Activity Feed Forums Sign Making Discussions CNC Router and Engraving does anyone have a formula for pricing engraving?

  • does anyone have a formula for pricing engraving?

    Posted by Mike Grant on September 13, 2004 at 10:39 pm

    I have just put an order in for an engraving machine.
    Are there any pricing programs suitable for this side of the trade.
    Or does anyone have a formula to work these things out. :feedback:

    And does anyone have any tips for the uninitiated :thanks2:

    mark walker replied 19 years, 1 month ago 8 Members · 20 Replies
  • 20 Replies
  • Robert Lambie

    September 13, 2004 at 11:48 pm

    im hopless at working out prices for engraving mate.. im eather far to dear or way to low. 😕

    what type of machine did you go for mate?

  • Rodney Gold

    September 14, 2004 at 4:31 am

    Depends what you engraving , but a good rule of thumb is to average out at 5-7x material cost. On very small stuff like small labels , increase this , on larger stuff decrease it.
    Yeh , what engraver did you get? I got lots of tips.

  • Simon Forrester

    September 14, 2004 at 4:55 pm

    Hi Mike,

    It’s not an easy problem, one i’ve been fighting with over the last 15 years!! I’ve tried them all, number of letters, size of letters, area of label, a mixture of them all…problem is one system does not apply to all labels and materials.

    I’m about to change again, this time my current line of thinking is first charge a setup fee, to include cutting the label, clamping the label(this can be a real problem at times) and finally finishing and packing the label. Then add on the cost of the engraving, which the area of the label is the only way to go, otherwise you spend far too long quoting.

    One last thing, an engraving label may be small but i’ll bet it takes you longer to make than most vinyl signs you make so keep this in mind when quoting.

    Need any other tips then just ask, were running 6 engravers and routers so have encounter ALMOST every problem.

  • Robert Lambie

    September 14, 2004 at 7:56 pm

    i prefer to engrave laminates. seems allot less hassle and doesnt seem to run the bits down as fast as other materials.

    we have a vacuum bed so we dont get much movement, having said that on small peices or material that wont hold, i sometimes end up taping it down.

    pricing? would like to hear any methods of pricing engraving..

    i love engraving solid brass as the finish is beautiful.. but i simply hate back filling.
    would love to hear any tips anyone has on back fillinga nd cleaning up brass, metals etc.. 😉

  • Kev

    September 14, 2004 at 9:40 pm
    quote :

    i love engraving solid brass as the finish is beautiful.. but i simply hate back filling.
    would love to hear any tips anyone has on back fillinga nd cleaning up brass, metals etc

    Get a Flo-Pen, no mess to clean up after. We nearly always mill brass with the protective cover on or with a nylon nose cone as this minimizes scratches if the nose cone is not parallel with the piece of brass. Quick wipe with a brass mit and job done 😀

  • Robert Lambie

    September 14, 2004 at 9:53 pm

    where would i buy a flow pen kev and how does it work?
    can this be used in very small text?

  • Mike Grant

    September 14, 2004 at 10:00 pm
    quote Robert Lambie:

    what type of machine did you go for mate?

    I’m getting a refurbished Dahlgren 2824.

    I picked up a nice little order for tactile signs that will pay for the machine. No point in subbing that big one out so may as well get the machine to do it. Hence the original question!

    Jumping in at the deep end with this one :dance4: :doh:

    Machine arrives on Wednesday. :clap2:

  • Kev

    September 14, 2004 at 10:03 pm

    We work the same way as Simon is changing to.
    Cost of material per square inch + Setup + price per letter.

    As we are a Shoe Repair shop 75% of our engraving is on the customers own goods so we use – Flat Work £4.50 set up + 15p per letter, Round work (tankards etc.) £5.00 set up + 20p per letter. Also if it is expensive the price goes up 😉 .


  • Mike Grant

    September 14, 2004 at 10:06 pm
  • Kev

    September 14, 2004 at 10:18 pm

    as in mikes link mastergrave sell them around 80 quid comes with a few nib sizes. We fill 4/5mm letters with ease. When we got one we were wondering if it was worth the money and it turned out to be the best money we ever spent on a little gadget

  • Simon Forrester

    September 14, 2004 at 10:41 pm

    It’s great to see an engraving realted thread getting some response…I was wondering if anyone else still engraved!!

    Mike, When you say tactile, do you mean braille type signs, if so what software, material, process etc. are you planning on using??…just curious, as i considered it once and came to the conclusion that basically routing a mold, reverse printing acrylic and then vac forming was the best option…always good to get a new prespective.

    Rob, when its finished i may inflict my spreadsheet pricing system on you all…..just dont blame me if you all lose money 😀 😀 😀

  • Mike Grant

    September 14, 2004 at 11:02 pm

    Fozzy. Suregrave has just brought out a material that consists of 2 sheets, one 1mm thick and one 2mm thick. The 1mm has an adhesive back that you then laminate onto the thicker sheet. Set up your engraver to just cut through the top sheet, then “weed” off the rest leaving the raised letters. You have to do this within about 48 hours I think before the adhesive gets too agressive. Then you set up the machine to engrave small holes for the braille which you then use a special pen to push the beads into the holes. The braille text is set up through the Engravelab software.

    As simple as that! (I hope) 😮

  • Robert Lambie

    September 14, 2004 at 11:42 pm

    Not sure if this is a dumb suggestion but….
    Let’s say you have a rectangle shape and a solid piece of plastic or brass maybe even alloy?

    On your comp screen you have a rectangle and you place small circles in the places they should go for Braille signage. Then mill out everything around these circles and your left with embossed circles/pegs… would this not be just as good?
    You could do it with solid brass etc etc…

    just wondered 🙄

  • Rodney Gold

    September 15, 2004 at 4:27 am

    Heres a few tips.
    Brass , use ONLY engravers brass , it cuts dry and very clean
    You get stuff called magic mat , its a sticky mat you put on your table and stuff sticks to it like with superglue , amazing piece of kit , you just lift the piece off after and wash the mat to restore it to “sticky” condition if it gets dirty , save huge amounts of time and tapes.
    Filling : For acrylics etc , use a water based enamel , for brass , use duco. We just pour a little paint on , use a piece of cardboard with a straight cut edge to wipe off excess and work it into the grooves and then wrap a smooth lint free cloth round a wood block , dampen it with meths (the secret is to use meths , not thinners) and wipe off the excess
    For acrylic paints , we use water. Use a block begger than your largest solid engraved section so you dont scoop it out. You can use chromic acid on brass after paint filling , or go to your local metal finishing co and get a “passivating” solution , this actually gives the brass a sort of matt crushed gold finish and protects it .
    We NEVER laquer brass , its guaranteed to give problems a few years down the line when the laquer flakes and or the brass tarnishes under it.
    Signlab (or engravelab) is what we use , runs ALL our tables and is a great package. We do however use Autocad as well , as its about a zillion times better for drawing and constructing precision stuff than SL. SL allows most machines to emulate the really big Cnc machines , like multiple passes with bridges , various hogging strategies , inlays etc. worth every penny (Tho I havent tried other straight engraving packages , we wrote our own post processors for autocad based engraving) We do use mastercam and Artcam pro , but those are on the big 3d machines and are very expensive packages.

    In terms of pricing , apart from the formula I mentioned , the best way is to charge what the market can bear. If its volume stuff , then you have to be competitive and work out accordingly. if its one off gift type stuff , look at the value of the item and charge accordingly , for example a Mont blanc pen would be engraved at 25 quid or more and a parker might be 10. Yu do get estimating software , but its a mission , I find the “thumb suck” method works quite well. You soon get a feel for how long a job will take and what effort you have to put into it. Of course you could get quotes from your competitors and price accordingly. (Happens to us a lot and I really hate it , other co’s phone us with bulldust names etc and ask us to quote , they make our quote the basis of theirs)

    I cannot emphasise the importance of a cutter grinder , without decent cutters , you might as well have a chisel
    Wth a cutter grinder you can grind your own with the correct clearance , angles and rakes and make life a LOT simpler. We pay NOTHING for top quality tungsten carbide cutters , we buy a huge box of broken drill bits from the PCB mnfgrs and these are top grade carbide , we halve them and make our own.
    If your machine has a bottom loading collet , use it , the long shaft cutters are not supported well. If you do use a top loading cutter , then the less it protudes from the base the better.
    Depth limiting Nose cones are often a disaster , they produce ghost images , get swarf under them , make hogging a nightmare etc. Better to level your table using a sacrificial bed and use a constant depth. We normally engrave and cut in the same operation on slightly oversized material , so we draw a test line that engraves first outside that area to check depth.
    If cutting perspex , the BEST lubricant is soapy water , for metals we use the same water soluable machining fluid used for CnC machines , but undiluted (shell dromus – cheap in a 5 gal can that will last forever.) Washes off the table and doesnt leave the material greasy.
    In terms of cutter size , there is a rule of thumb , the cutter tip size should be 1/7th of the text height for the best engraving (single line fonts)
    If you do aluminium , always buy a VERY hard grade , soft grades clog cutters badly , soft materials are actually worse to engrave than hard. For Stainless and aluminium , dont be tempted to go in slow with high revs , the correct speed and feed is vital , generally you want to travel fairly fast. SS heats up with slow feed and high RPM and actually work hardens , and it becomes a viscious cycle as the material becomes harder and generates more heat until the bit breaks.
    If you have to do clean up passes cos of burrs etc , then your cutter is not good or your speed and feed isnt. Start off on the faster side of things rather than slow , slow feeds cause a lot of friction , heat and problems.

    Power is king when it comes to engraving , the more potent the spindel motor , the easier it is to engrave.
    We use mainly Gravoply or Rowmark materials , however we make our own engraving lam too at about 1/5th of the price.
    We use 1.5mm abs and spray it with duco based paint , mostly using matt paints , not as good as lams in overall finishes , BUT for small labels etc , its absolutely perfect , seems more durable than the commercial products and you can match any background colour.
    We never engrave with protective coverings on , the adhesives mess with the cutting edge etc.
    There is a wonderful add on for engraving machines , its a heated tip that fits in the spindle and has a foil carrier under it , it means you can do hot foiling with your engraver. The issue here is start and end points of letters where the tip comes down and up , sometimes gives a slight blob.
    In terms of diamond drag and burnishing , do NOT use a diamond drag tip for burnishing (burnishing is using the motor with a diamond for thicker lines) , you will destroy it fast (same applys vice versa)
    Formicas engrave and fill wonderfully as well , but are thin , they are also extremely cheap , come in a zillion finishes , is EXCEPTIONALLY durable , cut easily with an engraving machine and Wilsonart has some wonderful “metal” finishes (like alumasteel that looks JUST like brushed stainless , is actually aluminium and real easy to cut)
    Robert , coming back to your method of ADA or tactile signage , the problem is time it takes to hog the background and the milling marks it will leave , but a bigger problem is the stress induced or relieved in doing this , it will warp the plate
    In terms of engraving , a laser is by far the best peice of kit you can buy , it cant engrave metals , but can permanently mark them , but the quality and vesatility of the machine is wonderful , they are pricey , but you will very soon make your money back.

  • Mike Grant

    September 15, 2004 at 9:13 pm

    Rodney, once again you have proved to be a mine of information.

    Thanks for taking the time to reply in such detail.


    “I cannot emphasise the importance of a cutter grinder ”

    Rod, I am one step ahead on this one, we have had one of these since 1975, it is in brand new condition. Cost today about £1000.00 😮
    I knew it was going to be a good thing not to get rid of it. We still have an old Taylor Hobson pantograph machine that hasn’t been used for at least 12 years. Anyone want to buy it!

  • Adrian Hewson

    September 15, 2004 at 10:51 pm

    HI Rodney

    Once again your the man

    Where would I get one of these Magic Mats ??

    Also anyone else got a good source for metal sheets like brass and alu SS for engraving and routing ??

    Regards Adrian

  • ian rankin

    September 16, 2004 at 7:31 am

    Adrian, good supplier of metal and laminate in UK is Engravamet Tel. 01902 401666. Brenda, Gemma and Zoe three helpful and cheerful ladies give them a call.

    Regards Ian Rankin

  • Kev

    September 16, 2004 at 6:30 pm

    Sticky Mat ( and boy does it work)
    The amount of plugs I’ve given them. I’m sure on for some big discount :lol1: :lol1: :lol1: (only kidding)


  • Adrian Hewson

    September 16, 2004 at 9:10 pm

    Many thanks guys

    Regards Adrian

  • mark walker

    April 16, 2005 at 9:12 pm

    Adrian, try Identify (0117 953 0800) for the mats and also for rowmark laminates. They have the complete range and are cheaper than suregrave and also do tactile sign supplies etc. Mike, I would be keen to get on with the job as well but make sure that what you produce is TOTALLY CORRECT or you might find yourself on the wrong side of the law when producing braille signs. Not to worry you but if you speak to Stephen Jater at identify he will probably be able to help you with the legalities ps.mention I gave his name (he shouldn’t double the prices).

    Mark 😀

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