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Ways to stamp with a large stamp

Hello Orchid-land!

I recently purchased a maker’s mark stamp from Infinity Stamps with
my name and company name on it. I was fairly ambitious and it’s
pretty large for a stamp. So large, that I’m having difficulty
successfully getting the entire stamp transferred onto the metal with
my usual hand stamping methods.

It’s pretty much impossible for me to hold it perfectly
perpendicular with my hands and whack it all at the same time. I get
a partial stamping instead of the entire stamp. Sometimes I also get
a ghost stamp from an (imperceptible to me) bounce. The few times I
have gotten a good stamp, it hasn’t been deep enough to my liking –
this could just be due to the fineness of the stamp itself.

You can see one successful stamping here:

My stamp shank is 8mm square, or I would buy this stamping press by
Harper manufacturing:

My stamp is too large to fit.

I’ve searched and googled for something and am hoping someone can
help me find a tool to successfully stamp my fancy new hallmark
without these problems. I’m just a small, in-my-basement designer, so
big presses/equipment aren’t really in my future. I may have to just
write this off as a “now i know better than to design such a large
stamp” mistake.

Amy C. Sanders

I have a pneumatic press set up to do this sort of work - its
smallish (maybe takes 18" of bench space) and the force is variable
by varying the air pressure. You do need an air compressor. The plus
side is I get the same force each time with the touch of a switch so
you can make thousands of perfect stamps without even breaking a

You can use any arbor press like the one from harpermfg or buy one
at any machine shop supply place (harbour freight would even work for
a cheap import). The cheap import is good enough for all you would
use it and it will be easier to customize. To customize to use with
your stamp you need to get a 8mm hole (5/16") drilled into the end
of your ram. Secure the stamp by making a threaded hole that goes
into the 8mm hole that you can put a set screw into. Into pretty
important that the 8mm hole of perfectly vertical. I’d recommend
taking out the ram and drilling the hole with a lathe (a 5 minute job
for any machine shop).

Jon Daniels

Hi Amy,

Not that big, all things being equal.

Meanwhile, that Harper press is just a dressed up Harbor Freight
1ton arbor press. Can be had for about $50. I use something similar
to do mine.

(The only big thing was drilling a hole down the axis of the square
bar to hold the stamp.) If you don’t have the gear to handle that,
it wouldn’t take much to have a machine shop do it for you, to any
size you need. Just because your stamp came to you with an 8mm square
shank doesn’t mean that there’s any reason it needs to stay 8mm
square. You’re a metalsmith, right? It’s made of metal. Make it do
what you need it to do. Grinding off the edges of the square (to
make an octagon) will get the size down fast, which may well let it
fit in the Harper press if you want to pay for one. Otherwise, just
get your own arbor press (check Craigslist) and have someone drill
out the shaft to hold your punch. (and put in a set screw to retain
the punch.)

If you’re really hunting for serious presses for your stamp, a fly
press is the way to go, but they require the ability to make tooling
to set them up. (and they’re generally big & heavy.)

If you have any questions about how to gimmick the arbor press, drop
me a line, and I’ll take a couple of pictures of mine. It’s dirt

(But needs either a metal lathe with 4 jaw chuck, or a reasonably
good sized drill press and a DP vise.)


Amy, thanks for your post. It led me to making some tests and
finding a better way to stamp.

My stamp shank is 8mm square, or I would buy this stamping press
by Harper manufacturing 

The Harper web page shows a pliers and a press. The directions for
the press say to hold the handle down (with stamp in place) and
strike the top of the press with a hammer. Multiple hammer blows is

First of all, their press looks identical to the Harbor Freight 1
ton arbor press, which Harbor Freight sells for $47. Perhaps Harper
has modified it in some way to justify their > 2X price.

So I ran some tests on my arbor press. I used small and medium
’sterling’ and ‘999 FS’ stamps on 18 ga. copper since I don’t have a
stamp as large as yours.

The directions are right, if you hold the handle you can strike the
top of the press multiple times without getting a double impression.
I tapped it three times with a 2 lb. brass mallet. That was real
overkill! The impression was deeply cratered.

After more tests I did without the hammer and just used the press
itself. That worked. In fact, I got really clean impressions without
any box-like indentations [sterling] using very little hand
pressure. VERY LITTLE. I found it easier to get nice impressions with
the press and light hand pressure than the traditional way of
striking the stamp with a mallet.

It would seem to me that Harper’s, or Harbor Freight’s, or any
similar arbor press would do just what you need.

Because of its rough surface you might want to remove the revolving
arbor press base (on the Harbor Freight model) and put a polished
bench block in its place. I’m quite sure you could get a nice
impression using gentle-to-moderate hand pressure on the handle - no
hammer needed. If you really did need more pressure you could extend
the handle with a length of pipe, but I really doubt you’d need to.
If you want to tap the top of the press, use a plastic or rawhide
mallet. Anything heavier is counter productive.

I had no problems keeping a straight, thin stamp vertical, but to
make it easier to get it right every time, I’d suggest drilling a
hole in a block of wood or plastic to widen the contact area between
the top of the stamp and the bottom of the arbor press shaft. A tight
hole or some shims would keep the stamp from falling out of the

An arbor press is also very handy for cutting discs with a disc
cutter, and for doing some metal forming using dies and a urethane

Best wishes,
Neil A.

An arbor press is also very handy for cutting discs with a disc
cutter, and for doing some metal forming using dies and a urethane

Well, I never heard of an arbor press before now, but it looks
handy. What I’m wondering is, would my drill press (not spinning) do
the same jobs? The chuck could hold a stamp, if not too large, and it
has the same type of handle and up-and-down motion. Would I break it
if I tried to use it on a disc punch, or to press in a stamp? It’s a
big mother I bought from Harbor Freight almost 20 years ago. It makes
a racket, but it runs true and holds even a tiny drill bit.


Hi Noel,

Err…yeah, it’d hold it, but the ratio on the down gear isn’t as
high, and it was never intended for putting a lot of pressure on

That said, it’d probably work OK for little things. In thinking
through all the parts in there, I can’t see anything that’d break
outright, but the machinist in me is going “NO! that’s not what it
was designed for!” That doesn’t mean it won’t work, but it’s not the
best answer to that question.

So, I’m at sixes-and-sevens. Yes, it’d work, but no, that’s not what
it was intended for, and you might end up screwing it up.

For $50, pick up the arbor press. No risk of screwing up the drill


Noel, A good arbour press has a geared handle assembly that
minimises the amount of arm pressure needed for operating. I have
used one attached to my bench for many years. My drill press has a
gentle gearing which would not stand the same pressures as an arbour
press. I also use a fly press for heavier work, I have a tool made
here in the UK called a Hunton Bolster, that when fitted to my fly
press allows me to fit and use disc cutting dies and punches of up to
3 inch diameter. I use my arbour press for shaping and pressing small
shapes. I make my own punches from scrap metals. One of my best tools
is for pressing right angles in bezel strips when making settings for
square stones or making square corners in small photo frames.

James Miller FIPG