online learning

Learning Project Summary

When this semester began and I learned that I had to work on a “learning project,” I was doubtful. I figured it would be a drain on my time and that I would hate it. I was wrong. I enjoyed learning about engraving and I’d love to learn more about it. There are three day courses I can take from professionals to hone my technique. I am saving up for one of those courses!

If I had to describe my learning project journey in one word, it would be “roller-coaster.” On my trip from Calgary, I was sky-high with my expectations and how much I was going to accomplish with this project this semester. To say that I overestimated myself- is an understatement. I learned lots about engraving, more about myself and tons about online learning.

To kick off my list of things learned, I will start with organization. It is important to organize your research materials as sources can be scattered across the internet with various authors/contributors and information can differ depending on the source. I have an “engraving” folder on Chrome and my Safari browser on my iPhone. This really helped me stay organized. I also utilized Evernote to write notes, save websites and save pictures for inspiration. It even has a handy-dandy Chrome extension to help you!

Access to certain pieces of information may be limited and information is not always free. Sometimes you have to buy or rent a digital copy of a video, pay for a membership or invest in private lessons via video conference or phone call. This isn’t new to me, private lessons via phone call or video are common in the barrel racing world.

Having a network is important. I didn’t get the opportunity to establish an engraving network like I have for teaching, though I did gain information via online forums available to me. I believe the quality of my learning project suffered from my lack of network. I did gain some great sources from Twitter thanks to the Hobo Nickel Society. They responded to my tweet!

This reinforced another idea- don’t be afraid to ask for help! Someone in your network may be able to help you!

Don’t forget to reflect and learn from failure. Accept failure when it happens, explore why it happened and move on with what you learned from the experience. I know I failed mostly from a lack of practice and a lack of tools (you need the right tool for the job!), but I can still improve my skills with the tools I have and I can always buy more tools.

My last project is incomplete. I began engraving a pair of stirrups (See my post with stirrup inspiration!), but life got in the way. I plan on finishing the pair, but it might take me awhile to get them completed while we are calving and I am working full-time. Below are some photos of my process and a few of my projects this semester! I hope everyone had as much fun as I did when it came to their learning project this class! I’m considering a new learning project in the Fall, I just have to decide what I want to pursue.


Wiggle Engraving

So I decided to play around with wriggle engraving the other week. I’m so sorry that I’m a few weeks behind, between calving season and subbing I’ve had a pretty full schedule!

I saw this engraved trumpet while on a google search adventure and I absolutely loved this design! I had to try something like it!

Fig. 6, 69, Engraving Detail

Detail on the engraved trumpet.

Online learning is difficult, especially if the concept or skill is particularly detailed or not well-known. Engraving is a skill that is all detail. Engraving well involves attention to detail, knowledge of the tools and materials involved and a whole lot of feel. I don’t have great feel yet, but with practice and perseverance, my feel will develop.

Until then, I will keep practicing and honing my skills! After this bracelet, I began engraving an aluminum stirrup (I’ll post about it later) and I’m so excited about how it is turning out!

This is my attempt at wiggle engraving.

Learning online is great, however; it poses its own challenges to different learners. I am very much a hands-on type learner. I like to try new things and experiment until I find a strategy that works for me. With engraving, it is a great strategy, but it can get expensive when I need new materials to experiment with or if I need a new tool to try a new technique.

Sometimes our students don’t learn the same way we teach. That’s OK, great even! We as teachers need to acknowledge those differences and structure our classroom in such a way that everyone can learn in different ways.

Do the Twist, I mean, Wiggle

So today I found some inspiration in some nicknacks I had in my work room. This vintage concho was in my mother’s jewelry box and it somehow made its way into my hands. It is simple and it is beautiful, I just wish I had a use for it so I can show it off. 

Its beauty comes from its simplicity and how well the (unknown) artist used the space of the heart. The border and backbone of the scroll are created using a technique called “wiggling” with a flat graver. 

Although I thought I knew how to wiggle, I figured I better see how the pros do it before I scrap a practice piece. A short Google search later and I found this video:

He has a piece clearly in the frame and explains how to wiggle correctly. His video was fairly long (for my short attention span) but very informative. 

He explained that wiggling is “walking the tool” not just scribbling across the metal. You place a side of the tip of the tool “down then side to side.” It kinda reminded me of Chubby Checker doing the Twist. 

Chubby Checker performing “The Twist”. Image retrieved from

The vlogger also mentions some things to watch when wiggle engraving. It is easy to get “out of whack” and if you’re worried about that happening, you should lay some guide lines out to follow. 

In addition to talking about wiggle graving, he instructs us on how to make simple wheat cuts (which is the basis for scrolls and leaves and all that cool jazz). This part really helped me to understand how to fill up a space and basic layout. 

Demonstrating a wheat cut. The wiggle engraving border is evident. Screenshot from video

What else helped me is he used a few different gravers and seemed to critique his work as he went along in the video. This helped me to reflect on my own work and how to improve it. I’ve been pushing the graver too far and making turns too sharp instead of making quick cuts and curves.  

An analysis of the concho shows the artist made the petals and leaves using short cuts and twists. 
So now that I have notes, a few visual aids and an idea, it is time for me to try wiggle graving. This is a change of plans, I was going to work on chasing today (that is using a hammer and graver), but the concho caught my eye and begged for me to try wiggling! 

It is hard to see, but I have a basic outline scratched out.

I’ll update with my attempt in a bit! Has anyone else been struggling with their learning project (either battling procrastination, hard to find sources, or the difficulty in general)? 

Quick update! 

So I did get to try chasing and wiggling today! The former teaching me that I’d need some different equipment to continue that route, mainly a different vise, and the latter is my new love! Why haven’t I tried this sooner?!? 

I’ve been fighting with my graver tips digging into my metal and getting caught. That doesn’t happen with wiggle graving! 

Top piece shows the first wiggle piece and my failed attempt at chasing (it bent the piece and gouged pieces out). Bottom shows a wiggle border.

Forums: A Way to Network

So I joined an engraving forum. Actually, I joined a forum a few weeks ago but I was inactive, mainly reading posts and searching for resources. 

Today, I wrote my first post on the Engraving Forum! I felt nervous, what if the other members don’t like me? Ok, so maybe that wasn’t exactly my thought, I’m nervous that the community won’t welcome me since I am so new and inexperienced. 

I think my nerves are mostly from going out on a limb and being out of my comfort zone. I’m looking forward to meeting new people and learning new things. The internet is truly amazing at its ability to shorten the distance between people and to ease the transfer of information between people! 

Online Learning (So Far)

As of today, my tools still haven’t arrived and so I can’t post about my first encounter with a push graver or the difficulties of tool control. I decided to look at what I’ve learned so far and how learning online has affected it.

Online learning has its own difficulties, its own pros and cons and I believe I’ve learned a bit about acquiring information from the internet this early in the game. So here is the break down of the pros and cons of online learning according to little ol’ me.


  • Information is easy to access. I do a majority of my searching on my phone and so I’ve learned about engraving while on the road home from Calgary (my husband was driving, I promise!) and in the pasture while feeding cows.

  • Information is available 24/7. I do not need to work around office hours or someone else’s schedule, I can find information on my time (unless participating in a webcast or something similar).

  • There is a lot of information out there. Bucket-loads. Just about as much information as I could want.

  • There are a lot of different sources for information. Thanks to these various sources, people with different learning styles can learn the same information.

  • There are communities available, no matter where you live. I live so far in the middle of nowhere that most of the road signs are handmade. I’m not kidding. It is hard for me to take classes without driving long hours. The internet makes it easier for me to build my personal learning network (for both education and engraving). I can join a forum for engraving, follow awesome educators on Twitter and read blogs about both. I can ask questions and someone just might answer them.



  • Information can be somewhat scattered. Since there are many sources (and different opinions), my introduction to hand engraving was not laid out like a textbook. I had to actively search for information based on context and I had check out different sources to verify that information. I’m not sure if I’ve really absorbed most of the information I’ve read (I bookmarked just about everything so I can find it again).

  • There might be conflicting information. Thanks to all those handy-dandy sources, I’ve run into conflicting information that I’ve needed to research more. For example, some engravers refer to the flat graver as the wiggle tool. I was thinking they were two different tools until more research led to the conclusion that they are the same thing.

  • The quality of information might vary. Just as the information might be conflicting, the information quality is not guaranteed as it might be from taking a class from a master or purchasing a good instruction manual. Someone posting on a forum might be as green as me, but they might think what they are writing is correct when it might not be. I do not have enough knowledge to be a good judge myself, so I must research thoroughly before I leap.

  • Information about certain topics might be difficult to locate. For example, I can easily find videos about engraving scrolls and letters and working with the wiggle tool, but I am finding it difficult to locate information on how to design scroll work. In this case the internet can only take me so far and I may have to purchase a book or DVD with this information.

How does this look in the classroom?

The application of this experiment is easily transferable to real-world classroom scenarios. Students may find it difficult to locate sources related to their topic or they may need to assess their source by checking it with another, reliable source. Source assessment is an integral part of digital citizenship and one students in the 21st Century must learn. Now that I’ve had a taste of online learning, I can better help my students when they are struggling with issues similar to the ones I’ve encountered the last few weeks.

I can also teach skills that will help students be successful when it comes to online learning. Those skills could include:

  • source assessment

  • organization

  • note taking

  • citing sources

  • compiling sources

Overall, I am excited to continue learning using internet sources and I’ll overjoyed when my tools decide to arrive so I can apply the knowledge I am accumulating. I am ready to embrace being a connected educator and I want to bring my social studies classroom (my future classroom, that is) out of the stone age and embrace the 21st century. I want to create a portfolio (or toolbox, if you will) that will help me set up my class when I do get that full-time teaching job.

Until next time, keep learning!