Sunday, May 11, 2014

Making Your Own Texture Plates for Metal Embossing

I'm sure this has been done, but I'm all excited about it so I'm going to tell you about it. You might already know I like metal, and that I really enjoy both etching and embossing metal with a hammer and some kind of texture. My favorite thing to use for texture is foreign coins (click HERE for a post about how I do that.) Well, a few weeks ago a friend of mine asked if I would be willing to make her some texture sheets with some of my favorite patterns for her to use in her own embossing. (I can't believe it, but I had never thought of that myself.) I thought I might use some of the nickel sheet I have, since I don't use it for jewelry anymore, and it seems to be harder than brass. Most of the coins I use are nickel alloys and they seem to hold up pretty well so I thought nickel sheet might work. So I made a few little squares from 22 gauge sheet (these are maybe 3" x 3"):
I made these using digital images printed onto transparency sheets with a laser printer, you just iron them onto the metal and the toner works as a resist for the etchant (in this case ferric chloride). (Click HERE for a post about how to do this.) Counter-clockwise from front left is an image from the Internet of an old German psalter, next is an image of some ancient Tibetan texts, and the sheet at the back is a paisley pattern I purchased from Valeriane Digital on Etsy.

I've really been into the idea of using old text on my metal. Etching is frankly a pain, and when my friend suggested I make some texture sheets, this sounded like a great way to save myself some work. It's pretty easy to just anneal a piece of metal and hammer it on top of a texture sheet, and one of the bonuses is you can emboss really thin metal if you want, whereas you can't really etch very thin gauges and have it turn out nice. These discs (which are going to be petaled caps for pendant focals) are 26 gauge:
Note: When you print on a transparency sheet, you flip it over to iron on the image--you want the toner side against your metal. Therefore, whatever you've printed is going to end up transferring backwards. Normally this doesn't matter, except with text. Therefore, if you're etching a texture sheet with text that you're then going to use for embossing, you want to print out your image forwards; it will transfer/etch backwards onto the texture sheet, and then be forwards again when you emboss it onto your metal. (If you want to etch the text directly onto your jewelry item, you would need to flip the image with a photo editor and print it backwards onto your transparency sheet so that it transferred forwards onto your metal.)

Here on the left, you see the text as it comes out of the printer on your transparency sheet, toner side up like a regular printed document. On the right, it's been flipped over so the toner is facing the metal, ready to be ironed on. And hence your backwards etched image.
These sheets will eventually get too beat up to use, but I should get some mileage out of them and save myself some etching. (If you have a rolling mill you could use them with that and they'd probably last longer. I haven't made that investment yet so I just use a hammer.) It didn't look too bad after I used it, and I could still feel that the text was nicely raised (I etched these pretty deep). In the image below, just to the left of the copper disc, you can see the section that has a kind of depression in it--that's where I was hammering.
I have some other text I found on the Internet I'm looking forward to using this way--some ancient Hebrew text, a French manuscript, pages from the Book of Kells, and some ancient Chinese calligraphy. I will probably download some images of ancient Greek writing, some runes, some Arabic script and maybe some hieroglyphics. Maybe I can even use an image of the Declaration of Independence--that would be fun for an Independence Day themed piece, colonial-era of course since I like old stuff.
I also just got a couple of Dover books full of royalty-free Celtic symbols and artwork--can't wait to use those too!!



  1. Oh, I love all the scripts! Would you also sell some of your sheets? Would love to use them for polymer clay :)

  2. So, could you use these with a Big Kick? And I'm like Saraccino, I think they would be cool to use with pc, so we think you need to sell them. :)

  3. I've been contemplating how to make my own texture sheets for metal. Thanks so much for this post. I'll be giving this a try.

  4. We're on the same wavelength - I've been collecting things to etch on nickel sheets to use in my rolling mill. Love how these turned out!


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