Burnishing Tips and Tricks

Burnishing is an engraving technique that produces a really distinctive and highly visible finish on coated metal signage. Different burnishing tools achieve different end effects so it's important that you make the right choice.

Here's a quick guide on choosing the right burnishing tool.

Diamond and carbide burnishing cutters

There are two primary types of burnishing cutters. One has a faceted carbide tip, and the other has a diamond tip. Diamond burnishers have a number of advantages including:

  • they are longer lasting than carbide cutters
  • the diamonds can be replaced when they wear out
  • they produce a cut that is cleaner and smoother, especially on soft metals such as aluminium
  • if the metal is to be oxidised after engraving, this generally works better with a diamond

On the downside, diamond burnishers do tend to be more expensive to buy than carbide ones, and the sizes available can be rather restrictive. If you needed a larger than average size, you could have a diamond burnisher custom-made, although that would add considerably to the purchase price.

Burnishing adapters (featherweight tools)

When burnishing a piece of work, it's important that you work with a very light touch to avoid causing damage to the item, and it can be easy to be a touch heavy handed. A burnishing adapter can help to overcome this problem.

A burnishing adapter makes your touch lighter by using an adjustable spring mechanism to effectively relieve the downward pressure placed on the item's surface from the spindle. This action allows the cutter to slide lightly over the surface that you're engraving without cutting into it too deeply. If you're working on very soft metals, such as aluminium, a burnishing adapter can prove to be an invaluable tool.

Diamond drag versus diamond burnishing

The finish you want for your signage engraving jobs will largely depend on your own personal preference and taste. Of the two usual methods, diamond drag is preferable when working on uncoloured or bare metals, such as gold, silver, and brass.

However, when you are creating engraved signage from coated or coloured metals, glass, acrylic, painted or varnished wood, a diamond burnisher will produce much more professional results. This is particularly worth noting if you want to produce a lovely, smooth finish to your work.

Burnishing can add a really beautiful look to signage engraving and is particularly effective when working with metals. Use the tips given above to help you achieve professional results every time.