How do you engrave rocks? With power tools! And even your big kids can do it.
How DO you engrave rocks?
With a power tool, of course!
To engrave rocks in this way, you’ll need access to a multi-purpose rotary tool (I own a Dremel), but after that, the process is surprisingly easy. It’s so easy that my kids can do it, and their stuff looks legitimately great. See that dragon up there on the left? Isn’t it freaking awesome?
Yeah, my eleven-year-old daughter made that.
Of course, if you’re not into dragons, you can also engrave inspirational words and hearts and mandalas and such, but we’re pretty into dragons.
You can also engrave rocks of any size, and the diamond bits that you’ll be using come in a variety of sizes, as well. We’ve been engraving larger rocks like the ones in these photos as a way to decorate a garden border, but you can also engrave small stones, and they’d make great party favors or holiday gifts.
How to Engrave Rocks with a Dremel
Want to give it a try? Here’s what you’ll need:
Dremel. The model that I own is several years old, and I’ve done some VERY weird things with it.
diamond bits. I have a variety of widths, and I use them a lot. My latest obsession is engraving on these dirty old glass bottles that I scrounge from a 50-year-old dump site in the woods behind my house, but I’ll tell you all about that some other time!
Sharpie. You can use a pencil if you’re making very thin lines, but a regular Sharpie is fine for my purposes, and perfect for the kids.
rocks. We live in limestone country here in Indiana, and so that’s what we mostly use, that and shale from the creek beds. These diamond bits should cut any stone that you want to work with, however, so feel free to go nuts!
water. Get a pitcher, fill it with water, and put it next to your workstation. Oh–and do this outside. You don’t live in a mine, and so you don’t want to breathe rock dust where you live.
vise. If your rock is smaller, you’ll want to clamp it down. We don’t need to with the heavy stones that we usually use, but here’s what it looks like in my portable bench vise:
1. Draw your pattern. Draw anything that you fancy, but keep in mind the width of your lines. If you’re going for something thin and detailed, switch to a pencil instead of a Sharpie like I use.
2. Clamp your rock down, if needed.
3. Get the rock wet. You want to keep the rock wet, both because it lowers the temperature of that spot where a LOT of friction is going on, and because it gets the rock dust out of the way so that you can see what you’re doing. Pour a little water from your pitcher onto the rock, and continue to do so every time you pause your work.
4. Begin to trace your lines. Hold the Dremel perpendicular to your rock (you won’t get a nice cut if you angle it like you do a pencil), and begin to lightly go over your Sharpie lines. You’ll want to go over the same line several times, and then probably again in the process of creating your finished piece, to smooth out any unevenness.
You’ll find that you can make your lines any depth that you want. In the top photo, for instance, the stick figure family is fairly shallow, but the dragon is almost the depth of the drill bit in parts, and they both look great. If you’re carving into soft rock such as limestone, and if you want your piece to live outside, you’ll want your engraving to be rather deep, since limestone weathers easily.
5. Keep wetting the rock. Rinse off the rock dust, keep the rock cool, and take a good look at your lines to make sure they’re even.
When your engraving is finished, give the rock another good rinse to clean off the rest of the rock dust.
These rocks make great garden decorations (think plant markers or house numbers) and great gifts, especially if they’re made by a kid.
I mean, don’t YOU want a dragon carved onto a rock for Christmas? I know I’ve already put in MY order!