Monday, June 10, 2013

Stamping Planes

The most intimidating part of making my first planes was the heat treating. When I started this hobby I never anticipated being bent over a pile of fire bricks in my driveway at dusk with a blowtorch in my hand and a pot of peanut oil at my side. That wasn't my intention, but it's where the hobby lead. (Check out Larry Williams' Dvd and, though the step may be intimidating, it's simple with the process he describes. But, I digress...)

The hardest part of making this type of tool is stamping the plane. Seriously. It's the only part that, after making a few dozen of these tools, I wasn't confident in the outcome.

Simply put, I never acquired the skill of swinging a 3 lb. sledge at my fingers with the force demanded to stamp my name on the end of a tall, thin piece of wood I spent 5 hours making and could ruin with one glancing blow (not to mention the ER trip if the blow should glance in the other direction). I didn't have the confidence.

I still remember practicing with my stamp until my shoulder was exhausted, trying again in an hour, and then, again, the next day. The only thing that kept me going was the fact that I was sent an example of what the stamp should look like when done correctly.

Let this video be a demonstration of using a maker's stamp and how I use it to this day. It will hopefully save you a lot of effort trying to execute under false pretenses (i.e. you have one swing).

Take note of the following:

1. I don't even try to mark the wood with a single blow. The first swing is focused on indenting the stamp enough on one end to give it something to register in for the second, third or eighth.

2. I have clamps on the vises so I don't destroy them (I wouldn't know how to match the pink paint on my face vice if I needed to replace it.) This process would be easier with a solid backer like a stump or anvil? OK, but this works fine.

3. You must be listening to music that has the proper punch.

Remember, a heavy hammer (sledge) is necessary. The purpose is to "damage" the wood, but with control. There is no reason to be displeased if you practice. There is no reason to post about your displeasure if you haven't.

Now I need to get back to the most intimidating part of this job, sharpening the remaining 50+ planes on my bench and getting them out the door.

Mitch, you're next! I promise, I haven't forgotten.


  1. Well Matt I did wonder how you did that with one swing of the hammer. Now I know. Question where did you get a stamp made?

  2. Do you think you could use a press and generate the force necessary to indent the wood without destroying the plane?


  3. Jerry,
    I bought the stamp from Mazzaglia Tools. There is a link above.

  4. Brian,
    Yes, I imagine that a press will work. One of these days I may get around to it. The biggest reason I haven't is because I really like stamping them.

  5. NPR just did a story on the growing trend for businesses to hire unpaid interns. Sounds like this would be perfect for you.

  6. Steve,
    I have no doubt that this theory works well in the board rooms of NPR, Universities and large corporations that must choose from product of the previous. However, the last person that I (and you) would want to work for me is somebody that places no value on their time and is willing to work for free.

    Someday the people at NPR will realize this and will start preaching the value of the dollar instead of the opposite.

  7. Matt = thanks for showing how to stamp things w more than one blow. At LN you had mentioned that you use several strikes of the hammer, but then we got sidetracked away from how it works. My last name is plenty long, & I thought I had to really whack it. Got mixed results. Now I can try your method. good going. Now, to find the beat...

    1. @Peter- You may not recall but I had emailed you asking about your stamp from P. Ross since he is making me one similar to yours. You have about as many letters as my name full name. I recall you saying Matt used several blows. Now I get to see it in action.

      @Matt- So happy to see you post this up. Very helpful.