How can I create a raised seal to stamp on paper?
August 14, 2007 12:20 AM   Subscribe

How can I make a raised seal of my own design?

I'm doing a craft project for a friend of mine's band that would ideally involve creating a raised seal design that I can stamp on fairly heavy-weight paper. I don't want to order a commercial stamp because, for one thing, the design I want to use for the seal is, frankly obscene, and for another, I'm interested in the challenge of doing this myself.

So is it possible for me to do this myself? Do I need to buy a letterpress - would that help? I don't really want to use an embossing method that uses powder as I would rather have a raised design that is stamped, if that makes sense. Actually, I hope this whole question makes sense - I am far from being a printing professional, so if more explanation is needed, just let me know and I will follow up. Thanks a lot for helping!
posted by hazyjane to Media & Arts (11 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
 
Could you engrave it from metal with a dremel or something? That's what I'd try first. Or maybe grind/carve it from soapstone, the tools and materials there are pretty cheap.

Or etch it using acid from a metal? You might need to prepare a set of masks of decreasing size (one for each etch) to get enough depth to the shape without it being undermined.
posted by polyglot at 1:21 AM on August 14, 2007


How many sheets are you anticipating? For a small run you could make it out of something like sculpty. Form the positive half. Bake it. Take an impression for the negative half. Bake it. Viola.

For something more permanent there are RTVs that you can cast metal into. Do as above then use the RTV to make molds. Cast the metal into the molds.
posted by Mitheral at 1:29 AM on August 14, 2007


An experiment I did in design school: Draw your design with white glue (elmer's I think it is called, maybe you could use epoxy) on a piece of wood, and let it dry. Add several layers if necessary to get a nice thickness. It will become very hard. Tape or clamp your paper over the piece of wood, and moisten very very slightly. Using a rubber roller, roll over the design a few times with as much downwards force as you can. It is time consuming and tiring, but the results are really cool (as in full of small imperfections, not two pieces identical).

I used a roller from an old hot stamping press, but it also works with the wood floor safe rollers some utility carts have as wheels.
posted by Dataphage at 1:39 AM on August 14, 2007


Hm, seems like you're looking for something called intaglio.
posted by mdonley at 1:41 AM on August 14, 2007


Lead melts in a tin can on a kitchen stove (have the ventilation fan on full). Plaster of paris works as a mold (let it dry thoroughly first). Sculpt your symbol out of anything, cast it in plaster, use that to create a version in lead or pewter metal, use some fine files or a dremel to clean up the design. Stamp away.

If you want to be extra clever, before you pour lead into the mold, cover it with cling-wrap and make a mold of the mold, then cast lead into both molds, and you have inverse metal stamps that you can put on either side of a large pair of pliers (or tongs or whatever), put the paper in between, meshing the stamps into each other to leave a much stronger impression in the paper.

For more free lead than you can carry, go to a shooting range. The ground is literally littered with it. Don't do this while the range is in use :-)
posted by -harlequin- at 2:50 AM on August 14, 2007


I have used a method a number of times that is as cheap and easy as a Chia Pet.

Get a piece of acrylic that is a little bigger than your seal. A small one from Home Depot runs a few bucks.

Get children's modeling clay from the art store. A couple bucks.

Design your seal and tape it to the back side of the piece of acrylic. (There really is no back side, just pick one.)

Take some of the clay and flatten it out on the acrylic, big enough to cover your design and then some. You don't want the clay thin at all, as thick as it is will be your relief on the final stamp. About a 1/4" is good.

Using a small, plastic carving tool (again, available at the art supply store for a buck a package), work away at the clay in the dark areas of your design. The thickness of the acrylic will allow you to see the white edges of the design before the clay is cleared that far. This is a precision, artful process. You want absolutely no clay left in the cleared spaces, and depending on the complexity of the design, this can take a few hours.

We've found it best, at this point, to let the clay alone overnight. It's not necessary, that's a nuance point.

Now, fill it is with silicon caulk. Five dollars at the Depot. This is also precision, because you need to make sure no air bubbles get caught in there. Designate a tool to work out the air bubbles (wooden skewers work well for this). You take the paper off the backside of the acrylic so you can see where the air bubbles are caught, if any, and how the silicon is getting in the cracks.

After that, push a piece of wood a little bigger than your design into the silicon. Make sure its not too much bigger or the stamp will be cumbersome. A 1/2" pressuretreated piece of wood is fine. We used scraps laying around from anywhere. Don't push it in too much, you want to make sure it is securely attached to the silicon but if you press it too hard the pressure will transfer to the clay and muck up your design. So just slide it on there firmly.

Now let it dry. This is so hard. You have to let it dry for a couple days. If its a tiny stamp, just overnight is fine. If its substantial (say 6" square), you're looking at two days. The temptation to unstick it is nearly irresistible, but you'll have to resist because otherwise its not recoverable. Wait three days and you're golden. The thicker the silicon the longer to wait.

When you think its dry, start unpeeling ever so carefully the whole operation off the acrylic. The clay may or may not stick to the silicon, it doesn't really matter. It depends on how perfectly smooth you left the surface of the clay where it met the silicon. Watch and make sure no silicon is still sticking to the acrylic, because that means its not dry (obviously), and just return the whole thing back for more drying time.

Once its dry, peel it off the acrylic and -- voila! -- you have a great stamp that will last a long, long time. Its second only to one made of a potato.

Credit to Jaimie Mantzel for inventing this method. If you like it and want to show your appreciation, donate to his giant robot project.
posted by letahl at 5:52 AM on August 14, 2007


Thanks for all the responses!

Letahl, your technique is really interesting but I'm having trouble understanding it totally. First, this part "
Once its dry, peel it off the acrylic and..." - I don't understand how the clay and the silicon separate from each other?

Also, back to the part where I carve the design out of the clay. I guess I need to know quite well where the dark parts and white parts are on the design so that I can almost carve it freehand out of the clay, but just use the reflections in the silicon for a precision guide?
posted by hazyjane at 6:16 AM on August 14, 2007


I can understand the desire to do it yourself as well as the embarresment of the obscene design but the easy thing to do is to get an embossing seal. Look it up in the phone book or online or go to a trophy store. They will laser cut the piece for you quite precisely and then you can figure out a way to impress it onto paper or use a traditional hand embossing machine. I'm not sure of the price but it should be under $100.00
posted by iprintny at 7:11 AM on August 14, 2007


Letahl, your technique is really interesting but I'm having trouble understanding it totally. First, this part "
Once its dry, peel it off the acrylic and..." - I don't understand how the clay and the silicon separate from each other?


If the clay is smooth enough, they just do. Even if the clay is rough (it doesn't matter, because the smooth acrylic-smushed part is what will print when you use the stamp), and it sticks to the silicon, it is modeling clay so still moist, and you can pick it off.

Also, back to the part where I carve the design out of the clay. I guess I need to know quite well where the dark parts and white parts are on the design so that I can almost carve it freehand out of the clay, but just use the reflections in the silicon for a precision guide?


Ah, you're right. If your design is complex, then use the Adding technique rather than Reducing. Meaning don't use the step where you put a 1/4" layer of clay over the whole thing. Start with the acrylic blank (no clay) and the paper design taped to the back. Then add clay in the areas you don't want the stamp to print. Now that I think about it this is what we did for the complex designs. Build up the clay until it is 1/4" high or so over the white areas.

If you have good hands, you can make a very professional artsy stamp using this method.
posted by letahl at 8:15 AM on August 14, 2007


And iprinty is right. You can have these things printed in that price range.
posted by letahl at 8:16 AM on August 14, 2007


Before you start melting down lead rounds, you should read up on the potential risks involved with melting lead. Here is the Material Safety Data Sheet for Lead. And here is an anoucement from 1996 about the percieved dangers by some in California of melting lead.
posted by __ at 2:51 PM on August 14, 2007


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