Metal Punching or Metal Stamping? Tell a Story with Patterned Metal Designs
Trick question: You take a die (or stamp or punch) and place it on metal and hammer the back end of it to make an impression on the metal. What do you call that?
Whether you call it metal stamping or metal punching, it’s a hot, fun technique that allows limitless personalization, texturing, and other surface decoration in metal jewelry. It’s also virtually impossible to make a piece of stamped metal jewelry that’s not one of a kind–all without a huge investment in time and tools.
Most folks are probably more familiar with metal stamping techniques that focus on personalization–spelling out a name, an encouraging word like “dream” or “wish,” a special date, or an inspirational quote or Bible verse. Those alphabet-stamped words can be embellished with a variety of metal design stamps featuring just about any design you can imagine–a cat, dog, bird, or pig; a house, tree, or car; flowers, hearts, and stars; even stick-figure people. Stamp supply companies like Beaducation and Impress Art have a huge variety of both alphabet and design stamps to tell just about any story that needs tellin’.
But what if literal personalization isn’t your style? With Aisha Formanski’s new book New Directions in Punched Metal Jewelry, you can get creative with a more abstract or designer form of personalization and surface embellishment. Aisha uses the most basic metal stamps or punches (periods/dots, parenthesis-like curves, asterisks, dashes) in clever combinations (patterns included) to create punched metal designs. I used an asterisk and a zero punch on the blanks on the left to make abstract and scalloped designs.
Making Your Own Design Punches
This technique reminds me of punched leather designs or embroidery, and it’s a great way to achieve a true craftsman, handmade-feel to any piece of metal jewelry. Seeing the patterns Aisha created using just a few metal punches, I was inspired to think of regular hardware store tools I could use or modify to use in this technique. Dulled nails, flat- and Phillips-head screwdrivers, awls, drill bits in a wide variety of sizes and points could all work as metal punches; just be careful that none of them are so sharp (or that you don’t hit them so hard) that they cut through your metal–unless that’s the look you’re going for!
For example, mixing a dot punch with a nail hole or an open dash from a sharp flat-head screwdriver could create an interesting mix of pattern and negative space. (This no-heat, no chemical way of embellishing metal is also a great way to pound out the frustrations of a bad day and build some pretty good arm muscles at the same time!)
Designing With Alphabet Stamps
On the other hand, thinking of building designs with repeating stamps reminded me of a practice I once used in making my Christmas cards. Being a writer, I’m also a lover of fonts and alphabets, so I built the shape of a Christmas tree by spelling out “Merry Christmas” in alphabet stickers. It’s fun to discover that I can do the same thing with alphabet or design stamps. Spelling out “Merry Christmas” or “happy holidays” by stamping the words (once or repeatedly, depending on the size and scale of your supplies) in the shape of a tree or using X’s and O’s to create the shape of a heart is a fun way to get your message across.
You could also stamp a newborn’s name or first initial repeatedly in the shape of a tiny baby footprint. There are dozens of ways to turn alphabet stamps into designs and to use simple shape stamps to build patterns on metal–and then to turn those embellished metal pieces into meaningful, one-of-a-kind jewelry.
Let’s face it–when it comes to most jewelry-making books, the fun is in the projects, right? New Directions in Punched Metal Jewelry has 20 “clever and easy” stamped-metal projects. To “clever and easy” add versatile. You can make the projects in the book using any of the 8 patterns included with it, and on any metal you like–to make silver jewelry, alternative metals like brass, bronze, and copper jewelry, and even base metals like pewter and aluminum jewelry in some cases.
P.S. Here’s a great tip from New Directions in Punched Metal Jewelry: Add a piece of cardboard to the tip of your hole-punch pliers to prevent marring the metal.