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How to make your own jewelry stamps


#1

Hi everyone,

I am trying to create some personalized, handmade jewelry stamps out
of steel rods and nails, but I’m having trouble in the production. I
have very specific designs, most of which are actually pretty simple,
but I’m having trouble actually getting them to function correctly. I
have considered sending the design out to a company, but if I can do
it myself, I’d rather (and it’d save me money).

I’ve been doing some research online and I came across a few
articles on constructing handmade metal stamps for jewelry making. As
much as I’ve scoured the net, I’ve been coming up short on additional
The two articles I’ve actually found are located at the
following addresses:

http://www.ganoksin.com/gnkurl/5y

While they’re pretty thorough on the process of making a stamp by
hand, I’m not really sure how stamps for jewelry making are made
commercially through mass production. I assume they must be made, at
least partially, by machine, but there seems to be a lack of
on the process even in small detail. I figure, if I can
learn about the process, I might be able to come up with ideas on how
to do them by hand.

Does anyone happen to know any resources on the subject? I would
love to ask some of the companies, but as I’m not a professional
jewelry maker or a writer with an established publication, I’m afraid
of gettin the digital door slammed in my face.

I guess I should also include that I am working with general purpose
files, the smaller jewelry files, and a rotary tool with cutting and
carving attachments. I don’t have any experience engraving with a
graver (I do plan to learn that eventually), as from what I
understand that’s pretty expensive and I’m on a college student
budget (it’s taken me quite some time to collect the tools and
supplies). Also, If anyone has any ideas off-hand on how to do
angles (like for letters/symbols) that’d be really helpful too as the
dremel attachments I have aren’t really small enough for that kind of
detail.

Thanks in advance!
Kui Komoda


#2

I just took a look at the two cited articles and they seemed pretty
explicit to me. I can’t imagine that any mass production techniques
would assist you making them by hand.

You stated “I’m having trouble actually getting them to function
correctly.” but give no more details.

What aspect doesn’t function properly?

Regards, Gary Wooding


#3

Kui,

Your ganoksin links are a good start.

Basic tools you have are a good start, a graver or two is very handy
for fine sharp details. A pointy one and a small flat and a
sharpening stone are not too expensive. Actually the major cost is
stabbing your self in the hand… one tends to learn quickly :slight_smile: Water
hardening rod from some place like Use-Enco, shipping usually more
than the steel and 36" makes a lot of stamps. Get a couple of sizes.
If you are in the UK it is called silver steel. Buy annealed or heat
the working end to bright red and slowly air cool. A can of sand or
NEW cat litter. Carve, drill, file with cheap files and whatever else
seems to work. Get as close to what you want. Warm your new stamp and
coat with regular bar soap, it will reduce the oxide formation. Red
heat and quench in water. Polish a bit and heat slowly about an inch
from the working end with a soft flame to temper. Watch the colour at
the stamp end… goal is a straw colour, quench in water. Stamp away.
Smile.

A quick and simple technique which has served me well for years
making stamps and chasing tools. Make your stamps, it is skill well
worth learning which will serve you forever. There are commercial
techniques for making lots of stamps but the tooling tends to get
expensive fast. I doubt that you even want to know about them.

jeffD
Demand Designs
Analog/Digital Modelling & Goldsmithing
http://www.gmavt.net/~jdemand


#4

In response to Gary,

I’m sorry I wasn’t more clear. What I meant by “function correctly”,
was that when i try to test the stamp, the outline of the design is
rather weak. I’ve tried to file the sides as straight as possible,
but it still doesn’t come out as sharp as I’d like it to.

In regards to the mass production techniques, I’m curious how they
do the very detailed designs and pieces. I was looking at the ".925"
stamp and other than a laser, I can’t really imagine how they’d be
able to create something that tiny. I guessed it might be done by a
hand engraving, but that’s terribly small. I’m sure it’d be possible
for someone with loads of experience, but since I’ve yet to try my
hand at engraving, it seems impossible.

In response to Jeff,

Thank you for all of the pointers. I’m actually looking into
ordering a few books on engraving since I can’t find anyone near me
who could teach me. I’m actually in Hawaii, so my options are rather
limited. I do have a question about the tempering though. Since this
is my first time working with steel, I have no idea if the torch I
use can achieve the correct temperature. Since I’ve been doing small
scale silver pieces, I’m using a Blazer Stingray hand torch.
According to their site, it can reach up to 2500 degrees. Is that
going to be high enough to temper the steel or would I have to look
into getting a heavier duty torch?

Thank you to the both of you for the input. It’s given me much to
think about and lots more to research.

Kui Komoda


#5

Jeff,

On your comment (Polish a bit and heat slowly about an inch from the
working end with a soft flame to temper.) What do you mean the
working end. Is the tempered end the stamp, or the that gets the
hammer.

Thanks, Dave Leininger


#6

Hi Kui. Making your own opens up a whole new world. I’ve made over
500, and the best raw material I’ve found are center punches, which
I buy in sets from Widget Supply. They’re made from pretty decent
steel, but my favorite feature are the knurled (checkered) shafts
which make it much easier to hold and place the stamp correctly.

Good luck!
Allan


#7

Hi Kui,

The commercial or professionally made stamps are done in a couple of
ways. Many of them are CNC milled these days. You’d be stunned at the
level of precision the new machines can crank out. They can all
routinely split thousandths of an inch, so a stamp is no great
challenge.

The other main option is EDM, (Electro Discharge Machining or spark
erosion) but that works best for multiples of the same stamp, rather
than one-off’s.

When I had my sponsor’s mark punches made by the Goldsmiths’ Guild
in London, (20 years ago) they were hand engraving them, even on
punches 2mm across. Knowing them, I’d bet they still are. With the
right microscope, it’s not insanely hard to do, especially if you’ve
been doing it for years.

As far as doing yours, you said something about filing the edges
"straight up and down"…err… you don’t want the edges straight
up and down. You want them to angle in at about 30 degrees or so
until they reach whatever outline you want. That gives maximum
support to the working edge.

Take a look at a .925 punch or a letter punch to see what I’m
talking about. As far as faint impressions go, try hitting it harder.
Don’t be bashful, bash the thing.

Regards,
Brian


#8

Kui

In knifemaking, tempering is achieved by heat to 250-300 F. Heat
treating, to make it hard, you take it just beyond magnetic, then
quench, in oil or warmer water.

Dave Leininger


#9
What I meant by "function correctly", was that when i try to test
the stamp, the outline of the design is rather weak. I've tried to
file the sides as straight as possible, but it still doesn't come
out as sharp as I'd like it to 

In stamping, the metal flows into space between the stamp and the
matrix. In designing a stamp, one must calculate that space in
conjunction with available force. You problem could be not enough
space for metal to flow into; or shape is not conducive to
unobstructed flow; or you simply cannot supply enough force for the
gage of metal you are using.

To your second point - if you start letters as rectangles and
methodically eliminate extra metal revealing shape of letters, it is
not that difficult, just be patient and work slowly.

Leonid Surpin
www.studioarete.com


#10
On your comment (Polish a bit and heat slowly about an inch from
the working end with a soft flame to temper.) What do you mean the
working end. Is the tempered end the stamp, or the that gets the
hammer. 

The working end is the stamp part. When you harden ( the red heat
stuff ) just do the stamp end. Hardening leaves the steel as brittle
as glass, tempering to a straw colour slightly softens it. The end
you wack should be soft, bevel the corner to slow down the
mushrooming. Another way of tempering is to use a controlled kiln, I
don’t remember the exact temps (google) but even a kitchen oven will
work if you don’t get caught :slight_smile:

30 + minutes should do the trick or be the last 30 minutes of your
life. No bad fumes etc but some people just won’t trust you.

jeffD
Demand Designs
Analog/Digital Modelling & Goldsmithing
http://www.gmavt.net/~jdemand


#11

Kui,

Stamps are tapered a bit, sharp corners on the metal side is the
norm, who cares about the other side. You are making the stamp so
you can do whatever you want. Worst comes to worst and you just don’t
do it again.

It has really been decades since I used a butane torch like yours.
You only have to heat to red 1/2" at the stamp end to harden. It
shouldn’t be a problem. Tempering is around 400F (don’t quote me, I
made that number up) and very gentle and slow. I usually gently hold
the hammer end with my fingers. Slightly fire hardened fingers here,
but if that end gets too hot you most likely doing something really
wrong. Play is required, steel is cheap.

Production techniques… plunge Electric Discharge Machining, you
still need a master but it can be graphite or copper. Not quite the
machine sitting in a corner of everyone’s studio. You could stamp
them but then again you need a stamp and probably like working hot
steel. I know nothing about lasers. I go with little teeny burrs,
files and gravers, you don’t need to cut very deep and it is all
tapered. Test the 1/2 finished stamp in that nasty pink sheet wax or
even canning wax.

jeffD
Demand Designs
Analog/Digital Modelling & Goldsmithing
http://www.gmavt.net/~jdemand


#12

Hi Kui, I make my own jewelry design stamps, I have 300-400 of them.
I learned to make them from the Navajo silversmiths. While we use
any good steel,old files etc., for the round ones we use mainly
automobile valve stems (good steel) we knock the face off, and use
the valve stem for the design stamp. Soften the steel first, cut the
design in the end, re-harden the steel, then temper.

Hope this helps, if I can help more, contact me off line if you wish.
John Barton


#13
I was looking at the ".925" 

stamp and other than a laser, I can’t really imagine how they’d be
able to create something that tiny. I guessed it might be done by a
hand engraving, but that’s terribly small.

They’re photoetched…


#14
just do the stamp end. Hardening leaves the steel as brittle as
glass, tempering to a straw colour slightly softens it. The end you
wack should be soft, bevel the corner to slow down the mushrooming. 

not true!

the other end as important as the face of a stamp. Stamp which begin
to mushroom is difficult to control. I actually disagree with the
whole procedure that you describe. Hand-held stamp is hardened in
brine by plunging only 1 inch and holding until sizzling stops, than
withdraw, quickly rub with emery and wait for straw colour to reach
the end. Every thing is done in one heating. The other end gets dark
straw colour.

Leonid Surpin
www.studioarete.com


#15

Leonid, please explain in more detail. I don’t understand your recipe
for heat-treating completely. Are you saying heat the whole stamp to
red hot, then quench only 1 inch in oil (what is brine?), then emery,
then when straw color reaches the quenched? end, you put the whole
thing in cold water? Please furnish more detail.

Thank you.
Larry Heyda


#16

you can custom order jewellery stamps at your local supply
store,much easier… concentrate on the jewellery not the stamp, or
do as i no and no stamp at all


#17
just do the stamp end. Hardening leaves the steel as brittle as
glass, tempering to a straw colour slightly softens it. The end
you wack should be soft, bevel the corner to slow down the
mushrooming. 

Depending on the steel you use.

If you use a spring steel, you can harden the tip, and quench that
portion in oil.

You can clean off the steel, and let the tip temper in the latent
heat, and the stamp will be good to go. However I don’t like that
feeling of urgency.

What I find is that it’s best to harden the tip, quench in oil,
clean off the back of the stamp so you can see the colours, then
temper the stamp by heating below the point, until the tip is straw
to bronze, then quench in oil once again.

The trick is to use a wooden, or rawhide mallet on your stamp. Using
a steel hammer on a stamp is a sin in my books (being an old leather
worker, an’ all). There are exceptions of course, but Jewellers and
Leatherworkers should only need wood, or rawhide for stamps.

Regards Charles A.


#18

Hi Larry,

Leonid’s describing a very old-school technique. It works, and is
really quick…so long as you already know what you’re doing, or
have someone there to show you. (One of those tricks that’s best
passed along via apprenticeship, rather than books.)

(A) Brine is saltwater. Usually either sea water, or a saturated
salt solution. (as much salt as the H2O will hold.) It pulls heat out
of the steel faster than pure water will. This gets you a harder
edge…so long as it doesn’t shatter the steel. Old style simple
carbon steels can take the stress (most of the time) but modern tool
steels that’re designed to quench in Oil (slower cooling) will
shatter if you try to cool them that fast.

I make my punches slightly differently, but the gist of Leonid’s
technique is as follows:

Heat the whole punch up to red hot. Some folks focus on the inch or
two on the working (shaped) end, and just get that hot.

This will also heat the rear of the punch as well.

When you hit red hot, stick just the shaped end (plus an inch or so
of shaft) into water, and swirl it around for a second or two, then
pull it back out.

Very quickly scrub the end with emery before the residual heat in
the other end of the shaft causes the shaped end to re-heat and fry
your fingers.

To properly heat-treat steel, you need to harden it (get it above
the critical temp (usu. red hot)), and then quench it off in
something. (usu. Oil these days.) That leaves it very hard, but very
brittle. To reduce the brittleness, you need to temper it. You do
this by controlled re-heating of the hardened area. Once the hardened
area gets to the right temperature, you quench it again. The "proper"
temp depends on what you want the tool to do. Engraving tools and
files are only tempered back a very little bit, but hammers and
springs are tempered back to nearly soft. Convienently, the
temperature can be roughly measured by looking at the color of the
oxide rainbow on bare steel. A very faint straw color is the first
hint of heat, which is where you mostly want cutting tools. As it
gets hotter, you get a darker brown, followed by purple, and then
deep blue. As the colors progress, the steel gets softer but less
brittle.

You can’t really see the oxide rainbow on the burnt oxide layer left
over from heating steel to red hot, so the quick scrub with the
emery is to get the black oxide layer off so that you can see the
oxide rainbow as it develops.

What I normally do is quench the whole tool to dead cold, and then
carefully reheat the shaft from the center, with a torch, so that I
can build the heat into the shaft slowly, and control how fast the
heat migrates down to the working end. This gives me better control
of the exact color (hardness) that I get at the working end.
Leonid’s technique just uses the residual heat in the tail end of the
shaft to reheat and temper the working end, rather than using a
torch. The advantage is that it’s quicker. The drawback is that you
have no time for screwups, hesitations, or thinking about it. You
have a second or two to emery the end, and then another 3-5 seconds
before the heat comes rushing back into the working end of the punch.
There will be much more heat, coming in much faster, so you really
have to know what color you want, and be ready to quench it off
instantly when you get there.

Like I said, if you really know what you’re doing, this works great.
If not, quench the whole thing to dead cold, emery the end, and then
hit the middle with a torch. Once you see the rainbow starting in the
middle, back the torch away a few inches, and the heat colors will
move very slowly up the punch. That’ll give you plenty of time to get
it into the water once you’ve got the right color at the tip. (Make
sure you heat the tail of the punch, to make sure it’s soft. (or
don’t heat it to red in the first place.))

One final trick: I normally rub the working tip of my punches in a
slurry of Ivory handsoap before heating them to red hot. It forms a
sort of flux that blasts away when you quench the tool, taking the
dark oxide with it. (more or less) Saves having to emery the end,
and really helps with making the “hot tail” trick work better. Just
get a bar of hand soap wet, and rub the tool across the top of it a
couple of times to get it coated in soap.

Regards,
Brian.


#19

Just a silly little note, but if you’re having trouble with
impressions, don’t forget you can anneal what you’re stamping on to :slight_smile:


#20
Leonid, please explain in more detail. I don't understand your
recipe for heat-treating completely. Are you saying heat the whole
stamp to red hot, then quench only 1 inch in oil (what is brine?),
then emery, then when straw color reaches the quenched? end, you
put the whole thing in cold water? Please furnish more detail 

It is important for stamp not to vibrate when hit. To accomplish
that the stamp has to have dead soft middle and tempered faces.

Heat the whole stamp ( punch ) to even red. Holding stamp vertically
by the middle, submerge only an inch into brine until sizzling
stops. (Brine is when we dissolve table salt in water ) Than we
withdraw the stamp. The middle is still hot. We rub the end with
emery paper, so we can observe the colour changes. When straw color
reach the end, plunge stamp in brine again to stop. Do the same for
other end ( which is stricken with hammer ), only give it dark straw
colour.

We simply using residual heat from the middle to temper the end of
stamp. The advantage is that such a stamp will have very soft middle
gradually getting harder and harder towards the edge, and only edge
will have the required hardness. Such stamp will absorb vibrations,
never split or crack, and can be used all day long without developing
pain in fingertips. It is very important to understand that if
tempering using 2 stage process, than stamp must be tempered to blue
colour. Straw color would leave it too brittle to be hit with hammer.
But with one step methods we could have faces at straw, or even pale
straw, which give very long lasting tool.

If you making chasing punches to work on hard bronzes like bell
metal, or cast iron, the quenching liquid is mercury, or tool will
not last long on these metals. The only reason I am mentioning it is
simply for Mercury vapors are very toxic, so technique
requires a shop with industrial strength ventilation.

About brine - a lot of substances can be used for heat treatment.
All depends on the amount of thermal shock you want to create. Brine,
which is saturated solution of salt in water is best for this type of
treatment. Because brine is more dense than water and oil, it
dissipates heat more quickly, which is important in this type of
treatment. The common proportion is 1 part of salt to 10 parts of
water by volume.

Leonid Surpin
www.studioarete.com