Rocker Or File Engraving

Rocker engraved bracelet

Old Kiowa-Comanche nickel silver button

^Rocker engraving or file engraving was the most popular method of decorating silver used by the Eastern and Great Plains Indians. Examples were traded to the Southwestern Indians and much was taken a« plunder. There were a few silversmiths who practiced the art, but it did not gain popularity in the Southwest.

The name for this type of decoration comes from the action which produces the en graving. It is a rocking-like motion of the wrist, walking the chisel-like point of the graver slightly pressed into the metal, cutting out tiny slivers of metal to form a line or design. The rocking-like motion, also directed forward, produces a zig-zag line somewhat resembling the "herringbone" prints left in the snow by a skier walking uphill. The engraving tool can be a file, awl or a commercially made engraver. Like a file, it must be made from a very hard metal. It should be sharpened to a chisel point of about 30 to 40 degrees, and as wide the line desired. The engraving job is[g| made easier if the point of the tool is , kept very sharp by rubbing it often opt^T] fine emery or oil stone. The engraver should be held much like a piece of chalk, but with the handle nesting in the palm of the hand so that more pressure can be easily exerted on the metal. A file engraved decoration on a piece of jewelry is different from a filed decoration. The engraving is done with the sharpened end of a file, the filing is done with the flat working edge of a triangle file. A triangle file is used to score or cut the design, which is composed of notches around the edge, or of grooves for an almost sculptured effect filed into the slightly rounded surface.

Early engraving tools were usually old files ground to a chisel point and used without handles.

Old button made from a coin silver watch case with rocker engraving and old ear tab

These three lines illustrate the result) obtained when rocking the engraver slower or faster. The faster the rocking motion, the more solid the line becomes.

Cross made from a hammered out coin

Old Kiowa-Comanche buttons acquired by trading, or taken by Ute Indian raiding parties

Examples of script that illustrate what can be accomplished with a little practice

Examples of four engravers of different widths and the results of each

A commercial engraver

A commercial awl-type handle with a very small triangle file tip

The piece of work should be held down securely by clamping, cementing or tacking to a firm base to avoid the possibility of movement. Keep the fingers out of line of the graver so a slip will not result in an injury. The design or letters should be sketched on the piece of work with a fine line felt tip pen. To engrave, start with moderate pressure to adjust the depth of cut into the metal. Practice on several pieces of scrap metal. The angle of the tool to the metal to be engraved should be steep enough to keep from slipping and shallow enough to allow the point to easily rock and move along, following the line. Try only straight lines at first After much practice, curves, circles, flowers and even script can be attempted. For a great amount of engraving, an engraver's block should be acquired.

These two are homemade handles probably mes-quite wood, with triangle file tips

Homemade Indian Necklaces Braclete
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