Steel stamps are an ideal tool for making a touchmark because they offer a long-lasting, cost-effective tool which can be easily customized. Adding a touchmark is often one of the last steps in the creation process, so it is critical that the mark is made correctly. Over the years we’ve helped many artisans and craftspeople make their unique touchmark, and we’ve created a step by step guide for making the perfect touchmark.
Begin with Quality Tools
The first step in making a touchmark is acquiring a steel hand stamp or die, a hammer or press, and a solid work surface.
If using a hand stamp and hammer to make your touchmark, it is essential not to overlook the quality of your materials. Look for a high quality steel hand stamp that will resist spalling when hit. A hand stamp holder can also be useful when hand stamping because it protects your hands and helps to ensure your safety.
If using an impact press or a hydraulic jack press, it is essential that the die is placed into the press correctly and the material to be marked is positioned securely below the die. Whether you're using a handstamp or a press, we always recommend making a few test marks in order to familiarize yourself with the marking process. Better to take the time and test on scrap materials than ruin a finished piece due to lack of experience.
An often overlooked part of the hand stamping process is the surface on which you will be stamping. You should choose a solid and stable surface, like a work bench, and, ideally, locate a support or leg and make your mark over it. Supports and legs will provide the greatest stability, which is essential to prevent bouncing or flexing of the bench surface, both of which can impact the clarity of the mark. Finally, placing a large, flat piece of soft steel on your bench and laying your piece on top of it, rather than on the bench itself, is preferable.
It is also important to select the correct hammer when hand stamping. Choose the proper marking hammer size based on the following criteria: if you're marking a single 1/4” tall character into mild steel, you'll need approximately 2.1 tons of pressure. In this example, we recommend using our O.E. hammer shown in the photo above, 1 lb. weight. Experienced operators can typically use a lighter marking hammer (3/4 lb. in this case). If you’re unsure about what hammer is best for your touchmark, the manufacturer of the steel hand stamp should be able to provide you with a recommendation.
Making a Touchmark
The first step to making a touchmark is to place the object you are going to mark on your steel base. Next, place the hand stamp onto the part and rock it back and forth. The key here is to ensure that the stamp is laying perfectly flat on the part.
Next, carefully strike the stamp firmly with the hammer (this would be a good time to practice on some scrap material before marking your finished part). If you aren’t careful, the hammer can strike the stamp more than once. When the hammer strikes multiple times, you will end up with double or triple impressions.
A few notes about striking the stamp. First, the speed with which you hit the stamp and the accuracy with which the hammer impacts the stamp are crucial to a successful mark. You want a touchmark that has consistent depth across the entire mark and is clear on the piece. The proper speed and accuracy are essential to achieving this. Second, if you're marking multiple characters by utilizing a hand held type holder, the amount of striking force required to make a clear mark is going to be increased dramatically . Again, we recommend taking the time to practice so that you can get the ‘feel’ for how hard to strike the stamp and learn to control the hammer, so it only strikes once.
If you have any questions about how to use a hand stamp or press to make a touchmark, or would like to learn more about our hand stamps, holders, hammers, or presses, please contact us to discuss your project.
You may be interested in these posts:
- Stamping Knife Blades the Right Way
- Making a Blacksmith Touchmark
- Blacksmith Uses Hand Stamps to Make His Mark
This post was published on January 16, 2018 and updated on October 15, 2020.