One of the easiest ways to personalize your jewelry items is to stamp initials, dates or names into metal tags or blanks which can be easily attached to any necklace or bracelet. Using metal jewelry tags is a great way to practice your stamping technique, as there is actually an art to getting it just right. Here we’ve put together a beginners guide to metal stamping to help you in your jewelry-making ventures.
Tools you’ll need:
Like every new project, metal stamping comes with it’s own tools and paraphernalia you’ll need to get started. It can be a pricey hobby or craft to pursue, but once you have the equipment, it should last you for a really long time, so these items are more like investment pieces if you are hoping to use metal stamping for a lot of projects!
You can find these all really easily online or in craft stores and you can often purchase starter kits which will usually include most of the list below:
- Stamping hammer
- Metal stamps (letters, numbers, icons, shapes)
- Stamping block
- Metal tags/blanks
- Stamping tape
- Polishing cloth
Why do you need all of these tools?
It may look like a large and relatively expensive craft shopping list, but if you want to get it right, you need the right tools. If you know someone who already has the equipment, you could ask them nicely if you can try it out at their place before you make your purchases.
The stamping hammer is normally smaller than your usual toolkit hammer, which helps with controlled strikes, but it needs to be a pretty heavy hammer to get the best results from your stamps. You can use a regular hammer, but there is an increased risk of missing the stamp and hitting your hand as the strike will be less precise.
You don’t want to stamp anything directly onto your desk or whatever work surface you are using, so you will need a metal block to protect it. These metal blocks are quite heavy and usually come with soft, padded stickers on each corner or a rubber base to stabilize the block and again, stop your table from getting damaged.
You can take extra precautions and use a larger piece of sturdy mdf or hardboard underneath your block to absorb even more of the impact of the hammer.
Softer metals like gold and aluminum tend to curl as they are stamped, this can be fixed by using a nylon hammer and block. The softer hammer and block should not make any difference to your stamped design, it will just flatten your blank back out to shape. Usually you would flatten a curved piece of metal from the back – turning your design towards the nylon block and hitting the wrong side with a nylon hammer.
Metal stamps (letters, numbers, icons, shapes)
This is where this hobby can get a little expensive when you come to finding the stamps you want to use. They are usually purchased in sets:
- Uppercase alphabet
- Lowercase alphabet
- Punctuation marks
- Icons, shapes or symbols
Letters, numbers and punctuation marks can be found in loads of different fonts which means you can choose your favorite look for your stamping project. One of the most popular fonts for metal stamping is a newsprint style or typewriter, which is easy to read and can be made to look quite rustic – perfect for handmade items. Shapes are also super popular, such as hearts, stars and flowers, which can really finish a piece off!
It is really handy to have a simple stamp which is specifically for creating dots or full stops, as these are great for dates or initials. You can also special hammers which have different textures to create varied hammered effects if you weren’t wanting to add letters or shapes to your blanks.
You will need metal tags or blanks to stamp your letters or shapes into, these will most likely be brass, copper or sterling silver. Using flat shaped tags is a great place to start as it is pretty easy to stamp a flat piece of metal, as opposed to 3 dimensional shapes or bangles.
Metal blanks can be plated after the stamping is complete if necessary. Pre-plated tags are not suited to stamping as the plating will get damaged in the process.
When you’re practicing stamping, use a less expensive material such as copper or aluminum because you won’t want to waste any nice silver or gold blanks. You can purchase larger plates of these alloys which are a great size for getting your technique down to a tee.
Most blanks can be found with a pre-made hole in them for attaching to jewelry, but you can purchase special tools to create your own holes if not.
Stampable items will more than likely be found in the following alloys:
- Fine Silver
- Sterling Silver
- 14ct Gold Filled
You can purchase tape which has been made specifically for stamping which helps not only with placement but holds your blank in place when you are stamping. It is a must for safety if you are stamping anything, especially small items which cannot be held in place by hand. It also ensures a better finish to any stamped marks as you can utilize maximum impact when the tag is held down.
Masking tape can used to help with the positioning of your stamps – if you want to stamp a word neatly in a straight line, masking tape is a great way to do this. You can use pencil on the tape to help with the spacing of your characters too!
You can use a polishing cloth or wipes to clean up your blanks before and after stamping. Polishing cloths can usually be purchased from your local craft store, or you could use a rag from an old flannel shirt.
Polishing your blanks, tags and charms will complete their look, make them jewelry ready and also look super professional if you are hoping to sell your crafts.
- Start by setting up your work space. Choose somewhere which has a sturdy surface, or at least sturdy enough to withstand hammering. As mentioned above, you could always pop a piece of strong wood over your table or desk to make sure you aren’t going to damage any surfaces.
- Get all of your equipment out and have it at hand and easily reachable before you begin any stamping.
- Set your stamping block in front of you close enough for you to be able to stamp your practice blank efficiently.
- Use stamping tape to hold your blank in place on the block and add any masking tape guides you might want.
- Choose your stamp and line it up (check it isn’t upside down), holding it between your thumb and forefinger – you may want to stabilize it with more fingers.
- Grab your hammer and hit the top of the stamp (be careful to pay attention to where you are aiming the hammer). This is where the practice will help, so you can establish the best way to hit the stamp; how hard and whether you might want to hit twice, just to be sure.
Where to begin?
As with every project, it is best to start small and simple and do plenty of practicing before going for the finished product. When you purchase your blanks for stamping, make sure to purchase some practice blanks or larger tags which you can use to get your technique just right. Flat surfaces are the best for beginners as they are easy to mark up and easily stamped with your desired design.
It’s all in the technique
It is so important to practice thoroughly as there are a couple of things that can affect the success of your metal stamping.
It can be difficult to get the right balance of how hard to hit the stamp. If you lift up your stamp only to find you’ve barely made a mark, you can’t really go over again unless you manage to perfectly line it back up. This will of course improve over time and you’ll get the hang of it.
Majority of metals will need a relatively hard hit from the hammer to actually cause any stamping to occur. Although keep in mind that different alloys may actually take different techniques due to their varying densities – aluminum will not need as much of an impact as, say, brass might.
It is important to decide on your design before beginning your project and make sure that your word or design will fit onto your chosen blank. Use masking tape and pencil to mark out the placement before stamping anything. Marking out the center and planning outward is a really neat trick to get your design as tidy as possible.
This may sound silly, but always make sure your stamp is the right way up – you do not want your final letter to be at a 90° angle!
Time for fun
When you feel like you’ve had enough practice and you just want to get into the real crafting, start thinking about your designs. You could sketch out ideas for different shaped tags or think about personalised gifts you might want to make for friends and family (or for yourself).
Some great beginner stamping projects include:
- Initial charms for jewelry – ultimate beginner project with limited characters
- Name pendants – a personalized addition to a pretty beaded necklace or simple chain
- Special date tags – perfect for weddings, engagements, birth dates etc.
- Pet name tags – just as simple as name pendants
Stamping is a really satisfying process as the finished pieces can look so professional once they’re polished up. Even if your stamps aren’t perfectly neat, or the indents are uneven, this can create a lovely handmade and rustic feel to your work.
Finishing touches & Extra tools
If you’re not quite content with the basic stamping finish, then there are ways to develop or enhance your pieces to suit your tastes using tricks and extra tools.
Letters with impact
You might have noticed that the stamped items you see on Etsy or at the craft markets have darker indentations that really make the letters or shapes pop. This is a really easy look to achieve. Using a simple, fine Sharpie, you can carefully fill in the stamped area to really make it stand out. Don’t worry if you happen to go outside of the lines, this can be fixed with your trusty polishing cloth!
The same effect can be achieved with stamping blank enamel and this will be much more long-lasting than Sharpie, which can rub off over time. The enamel will create a very professional finish suited to jewelry items which will experience wear and tear from use.
If your blanks did not come with holes in them and you want to attach them to a piece of jewelry, then you can get specialist tools which will punch a hole in the metal, either using the same technique as stamping or in the form of punch pliers.
You can create an aged effect on your metals if you want a vintage feel. Certain metals react quite quickly to the acid in vinegar, so you could soak your stamped items into a container with vinegar that covers your chosen item to distress/age.
To create a Patina effect, use white vinegar, salt and clear ammonia as shown in this quick video. This technique might be something you want to try further down the line when you feel more comfortable with using metals.
As mentioned above in the section about metal stamps, you can find chasing hammers which are used to add texture to metals, such as dimples, zig-zags, lines etc. These are something you can invest in later on, as you develop your stamping technique repertoire.
As you may already know, blanks can come in a multitude of sizes and shapes which are really fun to work with. There’s no need to invest in a ton of different shapes if you don’t need them, just buy your blanks as and when you need them.
Simple blanks can be moulded into curves using a dapping block. This piece of equipment has various sized circular daps in which you can place your blank and then rounded tools are hammered on top to create a curved or cupped effect on your blank. Dapping does not affect your stamped design.
Once you really get the hang of metal stamping, you can take your projects even further using a multitude of mediums to create really unique items. There are loads of amazing tutorials on Pinterest for creating your own metal stamped items, whether that be jewelry based or not.
Here are some really great ideas for projects that you could create once you become a whizz at metal stamping:
- Personalized jewelry and accessories
- Silver bangles
- Bag charms
- Bracelet and necklace charms
- Stamped silverware
- Book quote bookmarks
- Plant markers
- Constellation designs – charms or pendants
- Greeting card charms
- Using your stamps for clay projects!