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[Favorite tips] Stamps for silver


#1

What a wonderful laugh we got from Skip on ebay. I don’t feel at all
alone now! Does anyone out there have a favorite way of making stamps
for silver. I keep coming up with designs but no ‘right’ stamps to
make them. So, I thought I would make a stamp if I could. First I
checked my trusty Shop Tricks…Anyone have suggestions? Thanks, Lisa


#2

G’day; I make my stamps using what we and Britain call silver steel
rod, and what Americans call drill rod. It can be obtained from an
engineer’s supplier (the DIY shops don’t carry it) You can buy it in
sizes from 2mm (1/16") upwards. I find 3mm and 6mm rod most useful
You can use small Swiss files and small drills to shape one end of a
70 - 80mm long piece of the rod into almost anything you can think
of; star, triangle, square, crescent, heart, hollow heart using a
drill hole couple of mm deep and burrs and files to finish the
shaping. Your imagination and the sky’s the limit! I have even made
punches in the shape of my logo below down to 1.5mm high. When the
shape is to your liking, heat the business end of the rod to red heat
and quench it quickly in cold water, swirling it around. Now clean the
blackened part of the punch with emery so it is clean and bright. Hold
the rod in pliers and using a small hot flame, heat the rod about 20 -
30 mm back from the business end, rotating continuously, and watch for
the colours to begin to flow down towards the tip (that’s why you
cleaned it thoroughly) The colours begin with pale straw, medium
straw, dark straw, brown, plum and blue. When medium straw reaches the
end of the punch, quench in cold water as before. And there you go!
In case you’re wondering, the colours come from slowly increasing
thickness of iron oxide film; the thicker the film the darker the
colour, and the colour of the film is an indication of the temperature
the steel is at that point. If you muck it up by going too far, just
start again from the beginning, heating to red, quench, etc. But
this hardening technique does not work on any old bits of steel you
happen to have, like nails. Drill rod or silver steel has a carbon
content, and it is this which makes hardening possible. Cheers - and
keep punching! –
John Burgess


#3

Just a small addition to what John Burgess gives on hardening and
tempering steel for design stamps. To make it easier to file the
design into the stamp,first soften the steel by heating it to cherry
red and let it cool slowly. Most of us(native american smiths) do
this by placing the steel into something like plaster and leaving it
for several hours to cool slowly.I have about 250 stamps,all done
this way.Design stamping is a very major part of our design
techniques. John Barton


#4

John - Interesting that you quench in water. Is that because of the
type of steel you are using? I’ve made some chasing tools out of “tool
steel” (I would have to look up the contents and make up), and was
told that for the initial heating (to red glow), it was best to let
the piece air cool. Then for the tempering of the steel, to quench it
in a tin can full of vegetable oil. - Lori Bugaj


#5

Good Afternoon Squire

Another thought on the metal to make you own stamps…I was told
that the Indians out west use old engine parts, pistons, rods, things
like that…to make their stamps they sell them for $2.50 to $5.00 US
$s… Indian Jewelry Supply Company in New Mexico. The nice thing
about that is: most of them are metric, I use mine to form bezels
6mm 8mm 4mm…They work really well. On the round stones, I’m still
trying to come up with something for the oval shaped and square
stones. Any thoughts on that? Be back after the Hurricane M’dom Susan


#6
   I'm still trying to come up with something for the oval shaped
and square stones. Any thoughts on that? Be back after the Hurricane
M'dom Susan 

Oval jump rings are made by wrapping two round mandrels together with
tape (I use toothpicks and hardwood dowels) and forming the wire
around that form. Perhaps this would work for your bezels? What about
square rod stock from an automotive supplier for square bezels? For
smaller ones, you could use square brass wire without too much
expense. K.P. in WY


#7

Hi Lori,

There are 3 types of tool steel that are popular in the US, oil
hardening, water hardening & air hardening. Each is designed to work
better for specific applications in industry. The price for each is
also different, water hardening is the least expensive & air hardening
the most expensive.

Heat treatment of tools steels is usually a precise process in
industry. Some treatments require special atmospheres & hold times at
given temps. The cooling can also require water mixtures or special
oils at various temps & times. Air cooling requires air at given
volumes & temps.

All that said, most of us can do an adequate job, for our needs, with
water hardening steel & a bucket of water at room temp.

Most industrial suppliers stock at least some sizes in all 3 grades.
In the US round tool steel is usually referred to as drill rod, flats
or bars as tool steel.

Dave


#8
    Another thought on the metal to make you own stamps.....I was
told that the Indians out west use old engine parts, pistons, rods,
things like that....to make their stamps they sell them for $2.50 to
$5.00 US $s... Indian Jewelry Supply Company in New Mexico.   The
nice thing about that is:  most of them are metric,  I use mine to
form bezels 6mm 8mm 4mm....They work really well. On the round
stones,  I'm still trying to come up with something for the oval
shaped and square stones. Any thoughts on that? 

Actually, the engine parts that are used for most hand made stamps
are valves. The metal they’re made of can be annealed before cutting
the design & then hardened after the design has been cut into the end.
The large end of the valve is cut off back at the stem after annealing
& then the design is cut. The tool is hardened after that.

Used valves can usually be found at automotive shops that overhaul
engines. I’ve never made any stamps from automotive valves, but I’d
suspect that intake valves would work better stamps than exhaust
valves. In many cases the exhaust valves are burned after bearing the
brunt of the hot gases expelled from car engines. The intake valves,
on the other hand are cooled by the incoming gasoline/air mixture &
tend to be lots smoother & cleaner.

Dave


#9
I'm still trying to come up with something for the oval shaped
and square stones. Any thoughts on that? Be back after the Hurricane

Take a look at pages 208 &209 in the '99 RioGrande catalog
(800-545-6566). They show 18 different sizes & shapes of mandrels.

Dave


#10
John - Interesting that you quench in water. Is that because of the
type of steel you are using? 

G’day; I have never obtained a ‘special’ steel for making tools. What
I use is a standard, easily obtained steel we call silver steel
(there’s no silver whatever in it - it is just shiny as you buy it in
a standard length of 3 feet) The drill rod obtainable in America
seems to be precisely the same. These are also called carbon steel. I
have never found any benefit in quenching in anything other than cold
water and swirling the job around. I am aware that there are many
steels in which the manufacturer lays down special conditions for
hardening and tempering, but have never used any. (that I know of!) I
have a suspicion that some people’s use of steels has some kin to
metal plating; ‘eye of newt, toe of toad, widdershins at the bright of
the moon…’ The normal procedure is to harden by heating to bright
redness, quenching as quickly as possible, then to lower the hardness
(tempering) by re-heating to various temperatures and quenching again.
What one is doing is altering iron-carbon-carbide grain sizes and
boundaries, but for all practical purposes, forget that. Since most
practical engineers and folk like me don’t have a controllable furnace
with an accurate pyrometer, we have used the very old 'colour run’
method since Bessemer was a lad. As a footnote I have even used
broken piston rings as gravers, by heating red hot, straightening,
grinding to the required shape, hardening, then tempering to pale
straw with a final gentle grind and polish. They worked well when
set into a suitable wooden handle. No idea what the steel formula
was. “If it works, use it!” - the engineer’s creed. As another
footnote, if you can’t really get decent steel, and the garages won’t
help with proper steel cast offs, it is possible to use iron nails -
and even heavy fencing wire (!!) so long as you heavily case harden
the iron. But that’s another story…! Cheers for now, and keep away
from Floyd!
John Burgess


#11

You can purchase oval, square, diamond, triangular and other unusual
mandrels from most of the catalogue dealers. Save old lipstick
tubes, medicine bottles, perfume bottles, fingernail polish bottles
and those types of things can also be used as mandrel-like devices to
shape bezels.

Iris in Baltimore


#12

Lisa I am a tool and die maker for 20 years now. I have heat treated
every steel out there. Silversmithing is a hobby for me as well as
lapidary. Over the years have made many stamps,assisted others in
fabrication,and have heat treated hundreds of handmade stamps for
people. Here at the Arlington Gem and Mineral Club we have classes
for stamp making a couple times a year. Back to business. The
best material for this job is S-7 tool steel. It is a shock resisting
tool steel with sufficient hardenability. It is also redily available
from tool steel suppliers or industrial suppliers. Typically you will
use rounds from 4mm to 13mm thats three-sixteenths to one-half inch
diameter. An 18inch long piece of one-quarter diameter is well under
20 bucks. 18 inches could yield about 6 stamps at three inches long.
Your going to layout the design on the end with ink. Some prefer to
draw with sharpee marker. The precise method is to ink the end
completely and scratch in the design with scribe. Use coarse jewelers
saw blades to cut in lines where-ever possible use files on the rest.
Sometimes a drill point is necessary in the end to create circular
effect such as a setting sun with radiating lines. Remember to
simplify the design, keep your cuts shallow to less than 1mm deep for
strength. The grooves need some draftalso for strength and to allow
for the release of the material during the upset or stamping
operation.With good design,care, and heat treat a stamp for use in non
ferrous metals could last a lifetime. If you have in Questions or need
supplies,or a custom stamp made callme at 817-557-1151,Cache
Dickerson,Arlington,Texas,756018 or@CaChEtex Cache in
Arlington,Tex