On hand-engraving with Thịnh Trần
Thịnh Trần, the self-taught artist behind the hand-engraved Adelais answering some questions.
Published July 29, 2021
I had a few unanswered questions, so I did some background research. As a result, I've managed to get in contact with Thịnh Trần (aka benzjr), the talented artist based in Da Nang, Vietnam, who actually did this spectacular engraving work.
And the best thing? He was kind enough to answer my ignorant questions despite the vastly different time zones and the fact that neither of us have English as a first language.
Hey benzjr, thanks in advance for answering these questions. As a start, could you tell us a bit about yourself?
Sure. I was born in 1984, I'm a father of two, and my main job is IT-related. It also seems I have mechanical keyboard engraving as a 2nd job now. :)
How did all this start? How did you pick up hand engraving?
I learned about metal engraving 9 months ago, in October 2020, and it became my latest hobby. I taught myself on Youtube and built my own electric engraving machine. But I still keep learning.
In another Reddit post I saw you're a sculptor. What other techniques do you use in your sculpting work?
Well, I'm not an actual sculptor, I just like to sculpt, and I try to do things I like. I don't know how to explain it technically.
That's fine. Let's talk about that stunning engraved Adelais keyboard case. How long did this project take?
I worked on this keyboard for 5 months, about 2-3 hours a day. But I'd be able to do it faster now as I got used to the process.
Btw, are you involved in the keyboard hobby at all or was this engraving project a mere commission work?
No, I'm not really involved in mechanical keyboards. I have almost no keyboard preference. But my friend does have one, and he wanted to do something special, so I did it for him.
I presume not just the engraving but also the artwork is your original design.
Indeed, I designed this keyboard specifically.
Did you receive instructions from your friend, dinhthai060, about the artwork or did you have complete freedom about what to engrave?
I had complete freedom about what to engrave because he said he believed in me. :D
What was your inspiration?
Actually, I just try to do my best focusing on the scrollwork pattern.
What specific technique did you use in this case?
I use an electric engraving machine that I designed myself based on what I learned from Youtube.
And the starting point was that teal TGR case you posted earlier, right? You had to remove the coating first?
Haha, you're right. Yes, I had to remove the coating first.
Are there any secrets to the workflow?
I draw directly on the keyboard and then engrave it. That's it.
How do you emphasize the depth? Looking at your feet this is a quite messy part. :)
I deepened the background and used ink to create contrast. The shiny parts were polished by hand. And the reason behind my feet covered in black ink is I spilled the ink bottle. :D That's not part of the usual engraving process.
That's a relief. I'm sure many people got inspired by your work. Do you have any advice for those who just want to start engraving?
I think everyone should practice drawing before carving something.
Btw, how expensive is engraving as a hobby?
Before flocks of keyboard enthusiast start engraving their keyboards: How about safety and health considerations?
Engraving affects mainly your sitting posture and eyes the most. Almost no chemicals are used. And hand-engraving doesn't produce those dangerously small metal particles.
Do you have a website with more photos featuring your artworks?
I have saved many pictures and clips of the process since I started hand engraving. They are available on my personal Facebook page at https://facebook.com/tranvanthinh.
You've done other numpads with this technique too. Do you plan on doing more keyboards? Also, are you open for commissions?
Yes, I still engrave keyboards for my clients.
Good luck with your future projects then, and thanks for the inspiration.
You can contact Thịnh at:
Published on Thu 29th Jul 2021. Featured in KBD #37.