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Printing Jobs With the Bureau of Engraving and Printing (Part 2)

Printing Jobs

This article features the engraver (WG-4413) and platemaker (WG-4416) Printing Family occupations that are responsible for how money is actually made.

There are 1,051 federal workers employed in the WG-4400 Printing Family of which 560 work for the Government Printing Office according to OPM’s Employment Data Base of March 2016. The Department of the Treasury employs an additional 434 employees in the WG-4400 Family. Small numbers are also employed by the Department of Agriculture, Department of Justice, Social Security and a few others. There are a small number of engravers and a total of 16 plate makers currently employed in these occupations.

The majority of the Bureau of Engraving and Printing (BEP) jobs are located in Washington, D.C. or Fort Worth Texas. The BEP is under the Department of the Treasury.

Other printing occupations include: (The number of employed is listed in parentheses after the occupational title)

  • Bindery Work WG-4401 (173)
  • Miscellaneous Printing and Publishing WG-4402 (206)
  • Letterpress Operating WG-4403 (176)
  • Offset Photography WG-4410 (4)
  • Offset Press Operating WG-4417 (80)
  • Bookbinding WG-4441 (61)
  • Electrolytic Intaglio Plate Making WG-4449 (21)
  • Intaglio Press Operating WG-4454 (144)

In this article we interviewed three highly skilled Bureau of Engraving and Printing (BEP) employees;  William Fleishell, a picture engrave, Kenneth Kipperman, a journeyman picture engraver, and Kenneth Garner, a platemaker, all three work in Washington, D.C. You can learn more about how money is made on the Bureau of Printing web site.

Q&A with William Fleishell

William Fleishell,is a picture engraver for the Bureau of Engraving & Printing located in Washington, DC.


William Fleishell, BEP Picture Engraver
William Fleishell, BEP Picture Engraver

Why did you become an engraver?

In 1988 I applied and interviewed for the job of Apprentice Picture Engraver with an art portfolio review. Previously, I had been to art school and was working as a free-lance artist helping my father with his own art business. I was also going to school to study medical illustration. Being a printmaking major, as well as a painter and sculptor in art school, I had an understanding of line drawing and had always worked on intricate and highly traditional drawings that were very similar to engravings. I had done etching and had even had experience with gravers before starting at BEP, but nowhere near the level of bank note engraving. It seemed to be a perfect fit for my abilities and background. In addition to this, I came from a family where familiarity with printing arts was common and seen as a viable occupation.

What is the most interesting project you have worked on as an engraver?

That is hard to say. I suppose, over the years, working on the various portraits of dignitaries has been the most interesting work I have done. I’m trained as a portrait artist and making engraved portraits is what I feel I that can do best. Over the past 28 years I have had the opportunity to engrave many bank note style portraits of living people, and have had all sorts of experiences working on these projects. One of the most interesting projects was working on the portrait of Chief Justice John Roberts. It was an arduous process and it took a long time to make this project happen; but in the end, the hard work and efforts were justified and the result worked to his satisfaction.

What is a typical day for an engraver?

Throughout the day I work on various traditional and digital engraving projects and stock work. When required, I also work on plate inspection and repair, conduct specialized tour visits, do training, and, at times, assist the apprentices with their work.

Would you recommend an engraver as a good occupation to pursue?

It all depends on the personal temperament of the person and their ability as a professional artist. This is not a business that just anyone can walk into. You have to bring to the table an already established set of sophisticated skills that are seldom seen even in traditional art schools. Therefore, finding a candidate for this type of work can take years. If an aspiring artist has the ability to focus and concentrate, the ability and patience to sit with the same art job for months and months on end, an inherent ability to be critical with extremely high standards, and a sense of stability whereby one would be capable of staying in the same place and job for many decades—then yes, indeed I would recommend this job to that artist. But through the years, I have met only a very tiny handful of people of who fit that description.

Q & A with Kenneth Kipperman

Kenneth Kipperman is a journeyman picture engraver for the Bureau of Engraving and Printing located in Washington DC.



Kenneth Kipperman, BEP Engraver
Kenneth Kipperman, BEP Engraver

Why did you become an engraver?

In my early years I won a number of art scholarships. I was then trying to find anything in the field of art. I answered an ad in the New York Times newspaper. The American Banknote Company, the leader in Security printing around the world, was interested in interviewing people for the Picture Engraving apprenticeship. I submitted my portfolio and was accepted for the 10-year picture engraving apprenticeship.

What is the most interesting project you have worked on as an engraver?

The most interesting project I’ve worked on was the portrait of Alexander Hamilton that appears on our $10 bill.

What is a typical day for an engraver?

Currently I’m working on an engraving of a naval battle scene. At a moment’s notice, I may also be asked to inspect and repair master plates, altos, and printing plates. I also help my coworkers any way I can in traditional hand engraving, plate repair, and tool making.

Would you recommend an engraver as a good occupation to pursue?

Yes. There are many styles of engraving, but I find hand engraving, as an occupation, to be the most rewarding and challenging in this digital age.

Qualifications of an engraver

The standard for engravers is at one grade level which is a WG-10, and the salary is $62,011.00. You must be a U.S. citizen to apply to be an engraver.

The following information from the Federal Wage System Job Grading Standard for Negative Engraving, 4413 is just a partial list of skills necessary to be an engraver.

  • Grade 10 negative engravers perform the full range of tasks of engraving. They interpret job specifications and instructions and organize work assignments such as engraving a complete map or chart, making extensive corrections or modifications to existing charts or reviewing the completed work of other negative engravers as a cross-check against errors or omissions.
  • The negative engravers receive hand compiled manuscripts, including overlays, and plan the procedures to be followed. They analyze and order or prepare photographic manuscript images on scribecote and photographic copy of master projections and grids. They plot and engrave the layout of master projections and grids when required and engrave map or chart features on scribecote to form the final negative.
  • Knowledge of a number of United States and foreign systems of symbology such as topographic and hydrographic symbols to describe a wide range of manmade and natural features in order to select the appropriate symbols for the material to be produced or transcribe publications of foreign origin for United States issuance. Knowledge of various systems of nautical or aeronautical navigation aids, typical positioning of these aids and appropriate symbology.
  • Knowledge of Federal and international agency specifications governing such things as layout of products, line weights required for various purposes, typefaces to be used, and tolerances allowable, in order to comply with the requirements of the various types of projects.
  • Skill in the use of measuring instruments such as dividers, protractors, English and metric scales, and microscopes with calibrated scales in order to accurately position base and overlay negatives for exact registration, assure exact positioning of navigation aids, or check the accuracy of line width.

Our next Question and Answer is with a platemaker Kenneth A. Garner.

Q&A with Kenneth A. Garner

Kenneth A. Garner is a platemaker for the Bureau of Printing and Engraving and located in Washington D.C.


Kenneth Garner, BEP Platemaker
Kenneth Garner, BEP Platemaker

Why did you become a platemaker?

As a BEP Machinist, I didn’t have direct involvement in the currency printing process and I was eager to be a part of that process. So, I devoted a number of additional hours to assist with grinding plates, which sparked my interest to become a Plate Maker.

What is the most interesting project you ever worked on as a platemaker?

My most interesting projects were recreating the 1986 State Department (Great Seal) die and working on the new design layout moving from 32-subject plates to 50-subject plates.

What is a typical day like as a platemaker?

A typical day as a Plate Maker is to complete plates from the production order provided in a timely manner. (A full description of plate production can be found at http://www.bep.gov/hmimplatemaking.html).

Would you recommend the job of platemaker as a good career to pursue?

I would definitely recommend obtaining a job as a Platemaker. The pay is great and the high demand to produce currency ensures job security.

Qualifications for Platemaker

The typical grades for a platemaker are from WG-5 to WG-8. You must be a U.S. citizen to apply for this position.

The following information from the Federal Wage System Job Grading Standard for Offset Platemaking, 4416 this is just a partial list of skills necessary to be a platemaker.

Grade 5

  • The grade 5 platemaker follows established procedures to produce line and halftone offset plates (when halftone quality is not a critical requirement) by superimposing photographic negatives or positives onto presensitized or machine coated plates through single flat exposures. The offset plates are used in press operations to produce a variety of printed materials.
  • The grade 5 platemaker must be familiar with the basic techniques and procedures to produce offset plates requiring single flat exposures of halftone and/or line film negatives or positives.

There is no Grade 6 information cited.

Grade 7

  • The grade 7 platemaker uses established procedures for superimposing line, halftone and other images from photographic negatives or positives onto presensitized or machine coated plates through single and double flat exposures to produce offset plates. The offset printing plates are used in subsequent press operations to produce a variety of printed materials.
  • The grade 7 platemaker performs platemaking operations such as single and/or double exposures, which require skill in the alignment of flat(s) to plate, variation in lengths of exposure, the use of screen tints, masking, step and repeat procedures, exposing and developing the plate.

Grade 8

  • In comparison with the single and double-exposure type of platemaking performed by the grade 7 platemaker, the grade 8 platemaker performs single, double and multiple flat exposures requiring hairlines [plus or minus .008 cm (.003 inches)] or critical [plus or minus .003 cm (.001 inches) or finer] alignment tolerances of several separate line and halftone negatives (flats), symbol and tint screens, and film masks and traps to a single plate.
  • Grade 8 platemakers have the ability to read and interpret work orders and the trade knowledge to select proper type of plate, processes, solutions, and equipment to be used.

The engraver and platemaker jobs are very technical and require specialized skills in order to make our paper currency properly. In our final article we will discuss the job occupation of the Research Chemist (GS-1320).


  • Lydia Washington, Public Affairs Officer, Bureau of Engraving and Printing – DC Facility (Washington, DC)
  • www.bep.treas.gov
  • Photos provided by the Bureau of Printing and Engraving

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About The Author

A Pennsylvania native, Betty Boyd moved to the Tennessee Valley in 1994. She retired in early 2012 after 30 years of Government service. Boyd was an Acquisition Manager/IT Manager/ Project Manager during her 30-year career. Boyd also served as a supervisor and team leader during her career. In 2012 Boyd founded a consulting firm, Boyd Consulting Services, which offers writing services to clients and companies. For more information about these writing services see the following website: http://www.BettyBoydWriting.com/. Betty attended Athens State University, Athens, AL and received a B.B.A. in Management of Technology in 2000. She received her Masters of Science degree from Syracuse University with a concentration in Information Management in 2007. Boyd is a certified Level III contracting professional and she received a Masters level certificate in Project Management from the National Defense University in 2008.