Engraved Ink Pens & Types of Engraving for Promotional Pens

From Top Drawer to Every Drawer: Engraved Ink Pens Have Arrived

Do you have to retire from a bank or graduate from college to get an engraved ink pen? Heck no! When it comes to engraved promotional pens in particular, you can offer them to everyone from high-value clients and long-term employees, to first time buyers and visitors to your booth at the job fair.

But how has engraving gone from super expensive to remarkably affordable? Here’s the history behind the newfound accessibility of the engraved ink pen.

What Is Engraving?

Engraving is an imprint process where text or a design is cut into the surface of a material (metal, wood, glass, etc.). Engraving your message ensures it won’t rub off over time.

In the case of custom engraved pens, your branding takes on an air of professionalism and permanence that lesser giveaway pens can’t match.

Are There Different Types of Engraving?

There are several kinds of engraving, which we’ll walk you through below, starting with the oldest and ending with the most popular (and most affordable).

Hand Engraving

Here’s an example of hand engraving from the late 1800’s:

La Belle au Bois Dormant – Engraving by Gustave Doré / Public Domain

Exquisite! Also, very time-consuming and expensive. Not surprising, hand engraving today is rare. Partially because it’s likely to end up looking like this:

Photo by Brian Fegter on Unsplash

But mostly hand engraving has gone by the wayside because of machines and techniques that make engraving exceptionally clean, precise, time- and cost-efficient. Machines like these:

Manual Engraving Machine (Pantograph)

From the 18th century up until the 1970’s most engraving was done by manual engraving machines. In this type of engraving, a pantograph machine takes a large design or text and applies it to a much smaller space using parallel design arms (a ratio of 50:1 can be achieved). Today pantographs are largely used by hobbyists for cutting wood or acrylic. It’s a cool concept—check it out below—though not all that scalable.

Pantograph in Action, by AlphaZeta / Public Domain

Rotary Engraving

Next on the engraving timeline came computerized rotary engraving machines, which are still in use today. Rotary engraving involves a motor-powered spindle that spins a cutter. The cutter removes material to create the intended design or text. Rotary engraving allows the operator to enter a design or text into a computer. The computer takes it from there and directs the engraving. What would take an hour using a manual (or pantograph) machine would take a minute with a rotary engraver.

Diamond point (or diamond drag) engraving is a form of rotary engraving that scratches or removes material but without the rotation. When done well, diamond point engraving can pass for hand engraving (the Gustave Doré kind, not the scratching-on-a-cliff kind).

Laser Engraving

Following rotary engraving came laser engraving, which adds additional efficiency by engraving using light, rather than cutters. In this method a beam of concentrated laser light engraves (also known as marking or scratching) the material. Laser engraving equipment, while more costly than other machines, is fast, relatively easy to use, and creates a precise, clean imprint.

Laser engraving is the dominant engraving method today. It’s the method we here at National Pen use for most of our engraved promotional pens, including soft touch barrel pens such as our best-selling collection of Alpha Pens. These pens have a rubberized finish over an anodized (hardened) aluminum barrel. We use laser engraving to scratch the rubber finish down to the metal beneath, so your imprint appears in white, silver, or another color depending upon the metal underneath. Here’s an example:

To achieve a laser engraving that produces a mirror imprint, the metal underneath is finished with a mirror coating, like this:

Time + Technology = Engraved Pens for Less

What 50 years ago would be considered a service reserved for special gifts like an engraved graduation pen, today, pens with messages on them (like your slogan, for example) are well within reach.

Check out our wide selection of  personalized engraved pens, from the higher end Soft Touch Ira Pen with Mirrored Imprint & Gift Box to the best-selling Matte Paragon Pen.

Things to Engrave on a Promotional Pen

Once you’ve picked your pen, it’s time for your message. Here are some words of wisdom based upon our decades of service to engraved pen seekers like yourself:

  • Less Is More: With smartphones in every pocket, there’s little need for you to engrave your name, phone number, website, plus street address, email, and Twitter handle on the barrel of your engraved promotional pen. Include the contact info most commonly used by your customers. This makes it easier for your prospects to see your branding and take action without a lot of thought.
  • Include a Slogan, Motivational Quote, or Supporting Detail on Your Pen: If you have one, include a sentiment related to your brand to help folks attach an emotion to your name when they see it on your promotional pen. It can be business-specific, like “Progress Not Perfection” for a fitness gym or “We’ve Got Your Back” for a massage business, or event-specific, like “Andersen Family Reunion 2022” for family reunion favors. Similarly, a general sentiment, like “Thanks for Your Business,” creates a warm tone around your brand that helps prospects keep you in mind.
  • No Logo, No Problem: Engraved pens make a statement all on their own. Whether it’s a cause, political campaign, company, or special event you’re promoting, an engraved pen will do the job with grace and elegance, whether in plain text or along with a logo.

Engraved Promotional Pens Are for Everyone

Thanks to modern technology and economies of scale, you can leverage engraving to add an elegant edge to your promotional pens, but at a fraction of the cost. Have your dream pen custom engraved for distribution among a large general audience or a smaller, elite set.

Share what you’ve engraved by tagging us on Facebook and Instagram.

Karleen Wise Andersen

From marketing tips to product recommendations, I’m here to help small businesses be their best.

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