Engraving Stainless


My company makes equipment for the Oil & gas industry. On the end of our system we have to put a name plate. Currently we have these engraved for us by an outside company. I’m wondering if with the right cutting bit i could cut these on my x carve and make a little bit of money. I’ve already done the X & Y strenghting mods, dewalt 611 and i’m looking to get GT3 belt upgrade next.

The big issue is i know this stainless is HARD its 316L (1.4435). The text is 2mm deep and looks to be cut with a ball ended cutter.

What do you think?

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Do you want to used a laser for name plate

We’ve tried having these plate lasered in the past but never with good results. The text is always to fine, We give a 30 year lift expectancy with our systems and the name plate needs to remain visable for all that time.

Would a laser which can fix to the x carve be up to this sort of job?


Honestly I doubt it. The X-Carve is likely not the right tool for you if you want to do steel.

Stainless is not only tough to cut, it also ‘work hardens’ - that is, it’ll harden even more as you try to cut it.

Typically, when machining you’d use a relatively low tool speed (rpm) and a high feed rate. With a handsaw, you cut slowly, while bearing down on the blade. With a drill, use slow rpm’s and again, bear down on the bit.

I don’t see the X Carve being terribly successful at working with stainless, although I’d be happy to be proven wrong

Can you not use an aluminium based alloy. It’d have to be living out in pretty harsh conditions to erode it away?

They are probably chemically etched.

Aluminium is not preferred offshore, the aluminium oxide can react with iron oxide and spark. Where our equipment is we have to have non sparking items or the rig could explode…

We could use Brass however.

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Brass can be both cut and etched with the X-Carve.

Yah the brass works great. I etch using .01 etching bit and go .002" deep for small letters and .004" for bigger designs. Flood with “direct to metal” paint and then do the business card trick. Hold the business card vertically on the piece, one edge down and squeegee most of the ink off. Then let it dry. The rest of the paint rubs off the surface.

OR, you can clean the surface immediately by pouring some thinner on a page of a telephone book, let it soak it, turn this upside down on it and pull the piece down, in one direction. Flip the page, do it again. Surface will be shiny, paint stays in the etching.

Surface planing your wasteboard is critical because of the close tolerances. You can also, zero your bit, etch the first paragraph. Rezero z over the 2nd paragraph and etch that, etc. If you have a touch plate, this method yields better consistency for lots and lots of text.


D’oh! Brass didn’t even occur to me.

Having spent a life working on very large Diesel engines and locomotives, most of the older “classic” engines and locos always had brass plaques on them, often really elaborately designed. These are now very valuable collectors items (though I’m guessing you’d prefer to not have them stolen). Try googling “brass engine plates” and you’ll see what I mean.

Add some class to your equipment, start a tradition perhaps…

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Would be willing to bet you could get either the SS or brass to work with the right bits and enough time spent on it. Brass would be WAY easier though.

If you try brass try to get something in the 300 grades as they are typically easier to machine (although they do have some lead content). High feed, low RPM (as low as you can get), and small cut depth.

The other thing you need to watch for with this kind of cut is that your material is coplanar (level) with the router through the cut. A relatively quick way to do the is level a spoil material before you mount the plate. That should help a lot. Could also use one of the auto level systems out there.

As far as bits go I doubt they are using a ball cutter for this. They are more expensive and since you are just going to be filling it anyway there isn’t much point. This would be pretty easy with standard stub style end-mills (short depth of cut tools typically designed for metal cutting). Or even V tip engraving tools if you can keep the leveling true through the cut. Obviously I’m bias on tooling companies so I’ll stay out of that one.

If there’s anything I can help with please let me know.

John Torrez
Think & Tinker / PreciseBits

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CerMark™ product, is one of TherMark’s two general purpose laser marking inks and is recommended for creating black marks on a variety of metals. LMM6000 has been specially designed to dry in a hard coat which can be handled prior to laser marking without rubbing off. This allows parts coated with LMM6000 to be stored, moved or stacked prior to laser marking.

If you are interested specifically in marking stainless steel, you should choose LMM6000, as it makes the darkest marks on this substrate. However, the process window for LMM6000 is somewhat narrow, so if ease of use is a concern, LMM14 may be a better option and its marks on stainless are not significantly different from LMM6000.

Will these be used around salt water or a lot of humid heat? Brass will get eaten alive.

Yep, both. These systems end up on rigs all over the world. The current test is cut 2mm deep and then filled in with the black.

The amount of money i’d need to spend one getting a good laser compared to how much i could make on doing these plates just doesn’t add up at the moment. I might take a scrap one home at some point and get a good ball end bit and see what happens if i crank up the feed rate but keep the depth per pass really low. But i think i’ll focus on all the other wooden projects I’ve got on at the moment.

You could use your machine to make an etch tank. I etch copper, brass and stainless at home.

I built a UV box to expose resist film, but it can be done with the sun. Ferric chloride will do the etching and is not expensive.

If you have access to a laser printer, you can use blue resist sheets which is even easier than exposing resist.

A tank, an aquarium pump and heater is all you need.


For lots of years stainless steel has been engraved on pantograph machines using fine tip high speed steel cutters and a lubricant like paraffin. There used to be 3 machine manufacturers Taylor-Hobson, Dahlgren and Gravograph but I think only Gravograph still remain. I am sure that they will give you all the information you need about cutters, speeds and lubricant.

I am planning to use the X-Carve to cut stainless steel shims 0.1mm (0.004") and 0.2mm (0.008") thick, you guys think I would be able to make it ?

I also have 0.8mm SS cutting letters ongoing work. I think with bits its very tough job because it is very hard material.

Try to add a low power plasma with vertical head system but for this setup need a few upgrades like Torch, Plasma, THC and maybe changing controller etc. If someone help steps who already used plasma that will make possible.


I work with equipment used in oil and gas. In my field, the requirements for nameplates for equipment are specified in API code. For example in API 617, compressors specifications 2.11.2 says nameplates shall be of austenitic stainless steel or nickel-copper (UNS N04400) “monel”.

I agree that brass is a material compatible with the capabilities of the x-carve but you may have a compliance issue with the equipment specifications. I would double check that aspect as well before installing nameplates on equipment off shore.