Talk to Us/FAQ

Here’s my email address if you would like to contact me (or Mary Alice):

Commissions:  I turn down many commission requests. I’m deeply appreciative of all the requests for my engraving I’ve been receiving since showing my work on Instagram and Facebook. In the past I’ve seldom taken commissions, and those that I did take were because they woke something inside me and I wanted the challenge, or maybe they just occurred at one of my weaker moments. However, I’ve been forced to do some deep soul-searching and have decided to change my business model. I’m semi-retired so many commissions have really cut into “my” time, and I need to readjust my life to take back some of that to achieve the personal engraving projects that are pulling at the strings of my soul. So, with that in mind, while I will still be happy to listen to your requests, please understand that it is unlikely that I will take many of them. I will continue to pursue my own projects, many or most of which I will make available for sale via Instagram and Facebook.

Frequently Asked Questions

So, with that in mind, here are answers to Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) concerning my engraving.

1)  Will you engrave my knife? That depends. I’m pretty particular about the kind of metal I want to engrave, and there are only a few knife brands that seem to accommodate that.

2)  OK, what kind of metals are you willing to engrave?

Titanium:  I’ve been using Grade 2 titanium with good success (I think that is also called CP titanium) – gives a nice light gray. Titanium is very hypoallergenic (even better than silver), so no skin problems.  If titanium is connected to another metal, I will only use cold connections like epoxy, rivets or screws, since I can’t solder anything to titanium.  I prefer not to engrave 6AL4V titanium – although it’s great for making knives, it is tough as hell to engrave. However, I have recently broken the code on 6AL4V titanium for “light” engraving.

Below, this is an example of “light” engraving on 6AL4V titanium.

Bronze:  Bronze is engravable if it is rolled sheet, but cast bronze can cause problems with porosity. Bronze patinates really well to a nice dark brown.

Stainless Steel:  410 or 416 stainless engraves very well. Stainless is a nice silver/shiny color.  If I had to choose a favorite, 416 would be it, both for engravability and durability (it isn’t too bad about rusting). Does stainless steel rust? Yes. I can also chemically blacken 410 and 416 stainless steel, for a nice contrast.

The 300 (including 316) series stainless is on my naughty list. 300 series stainless is too tough to engrave enjoyably and cleanly. I think of the 300 series stainless steels as “tough” and “gummy.” Most engravers will balk at these.

Copper:  Copper works well for carved work (patinates to dark brown). Great color, and I like working with it.

Shibuichi:  Shibuichi (Japanese “precious bronze” art alloy of copper and silver). I can make small sheets of shibuichi which works just like bronze but has that “cool” factor.  It engraves and carves beautifully.

3) How much does it cost for you to engrave something for me? I’m expensive. I start my general calculations for price at $50 per hour, and I include some hours in my estimation for design, sketching and pattern creation. I find I can only work 3 to 4 hours per day at the microscope engraving, so basically you’re looking at $150 – $200 per engraving day.

As an example of pricing, the Steampunk Viperfish pair of scales for William Henry (above) is $2000 for the engraving alone, not including the cost of the knife.

The little round steampunk Coin Claw pendant knife (above) netted me $900 for the engraving via auction.

4) How long will it take? I have no clue. I only engrave between 3 and 4 hours per day, and only on the days I want to engrave. Did I mention I am semi-retired? I have two scientific and technical college degrees, am an expert in Aerial and Electronic Warfare and I have extensive experience in scientific computer modeling and studies and analysis. I engrave because I enjoy it. I’m extremely well qualified and if I wanted a day job, I could get one.

5) If you were to accept my commission, what should I know? My general policy on commissions is full price up front before I begin the work, and upon delivery you have two weeks for approval.  Should you not want the piece, upon return to me in original condition, I will refund 50% of the purchase price – so, basically, there is a 50% nonrefundable deposit. This price includes US Postal Service shipping to the Continental United States, Hawaii, Alaska.  The Rest Of The World will require negotiation, research and extra money. Additionally, since much of my work is strange and unusual and is often a weapon, shipping to The Rest Of The World will probably not happen.

6) Do you offer a warranty? Yes. I will do my best to make right anything that goes wrong with my work if it is my fault, as long as I am physically and mentally able. My work is designed to be handled and to last – I want your great grandkids to still be fighting over Great Grampa’s engraved (fill in the blank). Plus, if it can survive my clumsy making, it will survive your handling, assuming you don’t deliberately abuse it.

Additionally I will “freshen up” an engraving created by me at no cost, as long as I am physically and mentally able to. You cover the shipping and insurance to and from my place of work.

7) I am interested in learning how to engrave, can you tell me in a one paragraph e-mail how? I’ve blatantly stolen this answer from Chris Malouf’s engraving FAQ page, because it’s a good one… He says – This is the Kobyashi Maru of all engraving related questions as there is no correct answer. An honest answer reveals that years of experience can not be compressed into one email and the useful information is, of course, NEVER enough. Against my better judgement I continue to answer these rather than deep six them….that’s because I do wish to help.

OK, if the above hasn’t scared you off, what’s on your mind?

Tom Sterling

8 Responses to Talk to Us/FAQ

  1. Renee says:

    Do you happen to sell the fish you used on your pouch? I just love them!!!

    • metal_musings says:

      Hi Renee,

      Unfortunately, for health reasons I no longer carve any kind of natural materials, so I don’t have any of the fish for sale. Thanks for the vote of confidence, though!


      • Renee says:

        You’re a very talented, gifted man. Thank you for the Pouch Tutorial. I made one this weekend. Not quite as nice as yours but cute none the less.
        I’ll search your site for another photo of the fish and try my hand at carving:-)

  2. Nancy Barnes says:

    Your work is fantastic! It’s the most creative I’ve seen using engraving in jewelry! I love it!

  3. James Deal says:

    Hi Tom, I stumbled across your website, and your craft is breathtaking. A few of them made me feel thing in a good way. I hope you are well, and living your best life.

    So, can you teach me?
    Lol, jk. I liked your comment about this.



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