We’re all sick of paying the stupid high premiums for custom designs on our wax sealing stamps.
You don’t have to tell me.
I’ve been there. Every time I write my second for an upcoming duel, or send a raven to court, I am faced with the choice of shekeling out for a newly-impressed seal, or hope the recipient can make out the Latin motto from the dulled excuse for a stamp of my family crest. No more, gentlepeople of the 21st century! For the price of one professionally engraved wax seal stamp, I will show you the steps to make as many amateurly-engraved wax seal stamps as you want!
Total materials needed:
- 1” wooden dowel (at least four inches in length, preferably six inches)
- Soldering iron/ wood burning pen
- Xacto knife
- Ticonderoga pencil (no other brand will do)
- Design for stamp printed onto paper (not exceeding circumference of dowel)
- Sealing Wax (in bar or stick form)
- Polyurethane sealant
- Wood stain (optional)
- Gloves (optional)
- Chainmail (Required)
- Wench to refill goblet (standing by)
Time to Allot – 3 hours + 2 days
Pairs nicely with: Finlaggan Old Reserve Single Malt or mead from a sheep’s bladder after a day’s travel.
Note on the materials:
Dowels: These are sold at most hobby stores, but not in an abundant variety (and unless you’re an adult that has tools exceeding a Phillips head screwdriver and painter’s tape, you can’t cut these yourself smoothly). They sell them in different diameters, and the two I bought were the 1” and 1 ¼”. In perspective, the 1” fits perfectly on top of a bottle cap. This stamp was made on the 1” for bottle caps, but I would recommend the 1 ¼” for all large documents going directly to Grand Master Anne de Montmorency.
Best bet is to go to Home Depot, whose cup runneth over with dowel selection. They dowel-minate. However, they sell them in no shorter than a 48” length. To rationalize the financial burden of $2.36 (PER DOWEL! Outrageous), we’re going to maximize the hell out of this. Get it measured and cut into eight 6” segments in the cutting department to give yourself eight stamp templates. Sixteen stamps is your actual maximum potential if you’re using both ends, but I would just accept that the first end will be used as a practice go for each stamp.
If you’re like me, you will fuck up your amateur attempt like a pro.
Hobby Iron/ Wood burning Pen: If you have a soldering iron with a detachable tip, your expenses are basically done. I would get a few precision tips for detail. There are super specific wood burning pens available at craft stores that have oven-esque temperature settings for different materials, but really, every soldering iron can go through wood. It’s the base setting. It’s like having a blender that has one button: BLEND. But if you’re the sort of cat that wants pulse, puree and mash for different varieties of wood (you plan on , then go ahead. Get fancy.
STEP 1: YO DESIGN
Pick out something worth making a stamp for. I recommend a significance value below your assumed call sign for a Top Gun party, but above how much you care if the Flash movie ever gets made.
For this fledgling attempt, I am using part of my company’s logo: this degraded set of wings.
Originally were intended for a beer-related project, now being used as a sacrificial example.
Print in black and white for some visible contrast. Do this in your printer’s utility or bring into Photoshop (Preview for you cheapskates/ non-pirates) and play with the color settings. This image was printed in a quartet at 18% full size, presumably because I would blow the next step. I suggest you do the same if your hand also shakes like the ass on The Postal Service’s opener.
STEP 2: CUT YO DESIGN
Take the 1” dowel and place it directly on top of the design. If you cannot see the design under the dowel: Wunderbar! It fits in the 1” space you’ve allotted and will therefore fit in your stamp! Hold on, let me check that math… yeah, yeah the team is giving me the go-ahead. Take the Xacto knife and carefully cut around the dowel forming a circle.
From your newly extracted 1” circle, cut out interior of your design/ the area which wax will ideally be filling to make your raised impression. Example: I clipped the wings out of this circle.
STEP 3: READY YO CANVAS
That jaggedy-ass dowel as-is shan’t suffice. We can only assume the Home Depot employee who cut this spent his previous shift in the fridge section huffing freon. Direct from the source, like Arrowhead. The end is the rest of your stamp’s surface area, so you want it to look as clear and smooth as Portia De Rossi’s new forehead. Sand it into the stone age with sand paper/ sponge graded 150-220 until the surface is even and smooth to the touch. Avoid sanding OVER the edges if you want your stamp to have very defined edges when impressed and stay on top of the dowel, not allowing the sandpaper to curve around and down the edge.
The part where you screw up your first try is coming up, so I would suggest sanding both ends to your dowel at the same time. So it feels less defeating.
STEP 4: TRACE YO CANVAS
Now that your dowel looks like eco-safe ivory, place the design you cut out on top of the dowel and color in the open spaces with your pencil. This is going to be your outline for your design. Make sure it is visible and as defined as possible.
The time to fuck up is nigh, so to best prepare for it. Trace your design on both ends of your sanded dowel. Get ready: it’s almost here!
STEP 5: BURN YO CANVAS
We made it. It’s time to totally blow your freshman attempt at wood burning. How do you feel? You should feel nervous. Queasy. Like you’re wasting time and money on something you don’t think you’re good at in an attempt to recreate something you care about.
You’re ready to be not ready.
Let’s give it a practice swing first though, OK, Champ? Pick out a tip with a point, let your hobby iron warm up and try just writing something in your own writing style on the side of the dowel, to get the feel of the grain. Maybe some light profanity to quell the eels in your stomach?
There we go. That’s wasn’t so impossible was it? Alright, you paraprofessional street artist, let’s kick the training wheels off and go for it!
Alright this one is on me. I totally wasn’t ready and I empowered you to do the same. As soon as that thing hit the wood it melted like butter. God that was fast. That doesn’t look anywhere like my design, the wings are too fat and lumpy. Like Louie Anderson was given angel status.
Good thing we had totally mentally-prepared for this. Let’s flip this bitch over and try again.
Alright, now that we know how quickly that can 100% de-fucking-rail, let’s start with a more precise tip, and outline the design in total first.
Ok, this is already going a bit better. We’ve outlined the entire design first with a precise tip. Now we can work outward in and fill in that center with a far blunter tip.
Whoa! Look at you. Already way better. The borders are a lot deeper and defined. The wings aren’t totally equal, but hey, not bad for a man with five mudslides in the tank.
STEP 6: STAIN YO CANVAS
You can’t really see the exquisite detail that a man whose hand looks like a package of Hebrew Nationals put into this stamp the way it looks now. Throw some color on that, son! A nice shortcut would be to use a stain/sealant combination, but I cannot vouch for it. So, let’s just grab a nice stain to color that hot mess.
The color I have selected is Ebony from Varathane. A controversial choice, I know, but I’m a fan of contrast. Take it for a dip and let it sit overnight.
Here is the mistake I made. I DIDN’T SEAL IT. The stain I chose was not a dual stain/ sealant. My method, which was inspired by an article similar to the one you are reading, was to dip the stamp in oil before each use as an alternative to sealing. Oh man, what a nightmare. Here is how that went (Imagine “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da” is playing to this montage):
It looks like it’s alive. Newly born.
This is a nightmare. The wax stuck to the seal even with the oil, and the stain mixed into the wax. It looks undead. You should stain it just to figure out where the faults are in your handiwork, but do not count on it for separating your stamp from the wax.
STEP 7: SEAL YO CANVAS
BAM! This will. Invest in a $4 can of polyurethane oil-based sealant. Again, Varathane comes to my mind as a reputable brand, The finish doesn’t really matter, but if you fancy, I think semi-gloss adds a sophisticated touch. Give your stamp a heavy base tan of it, spraying a foot back and circle around the stamp; Summer’s coming. You want to get the sides, about 2 inches down, so the sides of the stamp do not stick when you pull out.. of the wax. Let sit six hours. I recommend doing three more light coats over the next day and giving each time to dry.
When you’re ready to finally step up and test it, wipe the stamp clear or any undried sealant and let ‘er rip.