When I began engraving, I was as green as they come. But through hard work and listening to those around me, I managed to learn a great deal of the industry. One of the best pieces of advice I’d give to anyone who is interested in etching and engraving, is to listen to what others want to share with you. It’s important to take the time to read as much as you can and not just jump into this process without doing your research.
It is Possible to Make Money…Right?
Yes, it is very possible for you to make a great deal of money with engraving and etching. But if you’ve got dollar signs in your eyes, it is a good idea to take a step back. Do people actually make money in this craft? Yes, they do. You’ve seen jewelry shops, gift shops, and trophy stores all capitalizing on this craft. Here at Trophies Unlimited, we can engrave most items within a reasonable amount of responsibility. That’s the key here. You need to remember that responsibility plays an important role. This doesn’t just mean ensuring that the customer gets what they need. But that you are also doing things that are safe for you, your customers, and the environment.
The El Cheapo Engraving Model
As part of your responsibility to your customers, you need to first think about equipment. It’s true you can find “engraving”machines for under $20 on certain websites. It’s also true you can “engrave” an item with them.
Notice I put quotation marks around those words. That’s because what you are doing is nothing more than taking a drill bit to items and cutting a hole in them. If you have an inhumanly steady hand and a precise eye, you probably could do a decent job. However, for most of us, the end result is going to appear so unprofessional, that your “customers” are going to be a little irked that you ruined great grandmas heirloom wedding ring.
A responsible engraver, will seek out a professional machine, if they plan on engraving. Professional machines run in the thousands of dollars. The price of the machine is based on what the machine can do, materials it can handle, how quickly it can operate, and the quality of the final job. While there is some sticker shock at first, you need to consider the bigger picture. As you do a better job, your customers are going to recommend you to other people. So you end up having a powerful return on investment or R.O.I. With this machine.
That Doesn’t Mean They Are Safe
We know the quality of machine matters, but there is the safety aspect of the jobs you take too. NOT EVERY MATERIAL CAN BE CUT WITH A LASER ENGRAVER. While lasers are incredible, they can emit toxic fumes into the air. PVC for example can give off toxic gases and cause your machine to rust over in a few days. Now, there are ways to test for PVC in materials and we’ll touch on those in another blog post.
What you need to do before you cut any item, is determine what it contains. Is etching something going to bring physical harm to you, your staff, or the customers who are picking up the item? If you don’t know, then you shouldn’t pick it up. While things like diamond engravers have helped to improve on these concerns, new technology doesn’t help to remove all the health concerns that are there. As a responsible engraver, you need to pay close attention to all the materials you are using, the effects the laser can have, and ensure that you are handling everything as safely as possible.
While you have responsibility, don’t think you’re alone, the truth is that the laser engraver manufacturers are also doing their part. Current law requires these manufacturers to place a safety label on their machines to touch on the concern of noxious fumes, lethal radiation, and toxic particles that could otherwise be released into the air. There are also extreme fire hazards you need to take into consideration.
PVC and Other Deadly Materials
Too often, new engravers don’t take the time to understand the dangerous materials out there. Perhaps the deadliest are acrylic and PVC. What many people don’t realize is that when it burns, PVC becomes corrosive hydrogen chloride acid gas. It is also mixed with dioxin, vinyl chloride, and ethylene dichloride. These chemicals can cause cancer due to their incredibly carcinogenic nature, and people who have inhaled the fumes have experienced damage to their neurological system, reproductive system, and even their immune system has taken a serious blow.
It’s not all doom and gloom. But it is important to take a serious look before you decide to move forward in the industry. Tomorrow, we’ll expand on some topics and discover more.