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he transfer methods listed will work on just about any hard, smooth surface: steel, stainless, gold, silver, bone, glass, ivory, and so on.

Inkjet Printer Transfer Method
The late engraver Bertil Aasland discovered a solution for an inkjet transfer method and made the solution available for a short time.  There are now variations on the same method using various solutions.   Tom White has a good transfer solution available for $35.

Materials needed for Inkjet method
Suggested inkjet printers are the Epson C66, C64, C84, C86, CX4600, CX6400, CX6600, using Epson inks.  These printers are available at most office supply stores starting at $69.00. Other inkjet printers may work, and some will not work at all.  For the transparencies, the
Epson Inkjet transparencies #S041064 seem to work well. 

Here’s the procedure:

1.      Print to the transparency film. Remember what you transfer will be mirrored.  If needed, mirror the design or text in the computer before printing.  First print to plain paper to check the print size.   To save transparency cost, print at the top or bottom of the transparency, trim off and reuse the remainder of the transparency.

2.      Trim the pattern from the sheet.

3.      Clean the surface to be engraved with alcohol, acetone, etc...

4.      Apply transfer solution to the surface using a Q-tip, finger, or paintbrush, and allow to dry for a few seconds.

5.      Tape the transparency with ink side down on the prepared surface.    

6.      Burnish over the back side of the transparency with your fingernail or a plastic object

7.      Lift the transparency and the design will be transferred.

Tom White has a good ready to go solution available.  TWdesignshone.com    There are good instructions on the site as well as what printers and inks work best.

Other solutions that engravers have discovered will work are clear bullseye shellac (thinned out around 5 to 10 parts alcohol to one part shellac) and  Birchwood Trueoil  

(Laser Method A) Photocopy and Laser Printer Transfer Method
by Bill Grencavich

Materials needed for transfer:

·        Fresh Photostat or laser-printed design on plain paper (inkjet won't work; the picture must have a dry toner base ink).

·        1 burnisher- steel can be used, but I like bone or nylon best for transfer.

·        1 bottle of Damar artist varnish.

·        1 bottle of the cheapest fingernail polish remover you can find.  The one with the yellow color is the best.  Pure acetone doesn't work as well, it's too strong.

·        A small squeeze bottle of tap water.

·        A rag or some cotton balls.

1.      Clean the plate with the fingernail polish remover, alcohol or acetone

2.      Apply a medium coat of the Damar to the plate.  I use my finger to rub it on.  I have never tried a brush, but it should work.

3.      This step is important!  The varnish is tacky enough to apply the design when the varnish will hold your thumb print without fading.

4.      When the right amount of tack is reached, place the design with the toner side down on the varnish. 

5.      Hold in place, and burnish the design firmly into the varnish. Do not try to remove the design.

6.      Take a rag or cotton ball and apply a small amount of the fingernail polish remover. Do not soak! Dab cotton ball firmly all over the paper until you see the design through the wet paper, then burnish as you did before, the firmer the better.

7.      Apply enough water to make the paper wet through.

8.      Using your finger, start rubbing the paper until it starts to roll up. Keep the paper wet at all times, and keep rolling it till all the paper is gone and only the toner remains.  

(Laser Method B) Laser Printer Transfer Method

Materials needed:

·        Laser printer and clear acetate paper (or other papers)

Modify a laser printer by disabling the heat rollers that the paper goes through before it exits the machine.  The heat is used to melt the toner onto the paper, and by disabling the heat, the toner will not melt and set itself to the paper or acetate.  When the paper exits the machine, the toner is just laying on the surface of the paper and can be easily wiped off.  You are on your own disabling the heat to the rollers in your printer.  Each laser printer is a little different, with "smart" sensors that seem to know if something isn't working like it should.  I haven't been successful disabling the heated rollers on my HP 4P laser printer, but on the old HP 2P machine it was possible.

Rather than disabling the heat rollers in the printer, it will also work to just shut the printer off before the paper gets to the heated rollers,  or you may open the toner cartridge door on the printer to stop the paper (or acetate) before it gets to the heated rollers.   It takes some experimenting to know when to open or shut it off, but when successful, the powdered toner will be unset and just laying on the acetate or paper. 

Make sure to print the design in reverse.   Next, put a fine coat of damar varnish or shellac on the metal where you want the design.   Carefully tape the acetate (with the toner face down) into position.  Use a finger nail or a plastic burnishing tool, and rub on the back of the acetate.  The toner will stick to the varnish. 

(Laser Method C) Photocopy and Laser Printer Transfer Method
Method is a little hit and miss with quality of transfer results.

Materials needed:

·        Photocopy or laser printed design on plain paper.

·        Acetone, carburetor cleaner, or lacquer thinner


1.      Print the design in reverse with a laser printer or photocopy machine. 

2.      Cut the design out with scissors.  Leave a little extra (1/4") paper around the design, if desired, to allow room to tape the image down. 

3.      Lay the print face down, and place a solvent-dampened paper towel on the back side of the design.

4.      Press down firmly.  The image will begin to show through the back side of the paper. 

5.      Remove the paper, and hopefully there will be a clean transfer. If not, clean off and try again.  Too much solvent will cause the image to run. If not enough is used, the toner will not transfer. 

(Laser Method D)  Laser Printer Transfer Method 
by Roderic Stannard

Good Morning ,
After considerable time and expense on trying to transfer an image from my Canon ink jet and HP laser printers and using different brands of paper and transparencies etc that are readily available in Australia., as a final desperate act to get something to actually work at all I raided the pantry and borrowed a roll of baking paper (used for lining cake tins and oven trays to make them non stick).  It is a silicon (sic) coated paper and able to withstand oven temperatures to 450 C. It is pretty much transparent like tracing paper. Cost is about $3. for 15 metres from all good supermarkets and it goes on the grocery bill (non traceable).

To cut it short, I printed a design using the HP laser printer on a sheet cut to A4 dimensions and applied it to a steel plate coated with the Damar/Zippo solution which was just on tacky. Rubbed lightly with my finger and a flat agate burnisher (to make sure) and had 100% image transfer with no loss of fine detail and you could see the image coming off the paper as it went clear as the image lifted. Absolutely no laser toner left on the paper. The heat from the laser printer did a few wrinkles in the paper, but nothing significant. Total time from hitting the print button and coating the plate with Damar/Zippo varnish to a full image transfer was approx one minute!!
Made my day!!!!!!

Now to cut what I transferred, I needed the better detail to take advantage of my rapidly improving small detail work with the Lindsay Classic.

The only further development has been to use transparencies from our own suppliers in Oz and using 3M waterproofing spray (for waterproofing shoes etc) or equivalent in 3 coats to make the transfer work.  The spray puts down a silicone layer on the transparency and stops the laser print from adhering.  Doesn't matter what brand of transparency (from the suppliers down here) they all provide a good transfer, just takes a little experimentation.

Click here for more information
about this method on the engraving forum.


Variation of the above Roderic Stannard's method using a shellac solution
Dr. Showah

Materials needed:

·        Denatured alcohol (hardware store)

·        Bulls eye shellac (hardware store) Made by Zinsser

·        BIN Primer (hardware store) Also made by Zinsser (this is a Shellac based primer. It contains shellac, and alcohol with a white pigment)

·        Parchment baking paper from grocery store


Mix is by volume

1 part Denatured alcohol
1/2 - 1 part Bulls Eye Shellac
1/2 (0.5) part BIN primer

Paint the solution on the metal surface you will be transferring to using a  small brush, q-tip or finger tip.  Let it tack (about 1 minutes)

Print your design in reverse with a laser printer on to the parchment paper.  (Flip the design  around before printing so it is reversed).

Use  scotch tape to tape the parchment paper on the shellacked metal with the design down and now rub on the back side of the parchment paper with fingernail, toothpick or plastic stick such as the back of a plastic ball point pin. 

Click here for more information
about this method on the engraving forum.

LASER or INKJET printers  by Craig Pepperman

This works with either printer. Including brother mfc. Also works with regular paper or glossy laser paper.

Steel wool the metal.

Clean with acetone.

Dust metal lightly with flat white spray paint and let dry. Just paint enough to show image. Too much it will chip when you cut it.

Cover paint with MINWAX POLYURETHANE (waterbase).

Apply transfer from laser paper (ink side down)

Burnish transfer to get excess glue and bubbles from it. Try not to get excess poly on your print. Paper towel glue off. It makes it  hard to remove it later if left on.

Let dry I use a heat gun to speed up and let metal cool.

After cool put under cold water. You just want to get paper wet to rub off transfer very lightly. This is water base until dry. You get a very nice transfer almost every time.  It only takes a few minutes to do the whole process.  It may take 1 or 2 times to get it right. Have fun all !!

Pencil and Ink transfers

Pencil method:

1.      Draw with a soft lead pencil (HB works well) on frosted mylar paper/plastic, and then place some scotch tape over the pencil drawing. 

2.      Rub it with a plastic bunisher or a fingernail, and pull the tape up.  Most of the pencil graphite should stick to the tape. 

3.      Stick the tape on damar varnished or shellacked metal,  

4.      Burnish it with the plastic burnisher or fingernail, and pull the tape up.  Make sure the damar or shellac is fairly dry and just slightly tacky.  Some of the graphite should stay on the varnish or shellac. 

The same idea will work with ink prints, except scratch with a scribe into plastic mylar, then rub printers ink into the cuts and wipe off the surface leaving the ink in the cuts.  Use scotch tape to pull the ink up and transfer it to damared metal. 

This method will also produce ink prints of engraving. Wipe the ink into the engraving cuts, and place tape over the engraving, rub and pull up.  This also works well for mirroring an engraving design. Stick a second piece of tape against the ink pull (two sticky sides together) and pull them apart.  Some of the ink will transfer to the second piece of tape and can then be used to transfer to the metal. 

Making an ink print transfer

1: Oil based printers ink is from Graphic Chemical.  Using printers ink on an index finger rub the ink into the engraving cuts.


2: Wipe the ink off the surface, but leave ink in the cuts.  Newspaper works well.  Do not use a cotton rag or tissue because they will wipe the ink out of the cuts.

3. Lay a piece of scotch tape over the inked engraving and rub the tape into the cuts with a toothpick.  

4:Pull the tape up.  Some of the ink should be on the tape.
5: For mirroring the design to the other side of the knife, place a second piece of tape (sticky sides together) with the first tape with the inked design. Keep the ends of the two pieces of tape apart so you have something to grip to pull them apart.  Press the two pieces of tape together with your fingers so that the ink is transferred to the second piece of tape, and then pull them apart.

6:  With a small artist paint brush or Q-tip, paint a thin layer of thinned out (5 to 1 or 10 to 1) shellac.  Use alcohol for thinning.  Paint on the metal surface where the design is to be transferred.  In this example, it is the other side of the knife.  Blow on it and wait approx 2 to 5 minutes for it to dry tacky. 

Damar varnish rather than shellac can also be use. 

Note: it is possible to transfer the ink without the use of shellac, however the design is less durable and could smear during the engraving process. 

7: Carefully lay the second piece of tape with the mirror image of the design exactly in position where the design is to be transferred to. 
8: Rub on the tape to make sure the ink is fully against the surface of the shellacked metal, and then peel up just half of the tape as shown above and look to see how clear the transfer is.  If it is not dark or clear enough, blow on the shellac with the tape pulled back and stick the tape down again and rub on it more.  Do this several times until the transfer is as clear as possible.  Stick the end of the tape down again, and lift up on the other half of the tape and repeat the procedure until it also is a clear transfer.

9: Above is a photo of the finished transfer.  The two pieces of tape were stuck on a piece of paper to include them in the photo.

10: The cutting of the ink print is begun for the second side of the knife.
Note: A laser printer transfer could have been used for the second side of the knife, but it is easier to cut an ink transfer from the engraving on the first side.


Smoke Prints

A smoke print is similar to the ink print described above.  Smoke and ink prints can be used to copy an already engraved design.  A candle flame can be used in the smoke method.  Hold the engraved metal just above the candle flame to cover the surface of the engraving with black soot.   After the engraving is covered in soot, there are two methods.  One produces a positive (black lines show the engraving cuts, and surfaces not engraved are white).  The other produces a negative (white lines where the engraving cuts are and black where the surface is not engraved).   For a positive, wipe the soot off the surface of the engraving with newspaper. Try to only remove the soot off the surface, and leave the soot in the engraving cuts.  Place scotch tape over the design, and rub the tape into the soot in the cuts with a burnisher or toothpick.  For a negative, do not wipe the soot off the surface. Instead, place tape over the engraving.  Instead of rubbing the tape down into the engraving cuts, keep the tape from going into the cuts by rubbing lightly with something larger (a finger pushing very lightly works) to push the tape on the sooty, unengraved surface.  Now pull the tape up to find the design on the piece of tape.  Ink and smoke pulls are a good way to keep records of work, and can also be used to transfer the design to another area for mirroring or repeating border patterns.

Wax Transfer by Mike Dubber



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