I do enjoy hand stamping onto aluminium. It has been a very steep learning curve though, and to produce lovely pieces involves a lot more than just getting the stamping part right. You have to use the right substance for colouring in the indentations and you also have to polish the piece to finish it off to a professional level.
When I started stamping, I used a nail buffer block, as it had been suggested on Jewellerymaker by one of the Guest Designers for polishing copper. I figured that it should also work on aluminium. It worked quite well, and you could definitely tell the difference. The only problem with using this is that your hand goes black. It was also important to remember to keep polishing in only one direction, otherwise you scratched the aluminium.
Then I joined a wonderful Facebook group, UK Metal Stamping Addicts and I realised that there was an awful lot more to stamping than I knew. This is a really helpful and friendly group who are happy to sure their knowledge. They even didn’t mind answering my silly newbie questions about the medium. I discovered from this group that most serious stampers have their own tumbler. I didn’t even know what one was.
A tumbler is used to polish metal. It uses stainless steel shot and some kind of soap. (I use Barrelbrite from Cookson Gold.) I was lucky to get one in a destash. Not quite a proper one, but a gemstone tumbler for children that did the same job. . This tumbler was very, very noisy and took a couple of hours to polish my pieces. We eventually decided to use it in the kitchen with a couple of towels over it to deaden the noise. The photograph shows how easy it is to use, with simple buttons, well, it was made for children. Once you want to use a tumbler barrel for metal polishing, it cannot be used for anything else without a really good clean
I thought I had cracked this polishing metal thing, as my pieces came out beautiful. Then I heard people talking about something called ‘deburring’ in the Facebook group. Another new term that I had never heard of before. This is apparantly something you should do to your metal blanks before polishing.
Luckily I had won a proper tumbler from Cookson Gold, and this meant that I could use the Trends tumbler for deburring. To deburr you need little ceramic pyramids, lots of them. These get rid of tiny scratch marks and make your aluminium blanks nicer to stamp. On the bright side, the pink tumbler is so much quieter using them than the steel shot. Even my husband noticed the difference in sound level.
The aluminium blanks look quite matt when they come out, but the transformation to shiny is amazing once they are tumbled with steel shot.
So I now use my proper tumbler for polishing my blanks. At first I was worried, as the way it works, rotating on the runners means that the noise can not be deadened by towels. These would have stopped it working. I had also heard stories about how difficult it was to get the lid off the barrel. I need not have worried. Hot water helped the lid come off and on easily. The noise was comparable to our washing machine, so not that bad at all. The results are so shiny and beautiful, even better than using the pink tumbler. This does show that it really does make a difference to have the right equipment for the job. I recommend getting a tumbler to anyone interested in metal stamping.
I have mused before on stamping in this blog.