It’s a bit misleading to say marking and engraving cutters are different, because marking cutters are a sub-class of engraving cutters. However, understanding the best applications for using marking cutters over other engravers is useful for efficiency, quality, and cost savings.
Engravers are typically used to machine finishing details into the surface of a part, including things like serial numbers, logo, decorative patterns or orienting marks. Since engraving cutters are tasked with doing precision work, they are usually made of carbide or high-speed steel (HSS). They also have a unique geometry that ensures the groove conforms to the desired profile. This is usually a v-shaped groove with a bottom that is either sharp, radiused, or flat.
It is the geometry of the cutter that differentiates a marking cutter from other engravers.
For engraving, the flute end of the tool comes to a point. Cutting tools for other operations have multiple cutting edges. When more than one cutting edge come to a point, it is impossible to machine a precision v-shaped groove. The overlapping cuts results in a flat-bottomed groove.
To eliminate this flat-bottomed artifact, engraving cutters have a “half-round” geometry. This means the fluted end of the tool is cut down to half a cylinder. The result is a pointed tool with a single cutting edge. The point of this tool can be pointed, radiused or tipped (flat).
Half-round engraving cutters are perfect for fine details. However, because of their half-round end, they are susceptible to breakage especially if they are not handled correctly. For this reason, they are best suited for softer materials like aluminum and wood, or for applications requiring a high degree of precision like artistic decoration or logos.
However, not all engraving applications require precisely-grooved cuts. Take serial numbers, for example. Typically, a legible serial number will suffice. Considering the costs associated with breaking an engraving tool for such an application, it is best to complete them with a marking tool.
A marking cutter is an engraving cutter that is not half-round.
Marking cutters usually have two flutes. They are only available as radiused or tipped cutters because of the flat-bottomed artifact.
Although they are not ideal for precision decorations, marking cutters offer notable benefits over half-round engraving cutters. Due to their durability, they are better suited for engraving harder materials like ferrous alloys. They are also good for repetitive operations that do not require precision like serializing.
Whether the project calls for precise scripts and artistic detail or simple a scribed serial number, selecting the right engraving tool is important. Once the right tool is selected, check with this handy “Rotary Engraving Fact Sheet” for other ways to improve your engraving operations.