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Hand Stamped Metal - How to Make Personalized Jewelry
Step by Step Guide to Make Your Own Hand Stamped Jewelry
Whether you are totally new to metal hand stamping or have been making unique metal hand stamped charms for a while and are looking for ways to improve your technique, I hope to provide you with a step by step guide on how to start making your own hand stamped metal jewelry and the mistakes to avoid.
There are various types of jewelry you can make with hand stamped metals. Earrings, metal charms bracelets, key chains, wine glass charms, labels and perhaps the most popular, necklaces. In this article, we will focus on how to hand stamped a pendant that you can wear on your necklace. New to this? Make sure you have read my introduction to hand stamped jewelry and have the supplies for making hand stamped jewelry.
My Favorite Book on Metal Stamping
Test Your Idea on Paper
You can skip this step as you get more confident and experience. For beginners however, I recommend designing your idea on a piece of paper prior to stamping on your precious metal blank. The important part about this step is to ensure your design fits on the metal blank before starting to stamp as it is almost impossible to reverse any design that has already been stamped on metal. You might be able to sand off some of the mistakes but that can be extremely labor intensive and most often, starting from scratch is just easier.
I like to sketch my ideas using a stack of print paper or any recycled paper. I then trace the outline of my metal blank on the top piece of paper with a really fine black Sharpie pen. Next, I press my metal stamps on the outline I have just drawn. You can either apply pressure with your hand or tap the stamp lightly with your hammer enough to leave an imprint on the paper. You can pencil in the imprint to see it clearer. I am lazy so I like to tilt my desk lamp on an angle enough to just see my designs. Having a chance to design on paper helps me to freely try out different layouts with my metal stamps and decorative stamps.
Quick Practice on Copper
If you are a beginner to metal hand stamping, I recommend practicing striking on your hammer and getting a feel on how to hold your metal stamps. This gives you a chance to test out the strength you need to strike the hammer to get the impression you desire. Some might like an imperfect impression for a more rustic look. Some like each letter evenly stamped. There is no right or wrong way!
Similar to stamping on paper, I trace the outline of my metal blank with my Sharpie on the copper practice sheet. This is where I practice the alignment and spacing of my letters, making sure my designs still fit well within my metal blank.
A Note on Stamping Techniques
If you are a beginner, and is unsure on how to get your stamped impressions to look good, here I will cover a bit on stamping techniques. There are two ways to stamp your letters. You can strike your metal stamps with enough pressure but only strike it once. I find this technique quick and can produce uneven results, perfect for rustic finishes. If you want your stamped letters to look even, the "tilt 'n tap" method by Beaducation comes in very handy.
I am right handed so I like to hold my metal stamps with my left hand, close to the bottom. I prefer holding it close to the bottom rather than higher up as I get more control this way and to prevent my metal stamp from shifting between strikes. The "tilt 'n tap" is a technique where you hit the metal stamp a total of five times. First you tilt your stamp slightly to the right and then hit once with your hammer. Without moving or shifting your metal stamp, tilt it forward and strike your hammer again. Repeat this process by tilting the metal stamp next to the left, and then towards you. And one last time with the metal stamp straight. This technique ensures your letters are evenly stamped all around. When tilting, you need to make sure you are not tilting too far where the round edge of your stamp touches the metal.
Step by step stamping on your blanks
Here, I will list the steps I take to hand stamp a metal charm. Some steps are essential for certain designs and not needed at all for others. I want to focus on the more popular designs of stamping words that are straight across and words that are curved along the edge of a circle metal disc. Here are my steps in order:
- Mark jump ring hole
You can skip this if your letters will be curved. For straight across words on a circle blank, I like to mark with a fine tip Sharpie where I will punch my hole. This helps to center the letters a little better.
- Use tape to secure disc
I use about 1/4 inch wide and 2 to 3 inches long of duct tape (as long as tape is longer than disc) and tape one side of my disc (either top or bottom or both) that will not be stamped to the bench block to ensure it will not move out of position. This is important if you plan to hit each stamp multiple times (using the tilt 'n tap method).
- Stamping Straight Across Letters
To ensure your letters are somewhat straight horizontally, you can either use a tape or sticky part of a Post-It and line it at the bottom of where your letters will go. When you move your metal stamp, stop when you feel it touching the tape. Another way is to use a fine tip Sharpie with a ruler. Draw a straight line across where you want the letters to go. Hold your metal stamp straight on the line and visually check that the bottom of the letter touches the line before striking with the hammer.
- Stamping Curved Letters
I like to use my fine tip Sharpie and draw dotted lines along the edge of my circle blank with about 1mm space away from the edge. With my metal blank taped to the bench block, I move the bench block so that the first dotted line where my first letter will go, is straight to me. I position my metal stamp straight with letter touching my black line and strike with my hammer. For the next letter, I move my bench block to the left slightly (assuming you are hand stamping from left to right) so that the next dotted line is looking straight to me and stamp my next letter. This is the trick to get your letters nicely curved.
- Letter Spacing
After getting my letter stamp placed at the position where I want it to vertically, I want to check its spacing. While still holding my metal stamp with my right hand, I bend down slightly to the left to check that my metal stamp is close or far enough from my previous letter. I don't use any measurement. I tend to just eyeball it or check against the same letters I have practiced on my copper sheet.
- Centering your Letters
You do not have to worry about centering your letters if they will be curved along the metal disc since it is circular. It only matters where you punch the hole. However, for straight across letters, try to have the letters dead center so that they will not be too far right that you run out of space or too far left that it looks odd, especially words that are a little long. First I mark my jumpring hole, then draw a straight line across in the middle of the disc where my words will go. Using "grandma" as an example, I pick the middle letter, which is "n". I'll stamp "n" first, trying to get it below my jumpring mark and on the straight line I just drew. Next I stamp "d", "m", "a" (going towards the right) in that order followed by "a", "r", "g" (going back towards the left this time).
- Punch Hole on your Metal Blank
After I get all my letters stamped, I punch a hole on the pendant where my jumpring will go. Hole punch pliers is very handy and easy to use. The only thing I do not like about it is it leaves a mark on my metal. One trick that I have learned from Beaducation is to first punch a hole on a cardstock. With the pliers still in place, tear away the piece of card stock still stuck to the pliers and use that as a buffer between the pliers and your metal. I have tried this technique and it really work. If you can afford a screw down hole punch, I highly recommend it. Even though it takes just a bit more time to punch a hole compared to a hole punch pliers, it is more precise and can be use with thicker metals.
I have included a video that shows you the basics on stamping on a silver blank and demonstrates some of the techniques I have discussed above.
Oxidizing your Hand Stamped Charms
There are several ways to oxidize your metal hand stamped necklaces. You can use liver of sulphur, eggs (yep, eggs!), black Sharpie, or silver black. For the purpose of this article and as an easy introduction to oxidation, we will use a black Sharpie or black ink.
If you are looking to dome your disc, I like to use a wooden dapping block and dome my piece first. After I get it cupped the way I like, I go over the letters with my black Sharpie. Make sure you get all your letters completely and adequately covered with your Sharpie. Once the ink dries, next comes the finishing part.
Some Finishing Products You Might Like
Finishing your Hand Stamped Charms
One quick and easy way to finish your piece after oxidation is to use Pro Polish pads on the disc. The pads cleans excess ink off of your disc and makes your metal charm looks very nice and shiny. A Pro Polish pad is rather inexpensive and you can use them until it is gray, however, make sure you do not get it wet. If you are selling your hand stamped creation, you can also include a Pro Polish pad along with your jewelry as a free gift. To get the best high polish shine, I recommend using a tumbler. I have included the video on how to use pro polish pads.
How to use Pro Polish Pads
My favorite way to finish my hand stamped pieces is to use sandpaper. I start with wet or dry 3M sandpaper in 320 or 400 grit and sand off the excess ink and marks that may be on the disc. I like to sand off the edge of my piece and the hole I have just punched to ensure there are no sharp edges. I then follow up with higher grit sandpaper to get a better finish (followed by 600 grit, 800, 1000, 2000).
After sanding, I would clean my metal pendants with soap and water, dry it and then proceed to wax. There are various products you can use to wax your piece. Some have suggested floor wax or even car wax for an inexpensive way to finish your piece. I recommend getting Renaissance Wax if you can afford it.
To protect your work, you can either spray with a matte finish spray or a clear acrylic spray. They give you different end results so it just depends on which one you like better. If you are hanging any crystals on top of your metal charm, I highly recommend you do this step as crystal can be very sharp and metal like sterling silver is soft and the crystals can leave scratches behind. Having a final finishing spray helps to protect your work and the oxidation longer.
Now that you know how to make your own hand stamped jewelry, do you still have unanswered questions? I would love to hear from you. I am currently working on a course to help people get started making money online with their products. In this course, I plan to cover some of the following topics in more detail:
- things to consider before selling your handmade products
- which platform should you consider setting up shop (Etsy or own website etc)
- some platform how-tos
- should you blog to market yourself?
- how to cope with social media, marketing and making your products
- and more
Your Very Own Hand Stamped Pendant!
Now you are ready to put in that jump ring and hook it up to your necklace. Practice does make perfect so do not worry too much if your alignment or spacing is not perfect. It will take a few tries to get your pressure right and to get your technique to the standard you like. This is after all, a handcrafted work of art - the imperfection is what makes it unique and charming. I hope you have enjoyed this how to article and found the tips useful. Happy hand stamping!