Stamp with Intent
First and foremost, each handmade stamp has its own personality (unique design) and may need a little adjustment in your technique to get the best impression ... handmade stamps are quite different from commercial, machine-made stamps. Look at your stamp, be aware of the design (is it a wider border stamp? Does it have outer points in corners? Does it have intricate inner details?) – which areas might need an extra tap or a little more angle … know your stamp and learn what it needs from YOU to get the best impression.
I made several stamping in action videos that are available on my Red Dirt Diva YouTube Channel. I stamped out 740 stamps in my shop and found many "teaching moments" I hope will be helpful to you to stamp successfully. Please click on the YouTube link at the bottom of the Home page to see them. Feedback is always appreciated.
- Practice, practice, practice on an inexpensive, softer metal like aluminum or copper. Opinion: I find that different gauges of metal require a little different stamping technique, strength of strike, tilt and tap, etc. If you can, have the same gauge of copper/aluminum for practice as what you are going to use for your final piece.
- Anneal anneal anneal your metal correctly ... Annealing correctly: Here are links to a couple of videos: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8Q-8sYrIahA and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jErNKw6ERto&t=57s.
- Get your body position directly above your stamping surface (be comfortable), forearm parallel to your stamping surface, so you can see clearly where you are stamping.
- Set your stamp on the metal and "rock it around" a little to “feel” when it is square and balanced on your metal and completely upright (90-degree angle).
- Make sure you are hitting the stamp squarely/evenly - aim the center of your hammer for the center of your stamp - and let your hammer do the work ... work from your elbow to your wrist. Opinion: It is very important to make sure your hammer is hitting the stamp dead center. Not on an edge or off-center (you can look at the hammering end of the stamp and see where your hammer blows are making contact). I discovered if I make a strong quick strike, I get a better impression than if I let the hammer "linger" on the stamp. It’s not about having blacksmith strength in your arm, but applying the right technique. You will develop your own “muscle memory” about stamping.
Stamping Set-Up: Have a good steel block and rubber block or pad underneath the steel block (rubber is to reduce the bounce) ... get your body position above your stamping surface (be comfortable).
If need be, secure your stamping base to keep it from sliding (I tape together the 4” steel block and the rubber pad with several layers of duct tape – this keeps your steel block from getting all dinged up and transferring those dings to your metal, reduces “bounce,” reduces stamping noise, AND does provide a little “give” for that impression to bite into the metal.
Hammers: I use a 1# Impressart Brass hammer and it works great. It is a softer metal and absorbs some of the blows. The head will need sanding off smooth from time to time to provide an even strike to your stamp. I have a new 2# brass hammer that I’m appreciating more each time I use it. It is not always needed but does provide more (wider) equal pressure to the stamp better than the 1# hammer.
TNT (tilt and tap): When you tilt, only tilt maybe 5 to 10 degrees (not much), and strike the stamp on the opposite side (raised side) of the side you are tilting. That drives the force into that lower side of the stamp. Do look at your stamp. See what areas might need some extra hammering.
Sometimes one portion of the stamp won't bite into with the metal and leave a complete impression. If that happens, re-set your stamp into the impression -- wiggle it a bit until you feel it “snap” into the impression, then tilt the stamp a few degrees (in the direction where the impression is missing or weak), and tap pretty strongly (not whack like thunder) with your hammer on the raised side of the stamp.
Opinion on metal gauges: 22 gauge and lower are better for stamping. 24 gauge and higher are thinner and do not have enough metal for the stamp to “bite” into to leave a good impression. If you are stamping on thinner metals, try putting a thin dishcloth/washcloth between your metal and your steel block/anvil/stump. Give that impression somewhere to go.
Grip problems: try wrapping a wide rubber band around your stamp several times where you place your fingers to give you a better grip. OR try using 80 or 120 grit sandpaper to “rough” up the area where you grip. Or use some alligator tape on your fingertips.
Stamping is a learned skill ... practice practice practice.
Denise/Red Dirt Diva