Introduction: Metal Letter Stamp Tool
Even though I like the playfulness of hand punched metal type I also like it to be straight if I need it to be.
I want to make some metal signs for my boxes and doing every letter over and over again would mean not doing it. With this tool, I could do all 6 (even 7) letters in one go. And hey, how cool isn’t it to make your own custom tool.
My set was one letter at the time type of metal set, and the letters would jump up and down. As the words got longer, it got even messier. I’m a graphic designer, to begin with, and I like my typography nice and neat:-)
Hopefully, I've made a tool more of you would want to make yourself.
A metal letter emboss set
Metal parts suitable for hammering
CAD program, Fusion 360
Available 3D printer
Filament PETG for added strength
Step 1: Inspiration + +
One of my favorite Instagram accounts are @switchandlever, Daniel shares his many thrift-shop finds, he shows and gives detailed descriptions on what he’s found, including great photos. In one of these posts this summer he had found a beautiful metal letter emboss set, what was special about this set was the tool to hold the letters so when you punched your type they would all adhere to a straight line.
So when I saw this I immediately thought, I need to buy this… No way! I’ll build my own!
Quickly I knew this could be feasible with my 3D printer and some simple welding. I contacted Daniel along the process and got some valuable feedback.
Daniel is of course also on Instructables… Go check out his projects!
Step 2: Initial Prototyping…
"From sketch to bang as quick as you can…"
As a starting point, I had to make a proof of concept. In my head, this would work, but I made a quick sketch and drew this up in Fusion 360, a holder for the letters. In my approach a needed to make screws to hold the letters. And on top of this part, I needed to make an insert for the metal part to hit the letters, evenly.
Printed this first test in Prusa PLA and made a test print.
As you can see from the sketch I had an idea to attache the metal punch part with screw to the 3D printed part… I quickly realised the force would probably make this solution crack the plastic part. So these parts would be separate and just have a tight fit
Step 3: The Metal Tool
After a quick 3D print I proceeded to work on the metal part. In my drawer of metal bits, I found a piece perfect for the job, It had already been used for some type of punch tool with a head ideal for a hammer blow. The part hitting the letters needed to be as thick, but not thicker than the metal rods.
I drilled a hole the width of the metal plate and I made a cut to remove the part that would make space for the plate. Then I made sure the two parts were aligned and leveled. Next welding… nothing complicated just tight with no room for friction.
Step 4: Print… OK… Now Box Making
Since the 3D model I prototyped seemed to work I did some new measuring and added some features. Sliced it and went for a more solid part, 100% infill and PETG plastic made it sturdy and feeling more robust.
In this set the letters were 6mm in size and the rods were 8mm.
I added some silicone lube to the threads and made an extra screw handle for easier adjustment.
The first test was "OK":-D
I learnt that you need some hard surface underneath where you hit the letter stamps.
Now it was time to make the box for this tool and the full alphabet…
Step 5: The Box Making…
Of course a box was needed to hold this tool and its parts. I had the box laying around and it screamed USE ME, USE ME!!! So I did:-)
I drilled 36 holes to hold all letter, numbers and &. I drew up a grid in Illustrator and drilled away. A small extra tweak was to attach one of the letter studs to my drill and widen the holes for all the letter parts.
Step 6: It's a Thing…
At about the same time another maker was making a storage solution for his metal letters… Mr. Savage!
Step 7: Hitting Type
For the best result, I used soft metal, aluminum, copper, and brass (soft to harder). The size now, with the set I have, gives room for 6 letters (I can wedge in 7) I think that is a good width, going wider might lessen the punch on some letters.
Since I only have one set, I'll have issues with words where letters repeat. For this, I made a spacer, so I could punch out the full word and fill in the letters afterwords. Steady hands now!
I love how this turned out and went to town:-)
Step 8: Final Punch…
Researching this project I came across a set similar to the one Daniel had bought on eBay, went for a bid, and lost:-( But I wasn't too sad, this tool works great, and for what I will do it's more than good enough for now.
I will be looking for new sets and would love to have some different fonts.
One big difference to the original tool is that the letters in that set don't have the extra space around them like mine so you get a much tighter tracking of the letters.
But all in all very pleased with this build and again a big shout out to Daniel aka @switchandlever
One more thing, you should listen to the podcast episode "Always Read the Plaque: Mapping Over 10,000 Global Markers & Memorials" by Roman Mars and his 99%invisible team
I've got a couple of other tools up my sleeve, please follow along over at my instagram: @smogdog
Participated in the
Build a Tool Contest