Engraving is the process of cutting a cavity into a metal lightsaber hilt in order to create: a deep pattern, lettering, chevron, symbol or other design element. Sometimes engraving is incorporated into a standard, widely released hilt design. Ultrasabers Grand Master is a striking example of some engraving on a widely released hilt design. Other times lightsaber enthusiasts engrave the hilt themselves or commission a sabersmith to engrave the hilt after the hilt has already been produced.
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Engraving differs from etching. Although sometimes people use the terms interchangeably, engraving creates a much deeper cavity than etching, which is more surface-level. You can feel the deep groove on an engraved hilt with your fingertips.
Engraving can be applied to other surfaces and other lightsaber related items as well like: leather (e.g. leather wrap), acrylic (e.g. flat acrylic blades), wood (e.g wooden grip, wooden box), etc. There are many engraving surface options, however, the custom saber community engraves the lightsaber hilt itself most frequently.
There are three main types of engraving: hand engraving, laser engraving, and rotary machine engraving.
Hand engraving is the most basic method of engraving. During hand engraving, the somebody uses a tool called a graver to remove the metal. A graver, sometimes called burin, is a specialized chisel tool. Hand engraving is a meticulous process and also an artistic process.
Laser engraving is another common and more modern type of engraving. Laser engraving uses a high heat laser to cut into the metal. Larger custom saber companies, like Ultrasabers, use laser engraving. Ultrasabers Grand Master has an elaborate, laser engraved pattern in the grip area.
Rotary machine engraving uses a pre-programmed machine to engrave in the similar fashion as hand engraving. Rotary machine engraving, like laser engraving, is more streamlined and efficient than one-off, one-of-a-kind hand engraving. Many rotary machine engraving tasks have been replaced by the newer, laser engraving technology.
In the custom saber community, lightsabers are commonly hand engraved or laser engraved. Hand engraving is more commonly used for one-off, highly artistic and customized projects. Laser engraving is more commonly used by some of the larger custom saber companies on widely released hilt designs (e.g. Ultrasabers Grand Master).
COVER IMAGE: Laser engraved grip section on an Ultrasabers Grand Master lightsaber hilt