Q: I just got some old jeweler’s tools with a bunch of gravers that had handles a lot longer than the standard ones I’ve seen. They have a slot down the middle, a string wrapped around the handle, and a screw. The handles are longer, but the metal part sticking out is shorter than on normal gravers. Are they used the same way?
A: That style of graver handle (they’re still available, by the way, and are favored by some I know) is intended to allow you to adjust the mounting of the graver by moving the placement of the screw forward, as the graver gets shorter in use from sharpening. Normally mounted, at first the screw is all the way back, and ends up further forward by the time the graver is a well-used favorite tool. The string is easy to retie when needed. The advantage is that from beginning to end, you have a graver where the tip remains in roughly the same position as far as your hand’s concerned.
Using the more common “mushroom” graver handles, you can do the same thing, if you wish, by starting with a handle having a short “stem”, and moving to handles with longer stems as the graver wears. It’s more fuss, I think, than these adjustable ones where you use the same handle. The use of the gravers themselves remains the same. And if you measure the length of the graver not by how much it extends past the end of the handle, but rather from the back of the handle to the tip, you’ll find the length comparable (though in this case, fitted to the preferences of the previous user)
Also, because these mount the graver with a tight string tie nearer the front, and support the back of the tang also, it’s a quite sturdy and rigid mounting of the tool. The handles can feel a bit different than the mushroom-style handles, but they’re comfortable enough. The main drawback, last I checked, is they cost a little more than the standard mushroom handles.
by Peter W. Rowe M.F.A., G.G.