In the past, wood engraving was a form of relief printmaking. Using techniques known as woodcut and linoprint, crafters carved images into blocks of wood. Modern wood engraving leans more toward the creation of signs and plaques for advertising or artistic purposes and less toward printing. The best wood engraving equipment depends greatly on the artist and the type of tools he uses.
CO2 laser systems have helped advance the woodworking industry by making wood engraving a much quicker process. CO2 lasers do not require extensive programming and work much like a printer. Lasers do the engraving for you and can do complex images, such as photos. The cost of a laser engraving system is in the thousands, but artists who work with them often receive top dollar for their work.
A great deal of programming goes into CNC (Computer Numerical Control) routing machines, but the detail capabilities surpass those of most other types of engraving tools. Compared to laser machines, CNC machines are less costly. Like laser machines, the size of a CNC machine determines the dimension capabilities of your artwork. One advantage to a CNC machine is it can carve 3-D sculptures.
The main hand tools used by most hand engraving artists are the best. The spitsticker comes in various widths and is the main drawing tool for curved lines. It also works well for stippling or making small round marks. A scorper cuts straight lines needed for clearing out background areas in the design. Various widths create different textures within the cuts. A tint cuts thin parallel lines and the lozenge graver cuts lines of varying width. A multiple tool cuts several parallel lines at the same time. Many wood engraving artists prefer to make their own tools, customized for their style and needs.
Handheld rotary tools can carve or engrave wood and many other materials with intricate designs. Engraving cutters, high speed cutters and sand drums are just a few of the accessories used with a rotary tool for woodworking.