Engravers use a type of chisel called a burin to make engravings into to hard surface. Traditionally, engraving on copper was done to produce plates used to print papers and books, as an early form of printmaking. Today, engravers use the burin to make designs in gold, silver and other precious metals for jewelery making and in glass work and gun decoration as well. The burin produces a fine line and most engravers employ a full set of burins with different sizes and angles. Today, hand engravers employ a wide variety of tools, all designed to help them produce the finest lines and detail that is necessary for the art of engraving. Hand engraving is done in specialized workshops and is usually expensive as it is a highly skilled art form and very time consuming.
In modern industrial printmaking and metalworking, most engraving is done by machine. Engraving machines sometimes use diamonds and lasers to achieve the fine lines and points that are necessary for mass engravings. In modern printmaking, huge machines that have multiple cylinders are engraved by computer with letter type and graphic design and then used to print books and newspapers. This same process of mass engraving is also used in mass metal good manufacturing and for mass glass manufacturing as well. Mass engraving techniques are in a a state of high evolution and each year brings a new technological revolution to the industrial engraving industry.
Wood engravings are done by knife and have become a relatively popular hobby around the world. The end grain of wood is used and very detailed images can be carved into the wood. Some of the techniques of the hand engraving masters of antiquity have been incorporated in wood engraving and some wood engravers have an extensive set of tools, not unlike the burins of the past.
Besides employing the line in a meticulous way, engravers also have techniques to create tone. Hatching is the act of creating intersecting parallel lines that increase or decrease in density to provide shading. Stippling is a technique that employs dots in increasing and decreasing density to create shadow and tone. Both techniques are used to render images and lettering in three dimensions. A process called annealing is used in metal engraving, especially gun engraving, to soften the metal before the engraving takes place.