How to Design a Metal Stamping Die

Written by shannon johnson
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Metal dies for stamping are beautiful examples of craftsmanship. They are used on many surfaces like leather, metal and wood. They are used to add depth and detail for design surfaces. Lightly heat the metal die and create a wood-burning effect or use leather tooling to emboss a belt or purse. Creating, crafting and designing a metal die can be challenging, but the result is rewarding: a one-of-a-kind, signature design that can be used on any medium.

Skill level:
Moderate

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Things you need

  • Tool-grade steel or brass sheet metal
  • Plexiglass or acrylic sheet
  • Glue
  • Spiral saw blades
  • File
  • Burnisher
  • Masking tape
  • 18-gauge brass wire
  • Riveting hammer
  • Drill with a very small bit
  • Jewellery saw
  • Bench or hacksaw
  • Acetone
  • Photocopier
  • Transfer/carbon paper
  • Hydraulic press

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Instructions

  1. 1

    Draw your die design on paper and make two photocopies. Use as much or as little detail as you wish, but your size will be limited to the hydraulic press plate size. Typical metal dies are no larger than four inches square, with a border around the centred design.

  2. 2

    Trace your design with the pencil and transfer paper onto a piece of sheet metal. Cut the sheet metal with the saw. Cut a second piece of sheet metal the exact same size, and glue the pieces together.

  3. 3

    Saw out the design with the jewellers saw, then file the edges until they are smooth. Polish the edges of the design using the burnisher. Separate your metal sheets, dissolving the glue with acetone.

  4. 4

    Cut two pieces of Plexiglass the same size as your sheet metal. Glue the plastic pieces together. Paste one photocopy of your design to the plastic block, and saw, file and burnish the edges until smooth.

  5. 5

    Place the two sheet metal designs on either side of the plastic block and tape together with masking tape. Drill four holes (one on each corner of the block). Thread wire through the holes.

  6. 6

    Cut the wire at the edge of the metal, and rivet the blocks and metal together with the riveting hammer. Remove the masking tape. Clean the die carefully with acetone to remove any glue or masking tape residue.

Tips and warnings

  • Your die is now a silhouette die that can be used with a hydraulic press to create embossed or debossed patterns in metal, leather, wood or paper surfaces.
  • If the edges of your die are not smooth, you could tear the material you are stamping.

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