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Scared by "sterling"

Houston , I have a problem! When I stamp the “sterling” stamp on
the back of the finished piece, it leaves an ugly mark on the
front. Since I forge, the front texture is obliterated when I file
the scar off. What to do?


One solution is to buy a more expensive stamp. I think the brand
is MicroMark – it’s big and has a handle (or did my friend add
that later) and you press down and rock back and forth to make the
impression. Presto! Clean message, no mark on the front. -Elaine

I usually support my pieces on a lead block while stamping them. I
use several light taps instead of one heavy blow, as well. You
could retexture the surface, the stamp impression is usually deep
enough to remain intact.

Richard D. Hamilton
A goldsmith on Martha’s Vineyard
Fabricated 14k, 18k, 22k, and platinum Jewelry
wax carving, modelmaking, jewelry photography,
and sailing whenever I can…

Dear Anna, I usually get around the hammer-mark problem by stamping
my pieces before I begin any finishing or texturing. However, if I
forget and have to hallmark a piece after it’s already textured, I
can reduce the marring of the other side by putting a layer or two
of leather between the piece and my hammering block (known as a
"steady" here in Oz).

I also use a number of different composition lead “cakes” for
repousse work and I have a high content tin-lead one which is hard
enough to resist the hallmarking hammer-blow, but soft enough not
to marr textured silver. Does this help? Regards, Rex from Oz

I usually stamp the word sterling and my hallmark on a small disk
and solder it securely to the back. I guess it could be removed by
someone with no ethical resolution, but I’ll take the chance.

Tim Glotzbach
Eastern Kentucky University
Richmond, KY USA

Anna you could try setting the piece ontop of a block of nylon or
some other hard plastic, you could put a piece of thin rubber
between the piece and the anvil, or perhaps just some masking tape,
taped onto the back would work. Try some tests.


Ed Colbeth Metalsmith, UMASS Dartmouth
Taunton, MA

  Houston , I have a problem! When I stamp the "sterling" stamp
on the back of the finished piece, it leaves an ugly mark on the
front. Since I forge, the front texture is obliterated when I
file the scar off. What to do?

Hi Anna!

If your pieces are cast metal you could put the stamp on the
prototype before molding. Otherwise (metal working) you can stamp
the metal when you start to work with it, before you do any
textures. When it’s to late and when the piece is finished, you
could try to stamp on a piece of wood or nylon but it can distort
the piece, do it delicatly.

Vincent Guy Audette
Quebec, Canada

Deformation caused by stamping usually results from 1 or 2 things,
sometimes both on the same piece. Improper support on the back of
the ite m in the area the stamp is being applied. The other cause
is using too larg e a hammer or too much foce when stricking the

The piece to be stamped should be supported evenly on the side
opposite t he stamp. For flat objects this isn’t a problem. Curved
items (where the sta mp will be applied) present more of a problem.
If possible stamp the item before the material curved/domed. If
this isn’t possible & the curve is gentle support the back with
leather, lead or some relatively soft forgiving material. One other
option is applying the make to a tag that i s then afixed to the
finished item.

The force required to mark most precious metals is quite low. The
size of hammer used is generally a personal decision, but a 2 or 3
oz hammer with a light tap is adequate. The easiest way to develope
a ‘feel for stamping’ is to practice on some scrap metal with the
markers & hammer(s) you’ll be using. Don’t get heavy handed with
the hammer, you just want to mark the item, not punch a hole in

Another way to avoid the heavy handed hammer is to use an arbor
press or 1 of the plier type marking tools that are available.
These can be used app ly pressure to the stamp in a controlled

The cost of a marking tool doesn’t look to bad when placed next to
the co st of a finished piece rendered unsaleable do to an
improperly applied quali ty mark.


HI Anna!, you have a couple of choices, one: depending upon the
thickness of the metal you are forging, either stamp the back
FIRST, before you forge, unless of course you are really forging a
whole new form and will be thinning or thickening the metal. two:
Try supporting the surface of the piece upside down in that
black sticky stuff, I have in a metal low bowl. Can’t remember the
name, but asphalt? Someone out there can tell me the name of it.
Cover front of piece with vasoline, heat slightly to warm
it, set piece into it, cool. This may take some time, but it will
firm up and support the piece well, then lightly tap the die, make
some tests on scrap until you get the feel of the weight of the tap
to make the impression, without it coming through on the front.
Then use a soft flame to very lightly heat the piece, and it will
separate from the asphalt. If any of the black stuff sticks to the
surface, clean with napthaline. I understand the problem, and
didn’t have Orchid around to help me figure this out. Pat

The severity of the itch is proportional to the reach. :wink:
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