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Spark engraving pen ?

Any Ideas , thanks ?.

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mick sullivan05/12/2016 23:32:54
2 forum posts

Hello everybody , This is My first posting so please be gentle with Me ! I am just getting back into model engineering at the age of 62 after a long period of absence in the workshop due to illness . I have a question that I am hoping one of You chaps may be able to answer . When I did my apprenticeship as a mechanical / electrical fitter on the now long gone British Railways one of the 'highlights' was to have to spend 6 months away from Your home depot to be trained in the various 'shops' within the Regions main works , I was based at Finsbury Park Motive Power Depot but did My main works experience at Doncaster Workshops BREL , or 'The Plant' as it was universally known . In the Toolmakers shop they had a pen type electro-engraver that we were encouraged to mark Our names on Our own tools with , thus preventing any disputes as to the rightful owner of said tools .

Since those days i have naturally increased my tool collection to the size of a small mountain in Wales and am keen to mark them up to pass them onto my young nephew , who is in the trade , upon my demise !

The question I have for You fine body of Gentleman is, Does any one remember this type of pen stylus engraver , and of equal interest , does anyone have the faintest idea how to build one ? I obviously don't want something that resembles a thermic lance , any ideas chaps , I would be eternaly greatfull gentlemen, Many thanks , Mick .

Mike E.06/12/2016 00:37:50
217 forum posts
24 photos

I vaguely remember making one of these marking pens as a project in Electric Shop back when I was in Junior High School. The mechanism is similar to that of a tattoo gun.

Enough!06/12/2016 01:40:37
1719 forum posts
1 photos

There was something very similar used, for the same purpose, (too) many years ago in the Trade School at Ford's.

I (think) I recall that it had some kind of strip, possibly soaked in a reagent (acid?) which you laid on the tool and used an electrical pen to write with (or via a pantograph % stencils). I could be muddling this aspect (reagent soaked strip) with something else though .... sounds more like an etching process.

I still have some of the tools that were identified in this manner.

Paul Lousick06/12/2016 04:31:46
1896 forum posts
669 photos

We used to have one at work which had no moving parts, just a transformer with 2 leads. One lead to a clamp which you clipped onto the job and another to a stylus/pen. A small arc was formed as you wrote with it. Bit like a small electric welder. Still have the Mitutoyo vernier which I wrote my name on 30 years ago.

John C06/12/2016 07:14:18
270 forum posts
94 photos

Hi Mick,

There are a few videos on Youtube showing an electric arc etching pen - a search on 'arc etching pen' brings up a few. There are also videos on electrolysis type etching, which I don't think is what you are after.

A demo of an arc pen etcher is here: **LINK**

All the best,


Chris Evans 606/12/2016 07:25:24
1999 forum posts

We had commercially made ones in the toolrooms I worked on but I do not remember the brand name.

Neil Wyatt06/12/2016 07:25:32
18888 forum posts
734 photos
80 articles

Welcome to the forum Mick,

It seems you weren't imagining it!


Andy Holdaway06/12/2016 07:48:44
167 forum posts
15 photos

I had the plans for one of these that I found on the internet some time ago. It was a scan from a magazine, I think from the '50s. It used a home wound solenoid coil to pulse the tip, which helped to maintain the arc.

I'll have a rummage around my hard drive and see if I've still got it.


JA06/12/2016 07:49:52
1281 forum posts
79 photos

Vibroetch comes to mind.


Andy Holdaway06/12/2016 07:54:16
167 forum posts
15 photos

Found a couple on the internet. **Etching Pen** and this one **Engraving Pen**


Edited By Andrew Holdaway on 06/12/2016 07:54:46

Gordon Brown 106/12/2016 08:01:45
48 forum posts
2 photos

I have one in my workshop that I bought for my daughter who is training as a silversmith but she doesn't use it. Could easily be persuaded to part with it for what I paid. To be fair, I can't get the hang of it but someone else may have a better idea of how to use it. Can't remember the name, when I drag myself out of bed I'll post a photo.

pgk pgk06/12/2016 08:34:20
2422 forum posts
293 photos

Way back in the mid 70's I bought a cheap hobby engraving tool to play with. I see dremel do similar things for not a lot and there's even sub £3 stuff on ebay. I did a few picture engravings on s/s for fun and i used to free-hand engrave dog tags for the local petshop for fag money; knocking out 3 or 4 while OH cooked brekkie. 10p each if I recall. There'd always be some plonker who wanted 4 lines of address and phone number all on a small cat disc

It's a sad world but at those sorts of prices hardly worth the bother of making something unless it's for the pure satisfaction of doing so

John P06/12/2016 10:49:40
360 forum posts
238 photos

Hi Mick

Two photo's in album Workshop and machines of a Snap on 6 to 12 volt etching pencil,writes on Hss and carbide tooling .Don't know if these are still available bought around mid eighties.


Gordon Brown 106/12/2016 11:09:05
48 forum posts
2 photos

I've found my spark engraver, it's an Actograp Model 100. Having checked it out it's a bit flaky in operation, when it works it does so quite well but it keeps stopping so not sure what is wrong. I'll have to dismantle it and check.

Gary Wooding06/12/2016 13:54:17
930 forum posts
235 photos

I think *THIS* is what you were looking for.

Bazyle06/12/2016 16:47:45
6168 forum posts
222 photos

Ours (in 1977) ran off a multi tapped transformer, AC, for differenct strengths but I think mostly 3v was enough and was basically as per the article linked by Gary. I think it had a tungsten point.

I still have a few tools marked with it including my teaspoon. laugh

KWIL06/12/2016 16:52:04
3470 forum posts
66 photos

Another way


mick sullivan06/12/2016 17:30:12
2 forum posts

Wow , Thank You all so very much for all Your reply's and ideas , I will certainly be chasing a few of them up and will report in due course , many thanks once gain , cheers lads !

Martin Connelly06/12/2016 18:38:49
1999 forum posts
214 photos

These have been prohibited in a lot of places due to radio frequency noise and UV radiation that can cause eye damage because you are looking at the arc as it is produced. Vibro-peen tools are the standard replacement. Small pneumatic ones are very good but can be expensive. They also require bare metal to work, plastic or painted surfaces break the circuit so they cannot be used in all situations.


Dod06/12/2016 19:18:43
114 forum posts
7 photos
Posted by Andrew Holdaway on 06/12/2016 07:54:16:

Found a couple on the internet. **Etching Pen** and this one **Engraving Pen**


Edited By Andrew Holdaway on 06/12/2016 07:54:46

Andrew, you been photocopying my book?, - FORTY POWER TOOLS YOU CAN MAKE.

Most of them quite useful but would be frowned upon by modern elfin safety

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