How To Choose An Air Pen (Air Scribe) For Fossil Preparation

Air pens and air scribes are the top instruments used for fossil preparation. The basic concept behind they are a stylus, or needle, that is powered by air that is able to hit the rock a thousand times per second, eliminating the fossil’s matrix. Air pens are by far the most widely used kind of fossil prep tool available and are that are found in garden sheds across and down the nation all the way to professional and museum preparatory labs. If you are a newbie, the most natural step upwards from an electric engraving machine or hand tool is to purchase an air pen before expanding into a variety of air abrasives as well as air pens.

There are some points to be considered when purchasing an Air pen. What type of fossils are you looking for? Are they fragile? Do you have a lot of hard rock you have to get rid of before you can work to create the fossil? What is your budget? Do you have Air Pens?

Different tools perform different tasks and are equipped with various internal mechanisms, making them extremely effective at certain tasks, and comparatively ineffective at other tasks. Each of our proprietary tools at ZOIC PalaeoTech is specifically designed to meet the needs of fossil preparation however, we try every effort to ensure that they are as adaptable as possible in order to maximize their utility. While there are tools that are the general-purpose that can be used by someone who is just beginning, experts or advanced vocational fossil preparation experts have an array of tools with each having its specific distinct specialization for their job.

If it’s part of either our price range as well as our PRO range in ZOIC PalaeoTech it is important for us to ensure that we are offering you the most value for your bucks’ within its category when compared to other companies. We’ve seen a massive market for our air pen, with numerous laboratories and preparation companies upgrading their equipment to the ZOIC PalaeoTech one. Over the past couple of years, we’ve increased our production beyond what we could imagine through word-of-mouth recommendations. The fossil prep air pen are precisely designed to the highest standards, designed with consistent quality to ensure dependability and, obviously, fun. The innovative designs and innovations we’ve developed have changed how we approach fossil preparation. We’re constantly developing new products, so stay tuned!

Every tool within PRO Range PRO Series is ideally equipped for specific tasks in the field of fossil preparation, providing the most sophisticated users satisfaction, quieter working, and the most efficient use of air of any other range on the market.

The PRO Range

These instruments have been designed to be more likely not to break and also have an easier stroke, which allows for greater sensitiveness and “feels” of the job. These models ( Microraptor and Velociraptor) come with built-in Air Cushion Technology. It is a good idea to use the Pro Range instruments that are well-designed and comfortable to be used for long durations. We aim to give you an instrument that will make you the best fossil preparation you can become. When it comes to the removal of mass matrix, or working under a microscope they are great instruments.

THE entry-level air pen

The Trilobite is a great entry-level tool at a very low cost. It was created to provide an affordable air tool designed for fossil preparation as a graduation point from an electric engraving machine. Although it’s not as efficient or sophisticated as the ZOIC PalaeoTech professional range of pneumatic tools The Trilobite is versatile, durable, and precise.

Trilobite Trilobites modified version of a commercially-available engraving tool (which in its original form is totally not suited for the job – find out more here! ) This allows us to create it with a lower cost than our bespoke, handmade air pen. We can share the benefits of these savings directly with the customer together with our experience with the elements that make the fossil preparation tools useful as well as durable and easy to use.

What fossils are you preparing?

The internal mechanism inside an air pen will determine the degree of success you’ve had in the preparation stage. The two varieties of air pens that you can choose from. Which one will best suit your requirements? All air pens that are in fossil preparation are variations of two internal mechanisms. A basic understanding of the internal mechanisms will equip you with the information that you require for making an educated decision. A lot of times, having one or two tools of every kind in your arsenal allows you to be more flexible in the setup you choose, however, there are times when the budget allows you to choose only one. So it’s essential to choose the right one!

Fossil preparation air scribes classify into two kinds. Although you do not have to be aware of how each function, it does make an enormous difference based on the type of food you’ll be making and the results you have using these. These types are referred to as impact Driven or the Pusher Plate Driven.

Impact Driven fossil preparation Air Pens

They are the most powerful fossil preparation field. They are effective in removing matrices quickly even when working on rocks that are hard. They’re usually better using more sticky or pyritic fossils however, they are not suited for working on any kind of fragile. It is the ZOIC PalaeoTech air scribe that has earned a name for its efficacy on pyritic rocks. This is the reason!

What is their purpose? They function through the inflow of compressed air, causing the constant pounding of a piston against the inner end of the stylus. This is which is controlled by balancing the pressures in the air chambers inside the tool. It’s like hitting an anvil with a hammer, millions of times every minute.

Below, find a graphic description of how an air scribe driven by impact functions. Below, you can see a diagram of how an impact-driven air scribe.

In the case of some impact-driven instruments, such as ZPT T-Rex and ZPT T-Rex, and ZPT ZOIC Chicago in particular, due to the internal mechanisms, they are more efficient than pusher plate models and some of them are also able to operate at considerably lower tensions (low PSI) which results in significantly lower energy consumption. In actual fact, low-pressure instruments (such as ZPT-TR T-Rex) ZPT TR T-Rex) can be considerably more effective than their counterparts with higher pressure.

There are two major kinds of air pens in this class. Certain models have their maximum working pressure set significantly higher while others operate at extremely low pressures. This is due to the dimension of the piston. In low input pressures, the pressure applied to the surface of the ZPT T-Rexis significantly greater than the pressure applied to ZOIC Chicago. ZOIC Chicago (a modified Chicago Pneumatic CP-9361) due to the fact that the dimension of the piston is substantially greater.

Low-pressure devices (such as our ZPT-T Rex) are amusingly enough to work with very low pressures. They’re quiet and inexpensive to operate, and they require the air compressor to ‘kick into’ less frequently. They have an ideal Pressure range of 0.5-3.5Bar or 7-50PSI and are considerably more effective in the removal of the matrix. The frequency of the beats is especially effective when working with hard fossils or pyritic rocks creating microfractures, which cause “pops” that would never normally occur.

Models such as The ZOIC Chicago are powered by impacts and operate with high pressures. They operate at an optimal tension of 6.2 Bar or 90 PSI. The ZOIC Chicago is an excellent all-purpose model that has both performance and accuracy due to its dimensions. There is a variety of styles that can be interchanged are offered. ZOIC Chicago is one of them. ZOIC Chicago comes with our exclusive locking mechanism for the positive stylus which means your chisel won’t rotate or spin. It will never, ever.

They are perfect for working quickly on the harder matrices (all tools work with hard matrices, however, it is more patient for models that are less powerful). The disadvantage of these tools has to do with the fact that they’re less compatible with vulnerable fossils as the force they exert is much more powerful. They’re typically too powerful to handle delicate spines or other ornaments on fossils if they are they are.

pusher-plate driven fossil preparation Air Pens

They are ideal for ore fragile fossils as well as more intricate tasks, allowing a reasonable speed of work even with the soft matrix. They can also be used with more difficult matrices, but don’t anticipate performing work in a short amount of time when it comes to the removal of the matrix. It is recommended that you do not have to take away large amounts of the matrix using this kind of tool. However, you will typically employ it when you’ve used an impact-driven tool to eliminate overburden in order to be close to the fragile fossil (e.g. an ammonite that is spiny in a nodule of hard limestone).

In the ZOIC PalaeoTech range, we refer to the pusher-plate powered tools “raptor” series that includes The Velociraptor and The Microraptor. It is also known as the Trilobite is also a pusher-plate-driven tool, based using a less complicated style.

What is the way these tools for fossil preparation work? Air compressed enters the tool’s body and increases pressure on the pusher plate that is attached to the inner part of the stylus and sealed with rubber O-rings. When the pressure is greater than the force, the stylus is being pushed forward. The pressure is released and emitted through the exhausts, and then the spring then returns the pusher plate, stylus, and o-rings to their initial position, hundreds of thousands of times per minute. Refer to the diagrams below.

This is a less abrasive action than impact-driven tools as air is utilized in pushing down the stylus instead of the repetitive tapping of metal against metal. This means that they take less matrix off at a time and models that have higher beats per minute (bpm) could crush the rock within their path, rather than chipping it away, giving you greater control. They have less vibration making it possible to work with delicate fossils. Additionally, the body of the tool is usually smaller because it is smaller.

Our models for pusher plates consist of the versatile ZPT-VR, the Velociraptor, and the extremely precise ZPT-MR Microraptor. The ZPT-TB Trilobite The Trilobite is an entry-level all-rounder model that is designed for someone who would like to get started using air tools to prepare fossils without breaking the bank.

The internal o-rings wear out (they’re really put to work!) and therefore they’ll require replacing when they wear out. They are a little more maintenance than impact-driven ones, however, the maintenance isn’t complicated or time-consuming and we’re always there to assist.

Our PRO range includes our Microraptor and Velociraptor are extremely low air consumption which is one of the least expensive other ranges on the market. Trilobite uses have more air in the air than the compressor, which means it cycles more often, however, it is still extremely low contrasted with commercial pneumatic engraving machines.

How much do you have in your savings?

Another factor to take into consideration is the spending budget. Keep in mind that in the case of your first air pen you’ll also have to buy an air compressor as well as water traps based on the humidity in your area and the appropriate PPE. If you prefer to purchase an all-in-one kit to make sure you are covered for cost upfront We offer a basic kit.

The ideal setup is one that includes a range of air pens that are usually located at different points of the spectrum of power, as the user builds up their collection in time. We’ve discovered our combination of T-Rex (powerful) with Microraptor (precision) is a total win and allows for amazing preparation work.

We appreciate the fact that many people will buy one pen to start. In general, we suggest one of our three general-purpose air pens, which cover the majority of areas. In our PRO range, we have here two pens: the ZOIC Chicago along with the Velociraptor are great all-rounders in addition to the Trilobite, which is our entry-level. We have both ZOIC Chicago as well as Trilobite Trilobites part of a starting kit that includes the compressor safety glasses, the dust mask, and the fittings needed.

ZOIC Chicago, the ZOIC Chicago, Velociraptor, and Trilobite are all-rounders. We’d generally suggest that you use the ZOIC Chicago if you are working on rocks with fossils that are less fragile and the Velociraptor for soft rocks with less fragile fossils. It is the Velociraptors capable of providing a higher amount of precision and delicacy. This doesn’t mean that it isn’t effective on more difficult rocks, but it’s going to take longer to do the job when it comes to the removal of the matrix because it’s not as strong. But, this more gentle action is ideal for fossils that can be susceptible to damage by a stronger instrument. Velociraptor also is equipped with an extended working pressure range over that of the ZOIC Chicago making it more adaptable to various tasks on the more detailed side in the range. For the majority of British rocks If you plan just using one air pen then this ZOIC Chicago is the best choice. When you expand your collection you can enhance it with the Microraptorfor greater precision and it could be the T-Rex for greater performance.

If you’re on a smaller budget or just cannot justify spending for a hobby that you could just make a few hours for, then it is the Trilobite is ideal for you. Trilobite offers an affordable pen for air that is ideal for those who are just beginning. It’s mid-powered yet it can also do high-quality work due to its variable pressure input. It’s an incredible improvement over working with an electric engraving machine.

What to look out for when picking an air pen

If you are looking to purchase, there are physical aspects to be looking for when buying new or second used fossil preparation air pens and air Scribes. A good tool will last for many years (even years) provided it is maintained. The following suggestions can be used when selecting a new or second-hand tool. Naturally, an old tool will be more worn clearly than a brand new model however there are some indications of how a tool could endure over time.

What is the best instrument to prepare fossils?

The first thing to consider is what kind of tool you’re considering is to be used for the preparation of fossils. Bear in mind that not all air scribes work to be used for fossil preparation. Tools for fossil preparation are generally made specifically for this use or are altered from the mass-produced pneumatic metal/plastic engravers and etchers.

Pneumatic Engravers: the good as well as the ugly.

If you find a steel air scribe or engraver on sale, don’t just assume that it can be able to do the job. Some engravers that are mass-produced are marketed in a misleading manner as tools for fossil preparation, but they’re not suited to be used.

Non-purpose-built, unmodified air scribes may share a few things:

  •  Metal-working tungsten carbide. We employ stone-grade tungsten carbonite in all our tools. It withstands the roughness of rock for longer and needs less sharpening.
  • A stylus that is not hardened or a little bushing. Air scribes or pneumatic engravers for engraving on plastic or metal don’t need an unhardened bushing, therefore they don’t usually possess this. This means that after long usage the stylus will begin to move. The fact that it’s made of metal does not mean it will not be worn down over time. It must be treated with care to ensure durability.

  • A short, stubby stylus. A more flexible, longer bushing and stylus that is supported is recommended when working with rocks.

The ergonomics, the longer range of the stylus as well as improved protection against wear and tear make a specially designed for fossil preparation, an air scribe more suitable option. Fossil preparation can be a difficult task for any tool, and it is important to make certain that you’re purchasing one that can handle the task.

A list of well-known air scribes or pneumatic engravers. Do they belong in the fossil workshop for preparation?

You might have seen some of them for sale, and you’ve probably been Curious. We’ll go over some of the traits of these engravers that are mass-produced to give you an idea of the possibility of them finding an application in your shop.
What may While it might appear to be inexpensive, it could be a costly the cost of having to replace the device after only a small amount of usage. The spare parts for these tools typically aren’t affordable and are not readily accessible in certain cases. A lot of these tools (air scribes or air pens, incisors) come with high use of air, meaning the use of a huge compressor is needed, or you’ll use up compressors in a short time (all while running the cost of electricity). There is a myriad of factors to take into consideration as fossil preparation is a highly demanding task.

Certain of these instruments are well constructed and extremely effective in their intended use for their intended industry However, the majority of them are not designed for use in fossil prep. If you’ve ended up here and are seeking information on various engraving machines, you can find useful advice on forums and reviews from people who are working in your field. These are not generalized reviews and whether or not an engraver is appropriate to clean fossils doesn’t have any bearing or influence on its suitability for its intended use. Chicago Pneumatic and Sealey in particular are the market leaders for Air tools within their specific fields and applications, with great reasons.

The CP-9361 (Chicago Pneumatic)

The most well-known pneumatic engraving machine in all of them is CP-9361 which was widely used to prepare fossils before tools that were more suitable and efficient were developed. For a metal/plastic engraver it’s amazing.

A lot of preparators prefer to use a CP-9361 that is not modified however, a larger slim, more flexible stylus and a more dependable bushing are suggested for work with rocks. The ergonomics, the extended range of the nib, and improved durability to tear and wear make a modified version a more suitable option.

Internal workings are the most important thing in this instrument. They are extremely durable and have been in use for more than 20 years. We employ the CP-9361 engraving machine as the model base of ZOIC Chicago. ZOIC Chicago, utilizes the force and endurance of its internals while creating external parts that are suitable for the preparation of fossils.

We provide an adapter kit that converts the CPC-9361 into the ZOIC Chicago.

The CP-9160 (Chicago Pneumatic)

The CP-9160 is a lightweight metal as well as a plastic engraving machine that was designed as a budget-friendly product to handle smaller, fast engraving tasks that it excels at.

It’s not suitable for fossil preparation, and it doesn’t meet many boxes with regard to convenience or requirements on the compressor.

It’s extremely air-hungry and has a staggering 1.69 CFM (nearly 50 liters per minute). In order to put this into perspective, it is nearly 8 times the energy consumption of the ZOIC Chicago. It requires the use of a 1.5kW (2HP) and a 50l (13 gallons) air compressor, which is the minimum (much more if it is silent). It will eat up your power costs to the max and you’re also at risk of burning out the compressor’s motor if the compressor is not sized correctly or has the right power for the task.

It’s comparable in strength to the Trilobite However, but its power is not as strong, however, the Trilobite is more pleasant to work with, considerably more durable, and less than. It can last for a long time to prepare fossils while the CP-9160 is not.

Sealey SA96 Air Engraver

Sealey SA96 Sealey SA96 is a different lighter-duty engraver that is designed for marking components, tools as well as security-related loan products. It is designed for just a few minutes of use at one time. In their intended use, they are high-quality devices at an affordable cost.

In terms of fossil preparation, it’s far from the tools you need. It’s a weak tool and has almost no capacity to remove the matrix. Also, it lacks the delicacy needed for delicate work.

It is equipped with an internal piston and cylinder Which means it’s an impact-driven tool but isn’t powerful enough to complete the task. In reality, it’s smaller in power than our Microraptor and is better suited for fine, specific work since it causes lesser vibrations to fossils.

The consumption of air is staggering at 4 CFM at 60 PSI (114 milliliters/minute when operating at 4.1 bar). We would not run this machine for long periods of time with anything less than 100l, 2.2kW (26+ gallon three horsepower) motorized air compressor. The cost of electricity will be very high, but with very little outcome.

Many cheap “copies” of the CP-9361.

The Chicago Pneumatic CP-931 is a model that is so popular that it has spawned many cheap counterfeits and knock-offs. They only last a couple of weeks (months depending on the luck). Many of them fell apart when held by the user.

There are some that have styli that are elongated, which makes them appear suitable for fossil preparation – but they’re not. They’re not designed for engraving, much less an activity that is more strenuous. Tools and engravers that are driven by impact are among the most difficult to engineer and have lots of margin for errors. They’re non CE and UKCA certified, which means they are not only considered hazardous and it is illegal to sell them in the EEA and in the UK (which doesn’t hinder them from even trying! ).

There are a few ways to discern a fake

1. The cost! If it’s too good actually be real, then it most likely is.

2. Air consumption that is high – These typically come with 2CFM (60lpm) consumption of air. The original CP-9361 is 10x less power at 0.2 CFM (6lpm). Certain models can be advertised to make the same use of air similar technology as the initial CP however, actually you will use more air if you actually own the.

3. The pressure at which the system operates. It is often recommended to use 60 PSI (4 Bars) This is due to poorly constructed internals. The piston is likely to struggle to move freely inside the cylinder. It is often stuck’.

Generic (sometimes brand-named) pusher-plate Engravers

This one could be a little similar! There are many pusher plate engraving machines that are mass-produced and out in the marketplace which is a little or a lot like those of which were widely used in fossil preparation years ago and before the development of more sophisticated tools. The design and the knurl are distinct, so you’ll be able to recognize one of them in a mile.

We actually use a higher top-quality model of the instruments as the basic model for the Trilobite Air Pen, which is one of the reasons we can keep it at a reasonable price! The one we use has been completely overhauled to accommodate fossil preparation. These air scribes are produced in a variety of factories across the world and many firms mark them with their own brand names. They can vary in terms of quality from one place to another location, but as pusher plates, the margin for error is much smaller than tools driven by impact.

However, again, we are confronted with the issue that they’re not long-lasting when made from fossils. It is true that the stylus bushing (the “nose” that the pen is attached to) is not very often hardened in the unmodified versions and can wear extremely quickly. The stylus will become increasingly unstable and wiggle around with an untidy fit, which makes any precision extremely difficult. Additionally, they are extremely noisy and air hungry(often at or around 2CFM) as well as lacking an exhaust on the front, meaning that dust is likely to settle on the work.

We’ve removed the original version of the attributes that make it suitable for use in fossil preparation. Trilobite Trilobites an improved version. It’s much quieter, and comes with an additional or interchangeable frontal exhaust (and therefore is more adaptable to work with fossils with weak bones and removal of the matrix) and stylus bushings, which means that you will not experience any wobbles for many years. It also helps reduce the energy consumption of the air and offers more ‘feel’ to the job. Trilobite is our Trilobite is equipped with stone-grade tungsten carbide instead of the grade of metal found in unmodified versions.


If you’re thinking of buying one of these pneumatic engravers for plastic or metal, be wary of it. There are other issues to look out for in tools made for specific purposes. Be aware of the use the tool has received and how long it has remaining. Can you get access to spare parts easily? Do you think you’ll be in a position to obtain spare parts and have them maintained in the future?

One of the most important things to look out for and is a sign of low-quality construction or a heavily frequently used instrument (or typically the two) is an unstable stylus. The stylus shouldn’t wobble in the bushing. When this occurs there is more power (power) goes away between the sides and is not directed fully forwards. It’s also more difficult to use a stylus that wobbles because you cannot be completely certain where it’s likely to land, either on the rock or in the fossil!

In the event that the bushing isn’t sufficient to be sandblasted during the manufacturing process, the stylus may show some character. The tools we offer are designed to be precisely fitted between the bushing and stylus, to ensure that the maximum amount of power is transferred forwards and allows for the best control. We temper and harden the material (you will notice that the bushings of these models ZOIC Chicago, Microraptor, Velociraptor, and Trilobite have a blue or yellow hue – as a result of this process. The T-Rex bushings are internal! ) So that it can last donkey’s lifetime even with the most intense usage. Although side-to-side motions are not advised for the longevity of your device, however, we know that this is among the most efficient methods to smooth the matrix. Our products are designed to withstand this kind of motion for many years.

Another thing worth focusing on is the amount of air consumed. In addition, lower consumption of air means that the device is more economical to operate (running on a smaller, less expensive compressor which allows the compressor to operate at a lower rate) but it could be an indicator of the quality of manufacturing. Air consumption is controlled by the type of internal mechanism to some degree, however, within a set of similar equipment, the least air consumption for internal mechanisms indicates that there’s less space within the mechanism for air to be wasted and escape. The tighter the tolerances in engineering are, the less air consumption. We are proud of the craftsmanship and quality. Our range is the most efficient in terms of the amount of air consumption in the market. For instance, the T-Rex operating at 5 pm (0.17 CFM) might only cycle a 50l compressor every half hour.


We’re glad you’ve persevered with us this far! We hope this guide was helpful. It’s essential to be aware specifics of these tools to allow them to perform at their peak for you.

The best results can be attained through a variety of air pens however, this isn’t suitable for all budgets. If you’re purchasing one at one time, you should opt to go for an all-purpose one, and then add the opposite tools (i.e. more power, greater speed, more precision). The principle of opposites suggests that you’ve got everything covered!

The ZPT-CP is part of our PRO range, the ZPT-CP ZOIC Chicago and the ZPT-VR Velociraptor are excellent instruments that can be used as a stand-alone tool; the Chicago is great for fossils that are in a hard matrix as well as the Velociraptor for fossils that are more fragile. It is the T-Rexis is a fantastic all-rounder that is highly versatile due to its array of nibs, however, it is ideal for fossils that are more robust than are found in hard rocks. Microraptor is Microraptoris are ideal for extremely delicate and fine work. A lot of our customers report the most commonly employed combination is T-Rex and Microraptor that will be suitable for most tasks!

The Trilobite is a cost-effective air pen that is created in order to help make the process of fossil preparation with pneumatic tools easier for the masses.

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