Friday, April 15, 2016

So You Think You'd Like to Learn to Do Hand Stamping....

So I've been stamping now for awhile, and learned a few things along the way...Even though you can pay anywhere from 15-100+ dollars for a font stamp set, and 9-25.00+ for individual design stamps, depending on how durable you want your set to last and how hard a metal you are stamping on, some of the stamps, especially the design stamps, don't always stamp well. After stamping for a few months now, I really do think some design stamps are not made well because of how hard I have had to hit them to get a good impression even when working on soft metals. There is a wide variety of quality of design stamps out there and it's hard to tell from descriptions online whether you are getting a quality, deep impression stamp or not. 

To get started, you can buy cheap metal letter stamp letter sets from Harbor Freight for less than 20.00, but I don't know how long they will last. I decided to go with a couple of "design" font midrange sets from a company well known for metal stamping--Impress Arts-- and think although I paid more initially, they are going to last longer in the long run. I purchased one premium font set designed to stamp on stainless steel and harder metals in a typewriter font for practical lettering projects. Then I watched lots of YouTube videos and read blogs on stamping. In particular, a very good blog for stamping tutorials and making jewelry is Happy Hour Projects with Adrianne.

I like Impress Art Stamps...they make several of their font sets available in "economy" or you can pay more for their pricer, more heavy duty stamp line. I have also bought font sets from PJ Tool Supply online, and I like them, too. The cheapest stamps are for soft metals--copper, sterling, (not silver-plated) pewter, and aluminum. If you use a cheap metal stamp set on hard metals, you will quickly wear down the stamp impression and ruin your font set. However, I recommend starting out with a cheap set to see if you enjoy stamping. Practice on soft metal before upgrading to a heavier duty stamp.  Shop around for price... The Impress Arts website has GREAT tutorials and project ideas and helpful information, like charts on the hardness of metals.

Here's the thing about stamping...Your impression detail depends on how hard you stamp, and whether the stamp itself is clear and well formed. This varies every single time you stamp something. That's the hard part, getting an even, clear hit each time. I have ruined quite a few pieces of metal--from stamping too hard and denting the metal too much, to not holding the stamp quite straight (which is really hard to do on a curved spoon and getting too much variation within a single word--all on the same piece! The key is to practice, practice, practice on a scrap piece of metal, the same kind you are going to use in your project, if you can. And you have to have patience with yourself. Stamping is NOT a perfect art. You are not going to be consistent every single time you stamp a piece, even with lots of practice! Sometimes my hand shifts just the ever tiniest bit as I go to hit the stamp, and the letter will not be evenly formed. But that's ok! Hand stamped items have a charm all their own and signify that someone personally made each and every letter. I like that a lot better than thinking some automated stamping machine stamped a message in some factory in China somewhere.

Autism Awareness Pendant
I love Impress Arts' "Alkeme" line...this is their metal alloy and a less expensive alternative to sterling silver or pewter. It's a great metal, looks classy and not cheap like aluminum does. Hobby Lobby carries it, and Joann Fabrics carries a few of the Impress Arts stamping blanks and tools. Wish they would carry more! The alkeme washers are what I used for my autism jewelry pendants that I have been making for my Etsy shop---JeanBeanGifts.  These are the alkeme washers that I stamped, then distressed by banging on them with a ball peen hammer head. I darken  my letters with a sharpie, than wipe the surface off with a Q tip dipped in rubbing alcohol, then I polish the washer with a polishing pad. Sometimes I use Impress Arts stamp enamel, a paint that fills in the little recesses. You apply it, wait a minute or two, then wipe it off. It wipes off very easily. I don't know the longevity of the sharpie or the enamel, but over time, the sharpie will fade a bit. It can just be reapplied if necessary.

I've stamped on spoon and forks,  and it is VERY difficult and frustrating, in my opinion. If you are perfectionist, this medium might not be a good match for you. I tape my spoons down to my bench block (a four inch steel plain block for putting underneath your stamping blank) with lots of masking tape and as you stamp, despite all the taping, the spoon is going to rock and roll, allowing for lots of possible errors and mis-strikes. Grrrrrrrrr.....That's a whole nuther topic for another day...stamping on silver-plated flatware! But here are a few of my projects I have put in my shop......Spoon bookmarks, spoon garden markers, and key rings.....

One of the first things I hand stamped was this copper bangle, "With brave wings, she flies...."  Stamping on the copper was easy! Start slow and simple with your tools, and try it, you might like it!

Happy crafting!


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