The short answer is yes. Anything can be engraved if you know how and have the right tools. Now, whether or not engraving a wallet is something you can tackle by yourself is another story. Read on below to check out what options you have.
Engraving has always been a way to show that special someone how much they mean to you. When giving a gift, it’s always nice to commemorate it with a initials, a bible verse or a special date (anniversary, birthday, etc). People often get things like watches or wedding rings engraved, because they are something you wear/use daily…and they’re meant to last a lifetime.
Well, why not a wallet? Wallets are made to last longer and longer…and they’re great gifts. It’s also relevant to note that wallets aren’t exclusively made out of leather anymore. We’ve seen all of the following “non-leather” materials used to craft a finely tuned wallet:
- Elastic (not really engraveable unless it’s “part” of a wallet)
- Canvas or Kevlar
The reality, is that not all of the materials above will readily accept an engraving. Most of them will, but things like canvas, elastic and Tyvek are going to have a tougher time. We probably need to look at the types of engravings so you’ll get a better idea of what you’re working with.
Types of Engraving
The first thing we need to understand is that there are different methods that need to be used for different materials. You would approach engraving a leather wallet much differently that one made out of metal. Let’s look at the best application for each type, as well as pros and cons.
While this might not be the official name for this type of engraving, it perfectly describes what you’re doing. It’s not as simple as getting a knife or other sharp object and scratching your initials into the gift you spent hours/days picking out. The engraving is done with a diamond-drag bit that works with a CNC type machine. Meaning, it’s not a DIY/manual job. The bit is tipped with a diamond that’s cone-shaped. The machine applies the right amount of pressure to give you a precise, straight engraving.
- While it’s not DIY, it’s still a relatively inexpensive
- Great application for metal and hardwoods
- Fastest application
- Not good for wallets made out of plastic or leather
- The width of the bit only makes it good for basic lettering or designs
This is the most permanent form of engraving. While it’s similar to the method mentioned above, the bit or tip actually rotates at high speeds to remove part of the material itself. The design is dependent on the size and shape of the bit. Rotary engraving is definitely something a DIY’er can handle. The tools used are relatively inexpensive, especially if you think you’ll engrave more than one thing. We will say this, in looking at a TON of engraving tools online…you get what you pay for. If a tool seems too cheap to be good, it probably is. We noted that a lot of the tools in the $12-25 range did a poor job, especially if you’re not overly experienced. This tool HERE is one that is made by a quality manufacturer, has a warranty and a myriad of bits to choose from. It’s the perfect gift for a hobbyist.
- Can be used to engrave virtually anything – metals, plastics, wood, even leather.
- The most flexibility in terms of lettering size, shape, design
- Larger initial investment than just paying someone to do it for you
- Requires some cleanup afterwords (minimal)
Laser engraving is another great option, but it requires the purchase of a laser engraving machine. They do now make “mini” engraving machines that fit on a tabletop. They’re actually pretty neat to have – especially if you’re a crafty/DIY type person. Bang for the buck, this one has great reviews and would work well for engraving a wallet.
- Works on any wallet material mentioned above – leather, canvas, metal, wood, etc.
- Initial investment is a bit higher than other options
We wanted to include leather stamping as well, because it’s a great application for wallets. There are several different ways that leather stamps are applied.
- By manual press
- By hammer
- By heating, then pressing & burning the letter into the leather
The second two are the cheaper of the DIY options. The manual press is easy to use, but you have to actually buy it. It’s not crazy expensive or anything, but it’s more of an investment than just using a hammer or heat. Admittedly, with the letter stamps, you’re limited to combining pretty simple letters and number…especially by the font of the stamp. If you want something really ornate, we’d go with one of the previously mentioned engraving methods. That said, we’ve seen some really quality kits, like this one, that will a do really nice job (and with minimal investment).
*Regarding engraving leather. You always want to make sure you’re engraving (and purchasing in general) a high quality full-grain or top-grain leather. If you try to engrave a “genuine leather” or bonded leather, you’ll just end up ruining it. We did a write-up of the different leather types here, it’s a good resource to go by.