A simple concept such as cutting a line into concrete with diamond blades and reciprocating impactors produces attractive geometric and complex curvilinear forms. Patterns may be drawn freehand onto the concrete or applied with the use of templates. Progressive tooling makes the engraving process easier, producing simple and sophisticated results even for those who may lack artistry skills.
"The system works well even if the concrete is worn and cracked," says Brandon Adamson, vice president, Engrave-A-Crete, Bradenton, Fla. "In this case, encourage the customer to choose a flagstone or cobblestone pattern-something that looks good rough." Engrave-A-Crete has two systems for diamond-cut lines: The first tool features a stand-up operation and allows the operator to cut circular brick patterns; a smaller version cuts geometric lines, arcs, and circles. The second system is a reciprocating impact system and uses reusable templates.
The engraving process works well with water- or chemical-based stains that color the concrete. The stain often is applied prior to the engraving process. The cut shows the underlying gray concrete like a grout line. "For an intricate multicolored pattern that needs precision, we often recommend cutting the pattern first with a shallow cut, staining the work and cutting it again using a larger blade," says Adamson. Another way to engrave a pattern is to use a recirculating sand-blasting system that allows the operator to sandblast the image nearly dust free onto the floor or vertical surface.
Gerald Taylor, owner, Images in Concrete, El Dorado, Ark., likes to engrave concrete with an angle grinder. He uses his own design and layout tool, a chalk dispensing drawing tool that creates circles up to 14 feet in diameter to design floors, ceilings, and walls. He can create the variable line of calligraphy and fine detail with a 4-inch crack chaser diamond bit. Taylor also likes to use 2-inch diameter blades with 1/8-, 1/16-, and ¼-inch cutting widths.
To transfer artwork to concrete, Taylor places the art on clear acetate and uses an overhead projector to shine an enlarged image onto paper or plastic to create a template. Then with a pounce wheel, he perforates the template every 1/8 inch. Next he dusts chalk powder onto the concrete through the template. "Affix the chalk to the slab with hairspray. Use lung, hand, eye and ear protection, and leave the safety cover on the grinder when engraving," says Taylor.
You can find design inspiration for engraving concrete everywhere-in decorative iron gates, photographs, stained glass patterns, and more.
— Jeanne Fields is a freelance writer and owner of Fields Marketing, Douglas City, Calif., providing services to the decorative concrete industry.