Sculpture Stamp
September 1, 2010 6:08 AM   Subscribe

How can I stamp my name and a date into a tiny clay sculpture?

I make these tiny polymer clay sculptures. The scale ranges from dime-sized to quarter-sized, sometimes a bit bigger.

It recently occurred to me that later it would be nice to know when I made them. But how can I stamp something so tiny? I figured a custom stamp would work, but I can't find anything like that that isn't made for ink. I'm picturing a metal stick with a miniscule stamp on the end.

Another idea might be to make my own out of plaster. But I'm not sure the resolution will be there. However, the plaster would solve another problem: I'm going to need a succession of these, at least one for every year. (Individual digits might also work.)

The other requirement is the text size. It needs to be REALLY tiny. Larger text is going to mar the sculpture. I don't think I'd want it bigger than the "IN GOD WE TRUST" on actual coins and smaller might be better.
posted by DU to Media & Arts (12 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Something like this?
posted by jon1270 at 6:19 AM on September 1, 2010 [1 favorite]

In the same vein as jon1270's suggestion, what about getting some really small metal letterpress type? Glue or otherwise fasten the required letters together and use them to stamp the text into the clay. People sell batches of letterpress type on eBay a lot, and it's pretty cheap.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 6:25 AM on September 1, 2010 [1 favorite]

People have stamps like these made up all the time for jewellery. Page with a short list of suppliers
posted by kmennie at 6:28 AM on September 1, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I did see some things like that but didn't know what they were called, so that's good. On the downside, 1.5mm is pretty tall. Measuring a quarter I have here, it looks like that's about 1mm and on the dime it seems closer to .75mm. Looks like 1.5mm may be the smallest though, so I should try it.
posted by DU at 6:30 AM on September 1, 2010

The set that jon1270 linked to is fine for polymer clay; I've used something very similar myself with very good results, and has the bonus of being the most professional-looking. Besides stamping, you could always paint or write the date on the bottom (added advantage: non-smushing of clay) or cut out tiny numbers, ransom note style, and glue them onto the bottom of the piece and varnish over it, like decoupage. This Etsian decoupages paper onto her clay pieces, just as an example. It may or may not work with your pieces, depending on the style. I'm guessing robots, for some reason ;)
posted by iconomy at 6:33 AM on September 1, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Whoa whoa whoa, "jeweler's stamp" seems to be exactly the phrase I was missing.
posted by DU at 6:34 AM on September 1, 2010

Response by poster: I'm guessing robots, for some reason.

Actually, I don't think I ever have made a robot but now that you mention it I probably will tonight. I'd link to some things I made, but I seem to have never posted any to the internet. Last night I finished a T Rex fossil skull, last week I made tomatoes on a vine and just before that 3 stacked turtles.

I wanted supermicrotiny letters because some of these things don't have an identifiable "bottom" or non-viewable side. But actually they do--it's whatever side I've set it on on the shelf.
posted by DU at 6:39 AM on September 1, 2010

Response by poster: The jeweler's stuff is the size I (think I) want but the prices are astronomical. I'll try this first.
posted by DU at 6:56 AM on September 1, 2010

If you want a custom signature or symbol stamp at some point in the future, design it in a vector format, then find a local laser cutter shop (trophy shops, some nice print shops, local architecture schools), and get it cut out of plastic. Then mount it to the end of a dowel.

This was what all the clayheads had their graphic or industrial design friends do in art school. With polymer clay, you'll want to clean the stamp with alcohol after each use to prevent stuff from building up.
posted by fontophilic at 7:20 AM on September 1, 2010 [1 favorite]

If you don't care about being visible/legible to the unaided eye (or actively prefer that), there's always the Trace Mark
posted by aramaic at 8:25 AM on September 1, 2010

Response by poster: No, I do want it visible and I also don't want it to be expensive. This isn't to prove ownership or even serve as an artist's signature for sold items. More like record-keeping. Like, if one of the little dinosaurs I've made ends up on my son's desk when he's a paleontologist, he has a date on there to know when I made up.
posted by DU at 8:40 AM on September 1, 2010

For my pottery stamp, I took lead type scavenged from the pied type box in the printmaking lab at my print studio and pressed it into a slab of clay. I then bisque fired the slab and I make my stamps from clay pressed into the slab and carved further when leather hard, then bisque fired themselves. "But why use clay stamps instead of the original metal stamps?" you might ask. Well, with wet clay my metal stamps would oxidize rather quickly, since they weren't really made to be used in a wet environment, also wet clay is less apt to stick to bisque fired clay rather than metal. An additional perk is when I inevitably lose my stamps, I can remake them quickly (and usually slightly differently).
posted by 1f2frfbf at 9:39 AM on September 1, 2010

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