On a previous visit to the Heard Museum in Phoenix I was struck by a
display of sterling 'seed pots'. These small vessels are the modern
art form that grew out of the functional pottery seed pot form as
used by early SW natives.
These sterling seed pots were stamped with various motifs ranging
from animals to human and spiritual forms.
I understand that the silversmiths who work in this form make their
own stamps and many searches on my part have given me no specific,
straight forward method to allow me to make a thematic stamp/s. I've
considered sand casting brass...any other direction I might consider?
Greetings from the northwest 'left coast'
I can help you here.
Ive just got out my 3 elastoplast tins and laid out all the hand
punches Ive made over the years.
there is a total of 56, without my official gold/silversmiths
registered marks, and all the sets of letter and number stamps. There
are 20 about 4 to 6in long by up to 1/2in dia and 36 3 to 5in long
1/4 to 3/8 in dia.
all made from small cold shisels mostly octagonal, some hex and some
I made these to decorate with deep punching into copper strip some
1/2in to 1in wide by 1/8 to 1/4 in thick, as bracelets.
Id then oxidise or have silver plate the finished item.
the designs are generic, ie, a fish, tree, bird, eye of osiris,
gear, water, ankh, wall zigzag, dots squares etc.all different. Now
how to make, anneal the steel, hold in leg vice upright.
take drills, needle files, jewellers saw and anything else you want,
cut the design in the steel, allow suffienct taper on the metal,
then harden by quenching in oil and temper.
Test in lead.
For decorating in thin silver sheet, hammer the punch into the metal
on a lead block. Experiment on thin copper sheet first.
Its a hand eye thing.
Made hundereds of them.
The most popular deaign was a pictogram of a house by a lake with
trees , fish in the water, sun in the sky a stick man on the other
bank. Inside the bracelet is stamped to order the owners name and
date of making., or another amate amate. Latin for love one another.
hope this helps.
John, check out the books written by Oscar Branson. Oscar was a
family friend and a very interesting man who wrote about Native
American jewelry and how it was made. He featured my family's work
in his books as samples of how things were made.
In one of his books he describes how to make stamps out of steel
using old files. Anneal the the steel first. Carving into steel is
just like carving into anything and you can use burrs on a flex
shaft, files and even other stamps. Then harden the steel to make
sure the stamps last. Overlay is another technique to get designs
onto your work, it requires good saw and soldering technique but you
can saw most any design even with inside cuts. The simplicity of the
designs or the distillation of the designs into simple shapes is lots
of fun and an area where you can make the design your own.
Sam Patania, Tucson
Depending on what you use to make the stamp,you can cut into the
stamp face directly. I've even seen heavy nails used as a basis for
some simple shapes.
In one of his books he describes how to make stamps out of steel
using old files. Anneal the the steel first.
I am reading this and thinking how much better the world would be if
people who write books knew the subject they are writing about.
Annealing old file or any tool steel for that matter, will make them
softer to be worked with another file, but for engraving purposes it
is not going to work. Carbon steel when cooled slow becomes very
tough. This is because such steel will contain grains of iron
carbide, also known as cementite. To prepare carbon steel for
engraving, it must be de-carburized. Steel is placed in iron box and
packed with iron fillings. Box is brought to bright red and kept at
that temperature for several hours. After engraving the process is
reversed, only instead of iron fillings charcoal is used. After that
tool can be hardened again.
Do you have any plans for teaching a class in the U.S. in the near
future on making stamps? Please let Orchid know. Thanks. MADorset
Sam, Cheri, and Ted, and off line posters, Thank you for all of your
insights to a process that before your input was a bit puzzling...but
really just putting together the pieces that are already available to
me. I guess I had better just get busy. THANK YOU ALL!
As for teaching how to make punches, I would have thought that any
gold/silversmith would have the hand skills to make their own, using
a bit of common sense. Also no one has asked me to teach.
I would need to be sponsored with a contract and payment for my
services up front, to compete with my workshop time here. Its is
currently too valuable to leave. Punches are a small part of the work
Ive moved on from that time tho still use them to order.
My main work now is in minting, with a proper coining press up to 250
tons, drop hammers up to 100 tons dynamic energy with associated 3d
dies. If youve the tools then all doors to making metal applied art
products, and wrought work can be opened.
I appreciate jewellers work with precious stones but ive gone in
other directions with my craft.
Make the bigger stuff!!.
Google for Ted frater bronzesmith and minter.
check out the books written by Oscar Branson. Oscar was a family
friend and a very interesting man who wrote about Native American
jewelry and how it was made. He featured my family's work in his
books as samples of how things were made.
I have those books by Oscar Branson, and refer to them regularly for
inspiration. Nice to "meet" a family member whose work helped make
the books so enlightening.
Linda in central FL
Hi John. I've made over 500 steel stamps, mostly out of
centerpunches. The steel is good, the size is right, and the knurled
(checkered) barrels make them easy to hold accurately. I buy them in
a set of 4 or 5 from http://www.ganoksin.com/gnkurl/ep7zp6
I mostly use saws and files to cut all kinds of shapes. You can look
at my websites to see lots of examples of what can be done. The sky
is almost the limit! And although stamps can indeed be made from
files, I find them very hard to use.
At my club, Arlington Gem & Mineral Club (Arlington, TX) we've been
told we are the most active with classes in the U.S. We took a tool
making class this year. We were making repousse tools. Depending on
what part of the country you live in, you might check into your
local lapidairy club, or even possibly a blacksmithing school.
I understand that the silversmiths who work in this form make
their own stamps and many searches on my part have given me no
specific, straight forward method to allow me to make a thematic
stamp/s. I've considered sand casting brass...any other direction I
John -- You probably already know this but the native american
jewelers often (mostlye) make their stamps (punches) from the stems
of valves from internal combustion engines. This is probably because
the steel is pretty decent and availibility is good (junk yards,
engine rebuild shops, etc..)
The ends of the stems are annealed, the design filed, chiseled,
ground in and then re-hardened. Sometimes the ends are also heated
and shaped (flattened) to accomodate a long, narrow design. e.g. an
Indian Jewelers Supply sells stamps like these in many designs. You
might buy a few to get an idea of how they're made. I'd post a link
here but part if IJS's site is currently down. Try
Then select 'Shop IJS -> Stamps
-> Custom Designs.'
I agree 100% with Leonid
This is not a problem, if you are a trained toolmaker.
If you are not, buy them they are not expensive and can be designed
to suit your needs.
OK you can make your own low quality, but they will not last. And
you will end up at a toolmaker.
To prepare my graver for bright cutting bezels took 4 hours to
PREPARE. Following the instructions of a master gem setter. Mirror
I then followed his very detailed instructions as to cutting out the
curve and sharpening. Another 2 hours.
Final finishing was done to a diamond setting mechanic's standard,
English trained master setter.
That is about 7 hours preparation to get the tool ready and about
100 hours practise to get the bright cutting right.
Also what weight of hammer are you going to use? To strike fineness
marks I use, from memory, a 20 ounce metal mallet. Perfect strike
every time, no "ghosting" double mark from stamp "bouncing".
Interestingly neither of these Masters would use a flexi shaft with
with silicon impregnated disks etc. any where near a gemstone. They
both used sand paper on wooden sticks and/or files to clean up
setting tool marks prior to polishing.
Personally for cabs 7 or harder, I use barrette files from 0 to 4 to
clean up around bezels. Each file has a mirror finish on both sides.
I guess this is the difference between the 'usual' hobby maker and a
professional. They are worlds apart.
Even if you make as a hobby you CAN make to professional quality.
On simple things. How wide should the solder line be?
My teacher said " Pull out a hair from your head and lay it next to
the solder line. The solder line should be not be wider!"
To quote from Laozi, the "Daodejing". "Care from beginning to end.