VaughnT

Carving Letters in Steel.

45 posts in this topic

....transfer paper works well too for laying out designs on steel.

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4 hours ago, Iron Poet said:

Have you ever tried printing something off and gluing it to the steel to use as a stencil? I suck at drawing anything that isn't a squiggle.

That's exactly what I do.  You can free-hand a lot of things because you're not trying to be perfect with the stuff - this doesn't look like fine English engraving on a fancy double rifle, after all.

When you need something lined up right, especially if you're making several of them, printing it out on paper and then gluing that to the metal is a great option.  You'll still get little variations because it's hand-worked, but the overall results will be more uniform and professional in appearance.

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I've never tried it myself, but I've heard of people inkjet printing the negative of a design onto regular paper, transferring the design with a hot iron, soaking off the paper, and then doing an electrolytic etch on the exposed area. I suppose one could do the same here, just making sure to print the mirror image of the design you want. 

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7 hours ago, JHCC said:

I've never tried it myself, but I've heard of people inkjet printing the negative of a design onto regular paper, transferring the design with a hot iron, soaking off the paper, and then doing an electrolytic etch on the exposed area. I suppose one could do the same here, just making sure to print the mirror image of the design you want. 

I don't think that'd work unless you have really nice smooth metal.  With textured metal, you'd only get the high points ironed on.

I simply print out the design, use spray glue to hold it on..... and then chisel right through it.

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2 hours ago, VaughnT said:

I don't think that'd work unless you have really nice smooth metal.  With textured metal, you'd only get the high points ironed on.

Fair point. 

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Thank you for sharing your process with us, I will definitely be giving this a try very soon!! 

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If you do the whole printing and etching thing you need to make sure you use an inkjet printer and photo paper or else the transfer wont work well.

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I had a customer request a double-sided pendant.  I've done quite a few of them in the past, but always disapproved of how the ridges in the design would collapse when you carved the second face.  

A lot of people use pitch bowls, but I haven't invested in one yet.  I keep saying I will, but never seen to have the funds available.

So, I decided to make my own soft face using some old copper bus bars.  It's a simple construction not meant to last long at all.  I cleaned the surfaces with lacquer thinner and a wire brush to get a reasonable bond.  Then a squirt of spray-on adhesive.

Worked like a charm and the first design looks as fresh and crisp as it did when first carved.  Proof, again, that being a pack rat can be advantageous! :D

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Might look into a block of tin; we used to use lead till folks got phobic, tin is not quite as soft but relatively cheap by the pound and easily cast.  (I get mine at rotometals.com)

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1 hour ago, VaughnT said:

A lot of people use pitch bowls

Had not heard of these before, so I learned something new today.  Here's a link to setting one up for anyone else who might not know what a pitch bowl is: http://www.alberic.net/Student_Home/Handout_Archive/files/PitchBowls V1-Web.pdf

Do I understand this correctly - that the idea with the copper that it's softer than the steel and so the ridges on the reverse side indent the copper vs. the copper mushing down the ridges?

-- Dave

18 hours ago, MrDarkNebulah said:

If you do the whole printing and etching thing you need to make sure you use an inkjet printer and photo paper or else the transfer wont work well.

Another thing that works is using a laser printer - when you put the paper face down in contact with your work and heat the back of the paper with an iron, the toner will transfer to your work.  I haven't ever tried that on metal, but it works on wood.  Remember you need to print your design in reverse if you have lettering or other non-symmetric items.  

-- Dave

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17 hours ago, WoodnMetalGuy said:

...idea with the copper that it's softer than the steel and so the ridges on the reverse side indent the copper vs. the copper mushing down the ridges?

That's correct.  If you hammer on top of even mild steel, the ridges will collapse.  This doesn't look bad necessarily as it adds to the rustic hand-hewn look, but it does tend to conflict with the sharp image on the second side.  All depends on what kind of look you're going for.

The pitch might work for this application, but I really don't have any experience with it and wonder if it might be too soft and make carving the second image a bit more difficult.  Copper gives a good bit of resistance while being soft enough for the ridges to sink into without deformation.

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Thanks, Vaughn, I'm looking forward to trying this.  I have some lead that I will probably use for two-sided stuff.  And have some brass around, too.  I'm thinking either of those would also work.  -- Dave

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A valuable sequence of photos. Thanks. Not to be nit-picky, but "carving" to me indicates engraving; ie., removing metal. I think I would call your work "chasing."

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3 hours ago, WoodnMetalGuy said:

...lead ... brass.  I'm thinking either of those would also work.  -- Dave

They'll work fine, I'm sure.  I was going to use lead, but thought the copper might be a hair better because it isn't as soft.  Be sure to post some photos when you get a few practice pieces done.  I'm looking forward to seeing your work.

3 hours ago, Frank Turley said:

A valuable sequence of photos. Thanks. Not to be nit-picky, but "carving" to me indicates engraving; ie., removing metal. I think I would call your work "chasing."

I'm glad that you found value in the post.  I wasn't sure what to call it, so I just called it what came to mind first. :D

 

22 hours ago, ThomasPowers said:

Might look into a block of tin...

That's a great idea.  I hadn't even considered tin as a possibility.

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Great thread Vaughn. 

Have you tried making a punch using one of your chased patterns as the master? Did I miss you answering this earlier?

Frosty The Lucky.

 

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3 minutes ago, Frosty said:

Great thread Vaughn. 

Have you tried making a punch using one of your chased patterns as the master? Did I miss you answering this earlier?

Frosty The Lucky.

 

Thank you, Frosty.

I haven't tried it yet.... mostly because I haven't had the need for a punch.  It does sound like it would make for an interesting project, though, and I might have to give it a whirl just to see how it turns out.

Next up on the list of things to do is more "practical", but I'm keeping a tight lid on it just because I can. :D  I think folks will like it, though, and find it useful for their shops.

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On 4/13/2017 at 4:27 PM, WoodnMetalGuy said:

Had not heard of these before, so I learned something new today.  Here's a link to setting one up for anyone else who might not know what a pitch bowl is: http://www.alberic.net/Student_Home/Handout_Archive/files/PitchBowls V1-Web.pdf

Do I understand this correctly - that the idea with the copper that it's softer than the steel and so the ridges on the reverse side indent the copper vs. the copper mushing down the ridges?

-- Dave

Another thing that works is using a laser printer - when you put the paper face down in contact with your work and heat the back of the paper with an iron, the toner will transfer to your work.  I haven't ever tried that on metal, but it works on wood.  Remember you need to print your design in reverse if you have lettering or other non-symmetric items.  

-- Dave

 

You're right, I meant to say laser printer. The heat is what makes the toner transfer. I don't think inkjet will work.

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now that's the stuff I'm wanting to see ,very well done,thank you.Don.

 

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On 4/15/2017 at 11:11 AM, MrDarkNebulah said:

You're right, I meant to say laser printer. The heat is what makes the toner transfer. I don't think inkjet will work.

I've done something similar for wood carving, but I wipe over the back of the paper with a rag that's been dampened with acetone.  The acetone softens the toner and transfers it to the wood.  I've found it to be a lot more reliable than using an iron.  The only trick is to make sure the rag isn't too dry or too wet.  I'm guessing it might also solve the problem with transferring onto textured metal.  The paper pattern and acetone rag will conform to irregularities, unlike the flat bottom of an iron.

Now I need to try chiseling some steel, thanks for the tutorial!

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Bart next time I will try that. I could not seem to get a good transfer when I was using it, but I think it was because I was using too high quality of photo paper.

 

By it I mean the iron method

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