Looking for info on wax seals/stamps
November 1, 2011 5:32 AM   Subscribe

Getting back into letter writing. Thinking about using wax seals, looking for some information.

Recently I have decided to not only work on my handwriting (which has lost its lustre), but to get back into writing personal handwritten letters (on occasion) to relatives, friends, etc, a couple of times a year. With Christmas coming soon, I would like to add this personal touch.

I remember years ago, I received a letter in the mail from a distant relative and it had one of those old wax seals with red wax securing the envelope. I thought it was interesting and unique and would like to get into wax seals. I am trying to collect information on them, where to purchase them, the best types, how to go about collecting them, etc.

I don't have a big budget for this (and not interested in getting into something very expensive), so I am looking for more economical alternatives. Ultimately, I would like to have my own initials designed for a wax seal (and my own design), but many of the websites that I have Googled, are very expensive (certainly more than I am willing to pay). It might be fine for a business to pay this amount, but not an individual. I did find a seller on eBay that made custom ones for a very reasonable price ($30usd), but the seller is no longer active.

Anyway, ANY information (resources/guidance/suggestions, etc) on this topic or "hobby", would be greatly appreciated.

posted by dbirchum to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (10 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I know I've seen generic ones in the stationery sections of bookstores in the U.S. (Barnes & Noble in particular, probably the late Borders as well). Sometimes they have a single initial in some kind of florid script, sometimes some other symbol like a quill in an inkwell.

If you want a custom, unique symbol, you can sometimes find places that make vulcanized rubber stamps for pretty cheap. I don't know how well those interact with wax, but it might be an avenue to explore.
posted by gauche at 5:38 AM on November 1, 2011

They're difficult to post - you are meant to put a wax sealed envelope inside another envelope so it doesn't get knocked about in the mail.

There are lots of tutorials for making wax seals: http://ragehaus.com/?p=1215 looks good, or www.instructables.com/id/Homemade-wax-seals-part-1/

I made these when I was a kid at school with lino carving tools and scraps we had, and we used runny wax. I'm sure the proper scrapbook shop type supplies would work better, but messing about first is far more fun.

You can buy lino supplies very cheaply at a standard art store. They're little rubber mats that you gouge lines out of and they are excellent for experimenting with carving for beginners. You could fool around with little squares until you get a wax seal design you love and then replicate it in hardier material.

Or maybe get started with a personalized rubber stamp first like from here: www.threedesigningwomen.com/ or espressionary.com. Martha Stewart magazines always have discount codes for them. A coloured envelope with an interesting stamp is always a pleasure in the mail. A print shop will usually knock out a stamp made from a vector image file easily enough for the same or less cost.

And definitely try your local library for crafting books. I can't find a book only on seals on Amazon, but when I was a kid, we had at least three books that had chapters on making wax seals - Golden Hands magazine series, a book on printmaking and a book on medieval crafts.
posted by viggorlijah at 6:15 AM on November 1, 2011

Paper Source has a bunch. Last time I was in the DC store, they had at least 30 different press designs - flourishes and other symbols, as well as letters presumably for your initial. Not sure if these supplies fall in your price range. They seem a little expensive, and frankly a little bourgey, for my speed. :) But I think Viggorlijah has it right, a big chain craft store would have what you need, maybe not of the best quality, but good for an initial cheaper test run to see what you really actually need for this craft.

Good luck! And right on to bringing back typographic craftsmanship!
posted by jay.eye.elle.elle. at 7:18 AM on November 1, 2011

There's good information here.

Among the original ideas of a seal on an envelope was for it to not be possible to remove it without breaking it. So they're brittle and don't go through the mail well. Nowadays there's flexible sealing wax for use when the purpose is more decorative.
posted by Jahaza at 7:31 AM on November 1, 2011

I ordered this stamp from Seasons Creations and am very happy with it for the price; it's not very intricate, but it's a pretty specific design and it makes a handsome impression. Good customer service too.

Wax-wise, I definitely recommend J. Herbin. Very nice solid consistency, but seems to have enough flex to go through the mail without getting mangled. I think I paid about $14 for four sticks at a stationer... a bit of an investment, but two years later I'm only on stick 3. The Herbin wax doesn't have a wick, so you need a lighter or other heat-source to melt it... but I find that the kind with wicks is a lot more prone to getting bits of soot stuck in the melted wax.
posted by usonian at 7:46 AM on November 1, 2011

Among the original ideas of a seal on an envelope was for it to not be possible to remove it without breaking it. So they're brittle and don't go through the mail well. Nowadays there's flexible sealing wax for use when the purpose is more decorative.

Yeah, this is something to be careful of. I once tried mailing a friend something sealed with sealing wax, and when he later said he got it, he added, "and...just for the record, it was unsealed, and there was a lot of pretty colored dust in the envelope." He could tell I'd tried to seal it, but the postage and handling had totally crushed it.

In terms of the seal itself -- you can actually just use a regular rubber stamp if the design isn't too detailed; nothing with a lot of cross-hatching, simple lines, a small image. Someone also gave me a tip: get gold colored rubber-stamp ink and stamp your seal into that BEFORE stamping it on the seal part; it gilds the image that you're stamping into the wax and makes it look even more fancy.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:21 AM on November 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

We used the kind that you put in a mini glue-gun to seal our wedding invites (then packaged inside another envelope), and they seem to have held up very well in the mail. I don't remember whether we got ours from Nostalgic Impressions or Letter Seals, but you can get them pretty affordably if you don't want anything custom made. When we looked at craft stores like Michael's they only had single-letter monograms in one font, but online you can find all kinds of images and fonts.
posted by vytae at 8:38 AM on November 1, 2011

Yikes, just realized that was really unclear. We used the kind of "wax" (which I think is really some kind of plastic) that goes in a mini glue gun. For the stamp part, we used one of those websites I linked to. I think part of the trouble with googling this is that nobody knows whether the seal is the wax thing with the impression in it, or the metal thing you push into the wax.
posted by vytae at 8:39 AM on November 1, 2011

Hallmark store often have both generic seals (initials and/or flowers), plus the sealing wax. Where ever you get your seal from, it's best to not use plain old candle wax or the like: that's too easy to crack/break off and will probably get badly damaged in transit --- the commercial sealing wax hardens & sticks on the enevelope better.
posted by easily confused at 9:58 AM on November 1, 2011

I have one of those quill-with-an-inkstand ones you can have if you want. MeMail me and we'll figure it out.
posted by fiercecupcake at 11:43 AM on November 1, 2011

« Older proxy in windows 7   |   I need life advice badly...... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.