David Frye
Glass Engraving & Drawing

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About Point Engraving


Point engraving, also called stipple engraving, was first utilized as a tiny highlight on a glass engraved in 1646 by Dutch artist Anna Roemers. It wasn't until the introduction of leaded glass by George Ravenscroft in 1673 that the full possibilities of the technique could be fully realized. Once again, it was a Dutch engraver, Frans Greenwood, who is credited with the first fully stippled glass engravings in 1722. The technique was mastered by Dutch engravers and flourished throughout the 18th century, but virtually disappeared in the early 19th century.

The present revival of point engraving began during the 1930's in England when two engravers working independently of each other, Laurence Whistler and William Wilson, re-discovered the technique. While England is still the world center of stippling, the technique is attracting new interest in many other parts of the world.

So, what is point engraving? How is it accomplished? Simply put, it is a technique which utilizes a diamond solitaire adhered to a shaft, or a tungsten carbide needle held in a pin vice. The image is created by gently tapping the glass with the needle or diamond. Each touch of the needle leaves a single almost microscopic 'dot'. A single image ultimately requires hundreds of thousands of 'dots', perhaps millions. The process is done entirely by hand, the engraver using rapid fire wrist action to tap the glass as often as seven or more times per second. Most stipple engravers prefer using a tungsten carbide needle because it can be sharpened whenever the point becomes dull, whereas a diamond, once dulled can no longer be used. The dots are layered many times over creating a full range from solid white (in which an area is completely covered with marks) to solid dark (in which the area is virtually untouched or so lightly stippled that the marks are all but invisible).

Glass engraving is unique among the graphic mediums due to the fact that the material is transparent. Laurence Whistler describes the special nature of engraved glass most eloquently in his book Point Engraving On Glass. He writes: "When glass is perfectly transparent...light passes right through, and it becomes invisible...But if, by some means, door, window, or indeed wine glass is scratched, the light is held up where this occurred not stopped, but trapped and broken up by the roughened surface, and then passed through as a vivid glitter. The surrounding glass is not there, or hardly there, and the glittering line or patch seems to float in nothing, as if it were itself a small source of light. This is the secret of glass engraving."

For more information on the process of point engraving on glass, and glass engraving in general, please check out the following sources and web sites:

*The Guild of Glass Engravers: http://www.gge.org.uk/

*Lesley Pyke Glass Engraving: http://www.lesleypyke.com/index.html

*James Denison-Pender: http://www.glassengrave.co.uk/

*Point Engraving On Glass. By Laurence Whistler

*Pictures On Glass. By Laurence Whistler

*On A Glass Lightly. By Simon Whistler