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A variety of metals will work for practice plates.


Cold rolled mild steel: Mild steel is probably the least expensive and easiest to find. Mild steel has similar cutting and hardness properties as 416 stainless, which a lot of knife makers use.

Copper: Copper is soft and easy to cut. This is a good material for beginners, because the graver point is less likely to break in this material.

Brass: There are a variety of alloys of brass. Some cut very nicely, similar to pure copper, but some do not cut well at all. The easier cutting brass will have a higher lead content.

Practice plates need to have some thickness to them, or they will flex and vibrate with the impacts of engraving. In other words, the plate needs to be rigid, and not flexible. If it does flex or vibrate, the engraving can still be executed, however the impacts from the graver are not as efficient and the tool will not cut as well. A thin plate will also make more noise from the impacts. A 2"x3" plate should be at least 1/4" thick to prevent the plate from vibrating. If using a thinner plate, backing the plate up with an additional steel plate should take care of the vibration. OnlineMetals.com is a source of practice plate steel. The plates used in a few of the tutorials are 2"x 3"x 3/8" thick (1018 cold rolled steel). Here is a link to the 2" wide x 3/8" thick plate at OnlineMetals.com. Scroll towards the bottom of that page link, and use the "add custom cut" and enter 3" for the length, and however many pieces you want to order.

For a scrap practice plate, the cold rolled finish of the plates is good enough. The plate in this tutorial is straight from OnlineMetals, without any extra preparation to the finish. A better finish can be put on the plates, if desired, with a belt sander. A hand file and sand paper would also create a better finish, but this would be a lot of work and take time. An easier way to get a nice finish is to find a local machine shop with a surface grinder.

If using thin practice plates back them up by hot gluing them to a block of wood or to a thicker piece of metal. 

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