Engravers have all too often found themselves lacking support and guidance when it's needed most and due to this situation they have had to stumble their way through the learning curve. Although this is not entirely a bad thing at times when considering just how many new and innovative engraving techniques have spawned from these circumstances.
Every beginning engraver at one point or another will likely have to deal with the uncomfortable feeling of having to make a judgment call without the aid of a more experienced guide. The sense of apprehension and concern can be crippling for some slowing their learning process. Others may have a natural ability to grasp and assess the situation faster and find innovative solutions that allow them to move forward advancing their skills. Over time they will most likely backtrack as needed and refine earlier methods or simply add what they feel they missed. For those that are less confident in their ability to problem solve then lessons from a professional engraver are the best assurance of a proper engraving education.
Short engraving courses can be perfect for some people giving them a jumpstart that sets them on the right path. But for others that prefer a more complete in depth step by step procedural engraving education. It will require much patience and time and in all likelihood money, but the engraver will therein reap the rewards. Others prefer to jump in and learn as they go. The individual should follow the path they feel most comfortable with as this will likely yield best results and should never engrave a customers goods unless solid in ones experience and confidence. It takes years to build a reputation of trust and assurance and seconds to destroy that future before it begins.
If time and money are not an issue then actual engraving classes are available and these are taught by reputable professional engravers. Classes will supply a structured format and will supply all that is needed but expect cost will be very high. The new engraver can also seek out private professional engravers. Many offer one on one engraving lessons. This is an excellent way to learn and likely less expensive than a classroom course. Consider that with private lessons you have 100% of the instructor's attention and of itself that makes it worth it. Additionally, you will be practicing in a real world environment since it is very likely that you will be working in the engravers actual work studio. Finally, unlike a classroom course, you are free to select the instructor that you feel comfortable with since and they maybe more flexible in terms of schedule and payment.
For many, engraving begins as an interesting hobby, and money can be tight. If this is the case and the individual is unsure if they wish to seriously pursue engraving then I recommend purchasing the bare minimum of tooling. All that is required to begin is a single 3/32" square graver with wooden handle, a small light weight hammer, preferably under ten ounces, and a small inexpensive swivel vice. Even the hammer and vice are not entirely needed to test the waters of engraving. A person can engrave soft metals such as copper, brass, silver, gold... and rest the metal on a small sandbag or other firm yet pliable material that conforms to shape, and engrave using the push graver technique where only hand force is required. And this is all that is needed to experience the simple joy of hand engraving. Much can be done with very little when ambition is strong.
These days engravers are very fortunate. Computers greatly aid communications and all is available in every format. Every trick, method, idea, for the most part is freely discussed in engraving forums. There is a wealth of archived posts that are back and forth communications from virtually all known engravers with new engravers who have questions and also amongst themselves as they share their new projects. There are thousands upon thousands of pages on every subject relative to the art of metal decoration. Add to this the countless documents found on web site pages and these all pooled together form a massive amount of information freely available to every aspiring new engraver, and is a luxury the last generation of engravers did not have.
Today engraving courses are a good business like any other and every person needs to decide for themselves which is best for them, is it the class environment course, or the more traditional method of mentor private instructor, or online video lessons, and do it yourself. The truth is, you are never alone in the company of your piers and we as engravers and other artists are in general more than happy to advise the new engraver on what might help them best.
Also, there are amazing hardcover books on the finest engravings by the best worldwide engravers and these alone offer an incredible resource of inspiration filled with astounding works.
In closing, as incredible as some of the tools are and as powerful some courses can be to jumpstart an engraver, remember it is not the tool or the course that makes the artist a good engraver, ultimately it is their will to produce excellence, to persevere and to overcome adversity that ultimately deliver success, regardless of the tool.