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Precision raised letters

Raised letters for casting Scottish regimental cross belt buckles and cap

Dear All: I am trying to determine how to make raised letters for
casting Scottish regimental cross belt buckles and cap badges. I
would love to post photos of examples, but apparently you can’t do
that on this forum. That may make it difficult to convey my meaning,
but those are apparently the limitations of this forum format.

I am NOT asking about etching OR engraving, the process I need to
learn will result in letters raised in relief from the surface of the
piece, and in foundry type precision at a small size, approximately
11 point type.

Thank you for your help with this.
John G

Hi John,

That is a tough proposition without a milling machine.

I have had some work done of this type (no pun intended) by using a
company called - Acropolis Studios Model Works, Inc. [jkenik at]. The owner, Jill Kenik, can so some amazing
stuff and will mill raised letters and patterns or original art work
in either jeweler’s wax or metal. You can send her a file and she
will do the work. If you start with wax you can then cast it but if
you start with metal you can go right to a mold.

At one point when I wanted something funky and vintage looking I went
to Michaels and bought a silly, crafty set of raised letters, lightly
glued them to the buckle blank and then cast from that. The letters
were bigger than 11pt. but it worked.

Hope this helped a bit and good luck,

Most military cap badges and some belt buckles are not cast, there
stamped between 2 tool steel dies, then blanked from the base strip
of metal the pierced.

So precision casting is not the way they are made, considering you
might need say, 250,000 RAF cap badges .

to make them, you need to have a drop stamp shop and know where to
have the tool steel dies made.

Im in the UK, and really the odd one out on this forum, as im a
silversmith with a complete drop stampers set up as well as the
other work I do.

you could send me pictures and Id be happy to advise.

How many do you need? as the die costs are not cheap apart from any
press tools.

Then theres the question of falling foul of the Scottish regiment
you plan to make replicas from.

John you have a couple of options. If you want to make the design
yourself, take a look at my YouTube video,

which shows the process using photopolymer.

Another option is to get a wrong reading rubber stamp from a place
that makes stamps in house.

Hope this gives you some ideas.

HI Arthur,

Well, actually you are asking about etching, you just didn’t know

I’ve done a number of reproductions of various buckles and badges for
the Rifles. The easiest way to do it is to find one of the companies
that makes magnesium embossing dies for ‘engraved’ stationery. Get a
heavy magnesium line cut (Photo etch) (about 2mm deep) of the design
you need, then when you get it back (it’ll be in a flat plate) you do
whatever gentle forming you need, and then cut it clear of the sheet.
Make it up into a dummy of your buckle, mold it, and away you go.

For the old Victorian designs, I frequently end up doing a fair bit
of engraving on the magnesium, to get some of the details that the
photo engraving just can’t get. But the mag plate is still a good way
to start.


you should look into computer aides design CAD gives you very clean
letters and can make unlimited jobs there some companies in England
that will cast and help w design

check out the forum and i met some people there

good luck

CAD would be my choice. printed in wax or plastic for casting or

John, For foundry precision, if you have many to do, I feel a steel
coining die will produce the results you are wanting. If the piece is
limited in addition; hand engraved in the metal. Photo etched
magnesium plates are economical and can be rubber molded. Rubber
molds are difficult to get all the air out of. A good cad file could
do the same as a rubber mold. The issue is the degradation during
casting. That said there are many good casters and most consumers
will not see the degradation the same as a trained metalsmith.
Perhaps someone on the forum works for or worked for Jostens and will
chime in. At the first place I worked, the company made the Super
Bowl rings. The rings were cast and individually re-engraved by hand
to sharpen everything up. Best regards, Kevin

This is the sort of job that’s perfect for CAD, and either milling or
additive printing.

If you don’t want to go the CAD route, I’d suggest photo-engraving
them. Of course, that can leave a pretty uneven floor that will need
to be cleaned up with gravers.

You might talk to these guys; they do precision photo-etching.

Elliot Nesterman

I am NOT asking about etching OR engraving, the process I need to
learn will result in letters raised in relief from the surface of
the piece, 

John, etching is indeed a good way to do this. But you are not
etching the letters. You etch away the background. That gives you the
raised letters. Using a photo resist, you can get great precision in
the letters. Less precision in the background, as that’s the bottom
of the etched surface.

One process that may work quite well for you is if you can find a
graphic arts company that still does linotype or zinc/magnesium plate
etching, as used to be common for printing plates. This is still used
now and then by small printers doing art printing rather than high
volume, where the specifics of ink from a raised plate are desired.
Anyway, those firms can take your image on paper, and etch it onto
those plates. Good ones can control the angle of the side walls of
the etch to be steeper and deeper than normally used for printing,
though you don’t generally get vertical walls. Still, this often is
quite enough for uses like yours. Occasionally, this process can also
be used to produce rubber stamps, another possible place to look for
having this done. Those zinc or magnesium (the latter seems more
common these days)plates are then used to make a master, from which
rubber molds are made, for lost wax casting. If you’ve found a rubber
stamp company, they can make your text as a rubber stamp that reads
correctly on the rubber, instead of the usual reverse, and they
don’t have to mount the rubber onto the stamp handle, leaving you
with a flexible piece of sheet rubber with the letters raised as you
desire. Again, this can eventually be used to generate a mold, or the
rubber sheet can be directly burned out and cast.

Other ways to do this would be engraving, via a pantograph or
computer controlled engraving machine (using actual rotating cutters,
not a diamond drag engraving cutter), cutting your lettering in a
reversed image into whatever sort of plate or material desired, and
you then can press wax or other impression material into this plate.
When removed, your wax now has the correct reading lettering raised
above it’s background. A hint, if you do this. Use somewhat soft
sheet wax (warm ordinary wax sheet until pliable), and place a sheet
of ordinary plastic kitchen wrap (saran wrap or similar) between the
wax and the engraved master as a relief agent so you can remove the
wax without damage. If the plastic wrap is sprayed first with a mold
release agent, it can be easily peeled from the wax, leaving you with
the image on the wax.

Hope that helps
Peter Rowe

letters raised in relief from the surface of the piece, and in
foundry type precision at a small size, approximately 11 point

John, there DO exist engravers and/or wax carvers who can do that by
hand, but they are rare as blazes and of course quite expensive and
in demand.

Which leaves the other practical solution - photoetching. School
rings and the like are photoetched directly into plates and then
assembled or sometimes the whole ring is done. In gold that’s a big
deal to do for the average workshop. Since you say wax anyway, you
can get magnesium plates etched any way you like at reproduction
services, cut them apart, mold them and then use the waxes like any
other waxes. You’ll need to search near you for those people, the
ones we’ve used in the past I just don’t recall the name and it’s
here around San Francisco. That’s the simplest and most economical
method to get that sort of precision. You could use CNC if that suits
you better - either wax, RP or even laser cutting, in metal. John D.

I’m with Kevin and Ted. I used to work in a class ring and pin
company. We die struck everything. It really is the most crisp end
product. For a one of, then hand engrave. But for more than 10 die
strike them. It’ll cost a little bit for the die but not as much as
it used to. Now you can have a custom die made with a computer
program. In the old days they were hand engraved on soft steel that
was hardened after the hand engraving.

Have fun and make lots of jewelry

Jo Haemer

They don’t put up pics that you just post you have to submit a

Don’t like that part. Cad is the way unless you like a lot of
detailed painstaking labor. I’m not into that anymore. Work smart not

Send me a sketch and I’ll cad a couple letters for you and email you
a pic.