How to transfer design onto metal?

How to transfer design onto metal for piercing, sawing and filing?

What is the best way to transfer a design onto sheet metal for
piercing, sawing and filing?

Gluing a B&W paper pattern onto the metal with rubber cement works
well for simple things. But I find that as the complexity of the
design increases this becomes less and less satisfactory. The paper
can lift up, the image can become less clear with repeated handling,
and worst of all as the paper frays it becomes harder and harder to
tell if I’ve hit the line I was aiming for.

I sometimes use a self stick paper with the pattern on the paper.

I use Tom White’s magic transfer solution for complex engravings.
Should work well for you. Tool Sharpener, Diamond Power hone, Gun and knife engravers | TW Designs

Print your design on clear acetate or baking parchment in reverse and
then burnish the ink onto the work.

The easiest and most foolproof method I’ve found for general
transfers to flat metal is to print the design on a laser printer or
older copier, place the design face down on the clean metal, and use
acetone to transfer the ink onto the metal (I then spray with lacquer
to keep everything smudged during the operations). For your
application, this may or may not work. There are many videos
available on this method.

There is a great deal of out there on this very subject.
Some methods include laser printers, heat, chemical processes,
tape/chapstick, gun bluing, aspahaultium and other resists,
lacquers, pantographs, etc. etc. Much of it depends upon your
application - asking for general will result in the fire
hose effect (lots of water, too much pressure to drink without
damage). In addition to the application, the equipment you have on
hand and how expensive you want to make it have a strong bearing on
your solution.

The biggest mistake people make in the beginning (I’ve read) is they
try to use the newer inkjet printers. These printers do NOT
unusually work!


A friend of mine taught this to me. Don’t know if she wants her name
tossed onto the internet, so I won’t mention her by name.

Take a piece of wax free transfer paper. I got mine at Hancock

Place the transfer paper over the metal.

Tape your design on one edge to the piece of metal, placing it on
top of the transfer paper.

You should be able to easily lift up the transfer paper by the
opposite edge to look under it to inspect the metal.

Put some wax paper on top of your design.

Use a rounded burnisher or similar implement to trace over the

The wax paper keeps the burnisher from tearing the design.

You can easily lift up the design and tracing paper to inspect the
metal underneath. If you missed a spot, go back over it.

When the design is transferred, use a scribe to trace over the
design on the metal. That way, if the marks get smudged, the scribed
line will remain.

It’s fast and easy!

I do A LOT of sawing/piercing of my own graphics. My technique:

  1. Draw up design by hand.

  2. Scan into CorelDraw.

  3. Vectorize.

  4. Print out actual size at BEST setting.

[Now here’s the “design onto metal” part…] 5. Put a drop of white
plastic glue (Bluebird, Elmer’s, etc.) on middle finger and dab it
onto the CLEAN metal. Quickly wipe finger clean (I do it on the top
of opposite hand, as it peels off easily when dry).

  1. Carefully place the printout on the metal over the glue. You have
    a second or so for adjusting.

  2. Place a clean sheet of paper over the entire design/metal.

  3. ‘Scrape’ over the whole business with something smooth, flat, and
    plastic (e. g., the edge of a plastic triangle) to squeeze out
    excess glue and get the paper REALLY flush and smooth against the
    metal. 9. Remove top paper immediately.

  4. Dry thoroughly before sawing.

Janet in Jerusalem

I usually glue the paper on with a glue stick and then cut along the
lines with a surgical blade to scribe all the lines into the metal
(or wax). If you want, then you can peel off the paper (after you
drill all the holes) and saw away. If you can’t see the lines as
well as you wish you can go over it with a Sharpie and then wipe off
the excess, that will darken the lines you cut. A second way I’ve
done it is to copy the image onto very thin vellum and then glue
that on with a glue stick, that super thin paper seems to stay put
during the sawing. A third way is to copy your image in reverse onto
smooth paper, coat the metal with wintergreen oil, put the design
(ink side down) to metal then soak the paper with a cotton ball
drenched in more wintergreen oil. That transfers that ink from the
paper to the metal. That last one is my least favorite but it is
often recommended by engravers. Plus it smells good.


Janet – thanks for sharing - question though - “print” – print on
what? Laser or inkjet? Or doesn’t it matter? Barbara, cleaning up
leaves from Arthur (the storm, not the dog)

thanks for sharing - question though - "print" -- print on what?
Laser or inkjet? Or doesn't it matter? 

I use a desk-jet, but it doesn’t matter. Just so you have a nice,
clear copy on paper. I used to paste the original pencil graphics on
the metal. Now I vectorize on the computer so I can get a very exact
copy with very thin lines. The thickness from the pencil lines are a
disadvantage when doing very tiny things. Janet in Jerusalem