First thing to say, is that I hate (with a passion) machine engraving.
You have to compare a machine engraved item next to a hand engraved item to fully appreciate how awful machines are at engraving. Or should I say, how wonderful a hand engraved item is compared to a machine engraved item.
The two forms of engraving are just not comparable and whilst at first glance they may look similar, the machine just can't replicate a bright cut letter, as created by a hand engraver.
Of course, I can say this, because I hand engrave my own work. I could of course pop out and buy one of these machines, train a monkey to use it and sit back and drink latte's.
To begin with a hand engraved line, carves away the metal, leaving a line of character. By character, I mean a line that can start thin, flare wide and finish off in a neat whisper. The kind of detail required when engraving an old script such as Palace Script.
In short a hand engraver can engrave most font styles, even your own hand writing.
When hand engraving, the metal is removed via a special engraver steel, sharpened to core blimey sharpness with incredible geometric accuracy.
The best way to describe or compare the depth of cut you get with hand engraving, is to liken it to a stonemason chiselling away stone to reveal a well crafted letter. Because most people have seen and can see with ease such techniques, it is then easier to understand what is happening on a much, much smaller scale. Some of the letters I engrave are nothing more than 1mm high, and some of the letter strokes are sometimes nothing more than a tenth of a millimetre.
The other noticeable difference between machine engraving and hand engraving, is that a machine simply scratches at the surface of the metal, and doesn't create depth of cut.
So of course, not being very deep, the machine engraved lettering will wear away many, many , many years before a hand engraved letter would show signs of wear.
I will be adding another article on letter styles on another post. I hope you have found this somewhat illuminating.
Here is a link to some other pictures of my hand engraved work