44 years - Air Engraver Evolution and
by Steve Lindsay
tools are a culmination of 44 years of
engraving and tool making by my father, Frank Lindsay and myself. In
1975, at the age of 17, I began to learn hand engraving with my father who is a watchmaker, jeweler and
member of the American Gem Society. My father became friends with John Rohner and James (Bruce) Meeks. At that time dad purchased John Rohner's
invention called a Gravermeister from John in Boulder Colorado. John's
invention was the world's first pneumatic engraver. John Rohner was a
supporter encouraging me to continue learning. Thank you, again, John
for your kindness! Above is a book John signed which was an
inspiration to me during that time.
In 1977, after graduating from high school, I enrolled in the same Nebraska
tech college that my father attended studying watch making. I enrolled
in machine tool and die on the recommendation of John Rohner.
The college and super instructors (i.e. Alan Carter) allowed students to use
the school's machine shop for personal projects in the evening. Taking that
opportunity, I created several new hand pieces for the Graermeister that I was
using. The new hand pieces were palm-sized rather than long. This was
beneficial for smaller, detailed engraving as well as providing improved
control. Then in 1979, my father designed an electronic circuit to
oscillate and adjust the speed of a solenoid valve. Air was run through the
produce blow-pulses rather than suction-pulses. My father made two of
the machines, one for both of us. I used the school's machines to built
various hand pieces for this adjustable positive pulse generator.
In an interview for the December, 1981 NebraskaLand magazine, my father’s
machine was mentioned and a picture of it can be seen on the back corner of
the engraving bench on page five of the article.
It is the gray box
in the right back corner of the bench. We kept the hand pieces
hidden for the article and from the public for years. At the left is a
picture of three hand pieces made in 1979 for my father's machine.
tool & die school I continued to engrave by day while working second shift in
the tool room of a Nebraska manufacturer. After regular hours there, I used
their machine tools and continued to refine engraving
tools. I also made two
positioning vises for my dad and myself for engraving under dad's diamond
scopes which he used in his jewelry store. In 1980 after the tools were refined
and efficient, I quit the job and began full time engraving. Another friend of
my father, Lynton McKenzie, recommended I attend the knife makers' guild show
in Kansas City in 1980. I took the top slide of this linked 9mm browning to the show. Lynton was at
the show and took me from table to table to introduce me to knife makers and
his collectors. Knife markers such as Buster Warenski, Steve Johnson, Steve
Hoel, Ron Lake, Jim Hardenbrook and Jim Ence were at the show. From those introductions,
knife makers and collectors gave me engraving jobs. (some can be seen at
www.LindsayEngraving.com ). For
the next few years, dad made more improved hand pieces with his lathes and
milling machines that I then used for my engravings. In 1984 or 1985 James Meeks called and wanted
to come by to say hello and visit. He was working on his second book then and brought along
many white plastic plates. He explained the surface was white but when cut into, the lines
showed black. He had engraved them with various scrolls and example designs.
He explained he was engraving this plastic because the engraving would
photograph well for the book. After that visit Don Glaser Sr. called and said that
Meeks really enjoyed seeing my palm sized graver. It was an awkward phone call
because I did not show Meeks my hand piece during his visit. I did
receive a phone call while Meeks was visiting and he was left alone at my
bench for short time and so he must have
found the hand piece. It was interesting because after that Mr. Glaser
brought out a new smaller hand piece that had a plastic mushroom handle on the
the hand pieces they were making that were long and straight with
handle midway rather than at the end. It did not matter since I
was not in the tool business at that time, but only engraving for
collectors. In 1987 I got to do some engraving projects with my father.
We produced five engraved folding knives together. I drew the outlines of the
knife designs and dad made and set the diamonds, and I then engraved them. Dad's knives
had hidden watch screws and wedges, and would come apart and so the
inside surfaces as well as the outside could be engraved. The five pieces were called
Lindsay-Lindsay. The Japanese knife engraving market was strong then and
several of them went to customers and dealers in Japan selling for as much as
$40,000. Later the owner of the #5 piece contacted me with the news that
he had a terminal illness and wanted to sell and was asking $110,000. It was
offered for sale on the LindsayEngraving.com site and was sold.
When the internet developed I made a few knives and engraved and sold them to
Lynton Mckenzie who had
become a close friend, and I engraved the SCI Safari
international rifle project together. David Miller was the maker, Lynton
engraved the rifle and I did the accessories and a Steve Hoel folding knife
that were cased with the rifle. The piece sold at auction for
$210,000. Lynton had also been engraving Gene Clark's
watches. When Lynton became sick he recommended to Gene that I engrave
them. I engraved three of Gene's watches. I recall using
just completing another AirGraver design while working on the second one.
Through the years the AirGraver continued to be improved. I made a video
recording of the engraving of one of the faces of
Gene's watches through the microscope. It is at this page link:
Below are photos
of various Steve Lindsay AirGraver designs.
1. Working from the designs invented by my father in 1979,
an improved self oscillation piston principle was patented in 2000.
It can operate with very little air pressure or air volume. In fact, by simply
blowing in it or attaching it to a toy balloon, the tool will idle. Instead of a
spring for the return or impact stroke, the device uses air pressure for both
directions. As a result, the piston always stays balanced and low or high air
pressures can be used without one side overpowering the other causing the piston
to float, which can occur with the spring-pulse designs. The patented idle of
the new design prevents jumps that sometimes occur with spring-pulse designs.
The stroke length and speed adjustment is in the bore of tool. Adjustment is
made by removing the graver and adjusting the screw at the bottom of the tool
2. A multiple controller box is shown above. Since this box required a lot of work to
manufacture, it was replaced by using either a simple toggle-routing valve on the current foot controller setup, or quick disconnects. This development allows as many
hand pieces and rotaries as needed to be operated at the same time. The basic principle of the controller for the tool was patented.
3. One way to move the length-of-stroke adjustment to the outside of the hand
piece was the ring pictured above. Only one of these was made as a prototype and
it was patented when the snap on/off handle was patented. The tool worked nicely,
but it was difficult to make and assemble because of all the small internal
4. In the design shown above, stroke adjustment was still in the tool hole, but
the addition of the black rings around the body made it possible to adjust the
exhaust by turning the ring. When a stroke adjustment was made, the exhaust
could also be tuned to make them run even better.
The stroke adjustment on the tools makes one hand piece as versatile as a
variety of different-sized hand pieces.
5. I eventually discovered and patented a way to adjust the stroke by moving the nose in and out with a
ring around the body, while simultaneously adjusting (tuning) the exhaust.
Synchronizing the two made the tool run well throughout the stroke range,
without having to adjust one and then the other. The ring works in a manner
similar to focusing a lens on a camera. Because of the way the nose is held in
place, the impacts are isolated to the nose and graver shank. This leads to less
vibration to the body during impacting, and provides significantly more power
The stroke adjustment is similar to gears in a car and makes the tool perform like numerous handpieces in
one. First gear is good for shading and fifth gear is good for background. If thinking about it this way, the past blow-pulse machines similar to my father's machine has
6. The development of the PalmControl meant the
elimination of the foot pedal. I noticed that while engraving with a foot pedal,
engravers also vary the pressure used to hold the graver point in a cut.
Depending on the depth, engravers vary the amount of palm pressure. This idea
was built upon by making a handle that would automatically respond to the palm
pressure to operate the throttle. The concept for the PalmControl was: why do we
have to duplicate with a foot pedal what our hand is already doing? It was also patented. The legal enforceable claims of the patent protect a hand push pressure activated power tool used in the
hand engraving and jewelry fields.
Note: Comments were made by an owner of a competitor that the Lindsay
PalmControl is nothing new. However, the PalmControl technology had not been described or illustrated in a dated public magazine or book one year prior
(June 19, 2001) or any time prior to the priority date of the patent, that anyone or the patent and trademark office is aware of. A publication such as this is termed
proof of valid prior art. The patent issued only after thorough examination by the United States Patent Office, which courts consider the foremost experts in determining
novelty, obviousness, etc. If the engraving world had known of the abilities of this engraving technology, have no doubt that it would have been exploited long ago by a
For further reading Michael Arternis has written an
informative article titled insight into the patent system
The PalmControl patent protects a hand push pressure activated power tool used in the hand engraving and jewelry
fields as described in one of the legal claims of patent that is provided below. Infringement of the claims of this patent or any of the Lindsay patents by competitor
tool manufactures will be taken seriously.
"A hand-held power tool for use in hand working operations in the hand engraving and jewelry fields, comprising: a body having first and second ends; a tool tip holder
located at said first end for holding a tool tip; a handle made to be held in the human hand on said body; a variable power means for delivering variable power to said
tool tip; a pressure sensing means for sensing the amount of pressure exerted by a human hand between said handle and said tool tip; said variable power means will
increase in power when said pressure sensing means senses increased pressure exerted by the user of said hand-held power tool on said handle with the human hand; and
said variable power means will decrease in power when said pressure sensing means senses decreased pressure exerted by the user of said hand-held power tool on said
handle with the human hand."