CNC engraving bits as scratch tools

I think it’s the nature of scratchboard artists to constantly look for new tools, even if their current set of tools works perfectly well. For example, I have done the majority of my work with #16 and #11 Xacto blades, and they have served me very well. But, tiny steel points don’t hold up forever, and eventually I have to reach for a new blade. Durability is probably the first reason a scratchboard artist would seek for a new tool that does essentially the same thing as an Xacto blade.

Several years ago a friend of mine did me a favor and made me some scratch blades out of discarded cobalt deburring blades. To try them out he let me borrow me a pin vise for a few days and I thought they were great. Not long after that came the flurry of activity in my life that involved getting married and moving across the country. The little steel blades were the last thing on my mind at the time, and lay forgotten in a storage box until last summer. When I finally looked at the bits again, I realized I didn’t need a pin vise. I could drill a 1/8″ hole in a section of dowel and insert one of the bits. They are great tools. I included a photo in a post back in August.


Of course, I wondered if might want to try grinding some of my own, and I couldn’t remember what they were and what material they were made of (later found out they were cobalt deburring blades). I thought they might be milling bits, but my searches turned up some bits that didn’t look like what I had. They actually looked much better. They were carbide steel engraving bits for CNC machines.


They look a lot like some of the fancy blades I’ve seen other scratchers use. They fit just right into the 1/8″ holes in my dowels. So, with even more excellent tools, I guess it’s time to dust off some of my works in progress and put these tools to use.

6 thoughts on “CNC engraving bits as scratch tools

  1. Would sure appreciate a web site/ product # for the carbide steel engraving bits, I’ve done a lot of searching, and can’t find bits that look like the ones in your photo. Thanks.


  2. Hi Becky,

    I don’t have specific links, but found them on Ebay. They shipped out of China so I expected them to take a while to arrive (their email said 12-20 days). I think they arrived sooner than I anticipated. I specifically looked for listings with free shipping.

    Here is what I ordered:
    5Pcs Carbide Steel 15 Degree Router Pyramid Engraving Bits for CNC Machinery – $6.84
    10PCS Flat bottom Engraving bits 0.1mm 10 Degree CNC Router PCB Wood – $8.43

    I bought the dowels at Lowe’s. I tried 3/8″ and 1/2″ poplar dowels. Both worked well. I cut them into sections about 6″ long with a circular saw, and then drilled holes in the ends with a 1/8″ drill bit. I drilled just deep enough to cover the shaft of the engraving bit. Wrapping a piece of masking tape around the bit works well as a depth gauge. The engraving bits fit snugly into the dowels without any kind of glue, which means they can also be removed. The bits are extremely sharp, so I am super careful when I handle them.


  3. I should add that I don’t want to provide specific Ebay links because I don’t want to endorse a particular seller. My experience was good, but I don’t know any of the sellers personally, and I certainly wouldn’t want to guarantee that everyone would have the same experience I did.

  4. thank you so much for putting this together – the variation in work is pretty amazing.


  5. Thank you, Russ! I’ve been using different knives for years, both Scratch Art knives and the Ampersand knives with frustrating results. I keep a knife sharpening block at my art table, but have been frustrated with the lines not being clean enough. I tried a dremel today and didn’t like those effects either. (vibration can be seen in the lines and easy to cut through to the board. Will save that for carving on gourds or something.)

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