Metal Stamps – Tips and Techniques
by Rena Klingenberg – © 2003-Present Rena Klingenberg. All Rights Reserved
Metal stamps are fun, creative jewelry making tools.
These tips and techniques show you how to get great results, from the very first time you try metal stamping jewelry.
Learning the Technique:
It takes a bit of practice to get nice, even results when metal stamping jewelry.
I recommend practicing on pieces of scrap metal while you get familiar with using the stamps.
Metal Stamping Tools
In addition to your metal stamps, you’ll need just a couple of basic metal stamping tools:
- A jeweler’s steel block or other very smooth, hard surface that can take some banging.
- A metal hammer with a flat face; I use a regular hardware-store hammer. A fairly heavy hammer that’s still comfortable for you to use can make your stampings turn out better. (Don’t use your rawhide or nylon jewelry hammers on jewelry stamps – they’ll get torn up quickly.)
Other helpful items to have handy:
- A small piece of non-skid, rubberized shelf liner.
- Masking tape, blue painter’s tape, or post-it notes.
- Fine-tip Sharpie markers, in black and / or any other colors you wish.
- Rubbing alcohol, to remove excess Sharpie ink from your metal.
Tip for Using
Number and Letter Stamps
I recommend using a Sharpie marker to write the stamp’s number or letter on it:
Now it’s much easier to find the right stamp while you’re working on your project.
Also, if you’ve written your number or letter on the side of the stamp that will be facing you when you do your stamping, you’ll always know which way to hold it.
That helps you avoid accidentally stamping a letter or number upside down or sideways – which is a terribly easy mistake to make!
How to Label Dark-Colored Stamps:
If your stamps are black instead of light gray, you can dab a small spot of white paint near the top of each stamp.
After the paint dries, you can write the letter on each stamp’s white-painted spot with a black marker.
Getting Beautiful Results with Your
Part of stamping’s handmade charm is the imperfect alignment and spacing of letters and numbers.
If you embrace the lovely, rustic quality of metal jewelry stamping, you’ll get a lot of pleasure from this art form.
Here are a few techniques that can help you get beautiful results:
Put a small piece of rubberized, non-skid shelf liner under your steel block to hold your working surface completely still while you hammer:
Some people like to use masking tape to tape the item they’re stamping to the steel block. This helps them hold the item steady while stamping it.
Before you start, line up all the metal stamps you’ll use for your project and put them in the order in which you’ll need them:
This can help you avoid making “typos” in your project!
It also makes it easier for you to stay in your rhythm of hitting each stamp uniformly with the same amount of force.
Hit each stamp only once with your hammer. If you hit it more than once, you’re likely to get blurred or double images.
To keep your stamped message in more of a straight line as you work, you can use one of these methods before you start:
- Use a ruler and fine-point Sharpie marker to draw a “baseline” on your metal, so you’ll know where to set each stamp.
- Or instead of drawing a Sharpie line, place a strip of masking tape, blue painter’s tape, or the sticky end of a post-it note on your piece of metal to mark the baseline for your text.
Only Part of My Stamp is Making an Impression in the Metal!
This can happen sometimes, especially with intricate stamp designs. Try this technique to get the full design:
Place the stamp where you want the letter to go on your metal.
Then slightly rock the stamp toward you and hammer it; then slightly rock the stamp away from you and hammer it again.
Make Your Metal Jewelry Stamping
It can be hard to read a stamped message on metal, unless you bring out the letters or numbers with color:
On sterling silver and copper, you can darken your stampwork beautifully by oxidizing the piece, then cleaning most of the oxidization off of everything but the letters or numbers.
You can get a similar effect on most metals by using Gilders Paste to darken your stamping.
Also on most types of metal, you can use fine-tip Sharpie markers to color or darken your stamping:
And depending on your project, you may want to use colors other than black.
Here Santa enjoys a jolly bit of red, while Frosty sports a chilly shade of blue:
(The Santa and snowman Christmas ornaments above were something my mom had lying around that got snatched up and stamped! I don’t know the source of them. You may find something similar in your local craft store or by an online search for something like “flat metal Christmas ornaments”.)
After coloring your stamping with Sharpies, you can easily wipe off the excess ink using a small piece of paper towel soaked in rubbing alcohol:
I hope you enjoy the wonderful design possibilities of metal stamps.
It’s a beautiful form of texting on jewelry! :o)
Please share your tips for
metal stamping jewelry!
Well Written Tutorial
Your tutorials are always so clearly written and easily understood and followed. I do have one suggestion to add: Be sure to hold the stamp straight up and down, because if it is the least tilted the impression will not be evenly deep. Thanks for sharing your expertise.
Thank you for sharing your tutorial! It is so clear and easy to understand!
my version – stamping brass
A friend sent an etched brass slab. I cut, finished edges and carried the daydreamer theme to the backside of the pendant. I love this look. May just have to keep it for myself. I wasn’t sure it would turn out since one side was already etched, but I was surprised and pleased with the result.
All of the washers (metal donuts) I used came from a local hardware store.
The Santa and snowman Christmas ornaments were something my mom had lying around that got snatched up and stamped!
I recommend looking through your jewelry supplies (and items around the house) for all sorts of metal doo-dads that have stamping potential!
Random Letters are Fun, too!
by: Virginia Vivier – Esprit Mystique
I’m not as good as Rena is at keeping the letters in a nice straight line. I made a few pendants with random placement of letters and it gives a fun, casual look to the message. Then, when I make a mistake, and one letter is higher or lower than it should be, it’s OK.
by: Made by JD
Great tutorial Rena!
Love your tips. Can’t wait to do some stamping too!
I do practice on a piece of leather, draw the shape of my blank on it and then place the leather on the block and stamp your design that way when you stamp your blank you know how to space the word and will know what your design is going to look like!!
Believe me I ruined lots of my silver disks before I started using the leather and now after a lot of practice my works is finally looking much better.
by: Debra Gikas
In order not to waste my copper, i practice stamp on a small legal pad…The impression it leaves shows me I am getting better at getting it straight…AND it has lines! Of course it is not the same hardness for practicing depth…but it has been helpful to me.
I have been searching and searching for more info on metal stamping, and your info was the first that makes the instructions so clear and easy to understand….thank you
i love metal stamping and working on learning more… what i have tried is the liver of sulfer to darken the letters. this technique does work but looking at the pieces on etsy for example the letter look way more defined and darker. does anyone have suggestions on how to accomplish this?
when i hit the stamp only once, it doesnt leave an indention. i guess im not hitting it hard enough. when i hit it multiple times, it doesnt blur. how can you hit it only once and still get a visible letter?
Hitting the stamp just once
What kind of hammer are you using? Maybe that’s the issue.
I use an ordinary, regular size, metal hardware-store hammer.
I make sure I’m holding the stamp completely straight up and down, and then give it one good whack with the hammer.
Also, what kind of surface are you stamping? I found that there were a few hardware store washers that were nearly impossible to make a mark in with my stamps. At the moment I can’t recall what metal those were made of, but it was very hard stuff.
Luckily I had bought a variety of washer types to experiment with!
i am using just a regular store hammer as well. this is my first time to try, so i was just doing it on a magazine i didnt care about! HA! would doing it on concrete be ok? like my garage floor? or does it need to be on metal? what kind of metal is good to do it on? should i buy one specifically for the purpose of metal stamping? i think im scared to give it one good wack! HAHA! scared ill miss!
Stamping without hitting your fingers
I can totally understand worrying about missing the stamp and hammering your fingers instead! :o)
And about using concrete as your stamping surface – I think the concrete would leave marks on the back of the piece you’re stamping – which you may not want.
I use a square metal jewelry anvil as shown in the photos above, and it works very well for that purpose. If you don’t have one, you may want to check your hardware / home improvement store for something similar made of metal with a smooth surface.
You might want to start practicing stamping on a notepad or post-it note pad. That way you can get a good feel for your stamps and how to hammer them without having to practice on expensive jewelry supplies.
You can start by hitting the stamp softly till you feel good about your aim with the hammer, then gradually try hitting harder. You may have to stamp up several sheets of the notepad till you hit your stride with the hammer, but practice is the best way to develop your technique.
Please let me know how you progress, and if you have any other questions! :o)
Thank you so much! I love how practical your tutorial is, as you use simple items such as a regular hammer rather than an expensive stamping hammer, and shelf liners, rather than fancy rubber block, a sharpie instead of dangerous oxidizers…
Thanks for proving that this can be done cost efficiently!
Thanks so much for your kind feedback, B! I try to keep things simple, low-cost, and less toxic whenever possible.
The sharpie-darkening technique is actually quite durable.
Last summer I stamped a washer with my son’s name and blackened the letters with a sharpie marker. This washer is used as a “name tag” on his mess-kit bag for Boy Scouts.
This bag (including its stamped name tag) has been on numerous scout camping trips – where it’s been washed, rained on, dragged around, subjected to all kinds of weather and other hard use – but the sharpie-blackening hasn’t faded or washed off the metal tag at all. It’s still just as dark and well filled-in as it was when it was new.
That is great! I will definitely be using the Sharpie method. 🙂 As I’ve been looking into this further, I had a question for you: What has your experience (if any) been like using aluminum blanks. Does the sharpie then rubbing alcohol work okay on aluminum too?
I’m sixteen years old and I’m going to be making a metal stamped necklace for my mom for mother’s day, with the names of her children (4) the foster children we have cared for (2 so far). Then, if we have other little ones who stay with us, I will add their names to the necklace.
All of that to say that using sterling discs gets kind of pricey for the amount I need, so I’m looking for a cheaper option…
B – Using Sharpies on Aluminum
Hi B, I’m pretty sure that aluminum washers have been among the items I’ve stamped and then darkened with sharpies.
If you’re looking for low-priced, stampable metal discs and donuts that aren’t sterling silver, check in your local hardware store or Lowe’s / Home Depot. Lots of interesting, cheap metal items there!
Craft and scrapbooking stores also sometimes have doodads with potential for stamping.
I love the idea of the Mother’s Day necklace with your mom’s children and foster children. A fantastic idea, and I’m sure she will treasure it.
You were a temptress!
by: Sheri from Edmonton, AB
I love you already! Your clear and tempting tutorial got my mind ticking for Xmas gifts to relatives, promo items for my husband’s small business or a simple “here’s a gift for you for being such a nice person!” that today, I bought the only and last metal stamp (so I had no choice of font)and anvil at my local jewelry store supplier. The other tools I already have so I will keep my eyes open for any metal in the house to get started! Yahoo! Thanks for the idea!!
cleaning with alcohol
thank you so much for your great tutorial. I have just gotten my alphabet stamps last week and have tried cutting some metal sheet that i bought, but not very successfully. I tried stamping and got an impression but very faint. i did not know about the sharpie and cleaning the excess off with alcohol. cannot wait to try that this afternoon. and i must not be hitting it hard enough. my workbench has a bit of a bounce to it, so will have to find a different surface.
I found my steel lettering stamps
At Harbor Freight. They have 1/8″, 1/4″ and larger letters!
by: Cath Mc
I have come across your tutorial by accident-i am now going to leave this site and find a website to buy a set of metal stamps and some copper blanks-Thank you so much for sharing. You have inspired me to try a new craft.
Your a excellent tutor!
Best Wishes from the UK xx
Glad to hear it!
I’m absolutely thrilled to hear how much this tutorial has helped / inspired so many folks here. Like most jewelry activities, stamping is quite addictive – no metal surface in your house will be safe after this! 🙂
Oh What Fun!
by: Nancy Vaughan
Thanks for all of the information on using sharpies. And thank you Rena for providing a place where we can exchange idea and learn from each other.
A few weeks ago I borrowed a set of stamps from a friend just to play around with. Well, I don’t mind telling you I had more fun than I expected so I had to buy my own set of stamps. Since I work primarily with copper and use a lot of sheet metal I had plenty of scraps to practice on.
Quite some time ago I bought some metal snip. They are great for making straight line cuts and convex curves. They are also great for making shapes for stamping especially if you like to work with free forms.
I’ve done stamping on both copper and brass sheet as well as commercially made discs in both metals. And I have discovered if you add color from a torch you have limitless design possibilities.
Different brands of stamps
Hi Anonymous, I don’t think I can answer your question.
I would phone any of the suppliers you’re considering. Ask what the metal is, and where they feel these stamps fall on the quality scale. Most suppliers have staff who are knowledgeable about their products and willing to answer nearly anything you ask about them.
My experience with metal stamps is limited to the three sets I own:
1) A cheap, generic stamp set I bought years ago – in this set, two of the stamps came with a manufacturing goof. On the number 4 stamp and the letter C stamp of this set, the characters are messed up so you can’t read the stamping from them. I’m not sure what type of metal they are, but I’ve seen a very similar stamp set (not sure if it’s the same product) on several of the major jewelry suppliers’ websites. They came in a burgundy-colored plastic case with a sky-blue sticker that says “Pittsburgh”.
2) Another cheap, generic stamp set I bought years ago. Not sure what the metal is. This set works fine. It came in a royal-blue plastic case with no stickers or other manufacturer’s info.
3) A stamp set from Infinity Stamps that I’ve had for a year or two. These are much higher quality than my other two sets, and they’re also much higher priced. If you plan to do a lot of stamping, I would go for a higher quality.
I hope this helps somewhat! 🙂
I just got my stamps yesterday and they are oily. How do I clean them? I do not want them to rust but don’t care for slimy either. Thanks for all the info here. I am ready to get started.
Oil on stamps
Hi Mandy! I would use a cloth rag or paper towel to wipe off the excess oil – especially off the shaft of the stamps so you can hold them without slipping – and then have fun stamping!
Perfect. I just started metal stamping and your tips are extremely helpful. It’s trial by error, and I’ve made most of the ones you’ve already mentioned, so I appreciate your solutions! Keep stamping!
Thanks so much for your lovely feedback, Susan! I hope you’ll post some of your stamped creations when you have some you’d like to share here! We’d all love to see the projects you’re doing.
This was so helpful!
by: Fancy Nancy
I am just starting to add some metal stamping into my leather bracelets and am sort of going in blindly. I have had trouble with a few of the things you set straight here. I really appreciate the tips as well, so simple and helpful! Thanks so much! I am about to add the items with metal stamping into my etsy shop (within the next month).
I was wondering what metal thickness you use for stamping?
I am wanting to buy some metal stamps, but don’t know about how large to buy. I like the American typewriter look. What mm is that? When looking at what to buy they have 2mm 3mm 4mm 5mm 6mm. I am wanting something that will stay out and be seem clearly. Like a name for instance. Also where to buy and the cost they vary so much.Any help you could give me would be great.