accuracy than I can get by hand-drawing. The transferred design is also quite durable.

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