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Diy Hot Foil Stamping Machine

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I have been fabricating a hot stamping machine in my spare time. My goal is to build an air operated unit at least as competent as the $3,400 Kwik Print 86A/A. Time will tell. Phase One consists of building the heating unit.

I will not be held responsible if you attempt to build one of these yourself, which you absolutely shouldn’t do. Heat embossers are made of electricity and extreme pressure and heat and danger and you can burn your house down, maim yourself, and/or electrocute yourself if you don’t know what you’re doing. Don’t do that.

Phase One — the heater

The Kwik Print 86 A/A uses an air circuit to deliver up to 1 ton of pressure through a Bimba air cylinder to an OEM ram to which the chase and heater are attached. The machine uses a 400W strip heater and Ulanet Robo Temp. I suspect Kwik Print uses Ulanet heaters and the Ulanet Robo Temp pulsating on/off controller because they’re American made. They’re expensive and I don’t care where my components were made. Maybe you do.


My machine uses a 300W cartridge heater and Inkbird PID with solid state relay and thermocouple. The advantages of a PID and thermocouple are that (a) they’re cheap as dirt ($37 delivered from Amazon Prime), and ( B) once tuned, they’re very stable. My cartridge heater was less than $8 delivered from Amazon Prime.

300W is probably over-spec’d.

The arbor press

Until I build the frame for the air cylinder, I’m using my Famco 2 ton to test the heating unit. I made absolutely certain to over tighten the press’s guides so that the ram will stay raised. ANY skin contact with the heating plate will result in a second degree burn.


The ram has a ½” hole with set screw drilled into its end.

The heater


The heating plate consists of a stainless steel block large enough to accommodate any embossing die I can see myself using. It’s tapped for a ½” stainless rod that fits into the end of ram. I used a vertical knee mill to dimension it and drill/ream holes for a cartridge heater and thermocouple. The heater hole (red leads) needs to be accurate within a few thousandths for maximum efficiency. The thermocouple hole (silver lead) is tapped to accept the unit’s threaded flange.


Mounting and registering dies


The embossing die is attached to the heating plate with a piece of 3M heat activated tape.



Registration is simple. When the heater is cool, place your work piece on the press with the tape-covered die positioned where you want it. Slight pressure will leave a non-permanent mark on the leather showing you where the die is. Use a pencil to mark the edges of the piece. Slide the piece out of the way without disturbing the die or you have to start over. Place the edges of straight pieces of card stock on your registration lines and hold them down with some hard drive magnets. Don’t worry about the magnets being tall enough to hit the heating plate. Foil stamping dies are taller.


Turn on your PID and get the die up to temp. You’ll have to experiment with temperature settings based on the leather and foil you’re using. Gently lower the ram so that it comes in contact with the taped die — always make sure that the leather you used to register the die is under it so you don’t damage it. Magnesium dies are durable for thousands of impressions when properly cared for. Give the ram a little mash.


Get ready to stamp by placing your piece against the registration guides.



You can blind deboss (stamping without foil) or use foil. To use foil, cut off a manageable section and place it flat against your work piece.

Stamp by lowering the ram in a deliberate manner — you will have to experiment with temperature, pressure, and the amount of time the die remains in contact with your work piece. It’s not hard to get consistently good impressions.


Results on leather and paper are nice. Top to bottom left to right: W&C bridle grain, W&C bridle flesh, Brown Horween equine Chromexcel, W&C natural tooling, black Horween bovine Chromexcel, Mohawk 130# paper.



8mm x 80mm 300W cartridge heater — $7.47 delivered — http://www.amazon.com/Mold-Heating-Element-Cartridge-Heater/dp/B00DN6BQCY/ref=sr_1_8?ie=UTF8&qid=1452723192&sr=8-8&keywords=300w+cartridge+heater

Ink bird ITC-100VH+25A SSR+ K sensor PID temperature controller with K-type thermocouple and 25A solid state relay — $36.99 delivered — http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00RMDZVNO?psc=1&redirect=true&ref_=oh_aui_detailpage_o01_s00

Misc. Various lengths of wire, terminal blocks, spade and fork connectors, grommets, scavenged inline fuse, scavenged rocker switch, etc.

Suitable enclosure — I had a nice extrusion and face plates

1 ½”+ ton arbor press

Stainless steel square rod and round rod in whatever dimensions you want

Access to a horizontal bandsaw, vertical knee mill, end mills, drill bits, reamer, taps dies, etc.

Dies and tape

3/8” raised/wrong reading magnesium foil stamping dies from Owosso — https://www.owosso.com/Products/MagnesiumDies/FoilStamping.aspx

3M heat bonding film — $22 for 1” x 180’ from Owosso — https://www.owosso.com/3MBondingFilm.aspx


This is specific to your application so you’re on your own.

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Well done for taking things back to the basics.    A nice simple, cheap, but efficient hot embossing system.

It occurs to me that if you wanted a larger working plate area, removing the hot plate system off something like an old Dut hot foil stamper, and remounting it in a large upright press might be useful.    

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Is there any reason the press could not be substituted with a moderate Drill press. A little dearer but could have a advantage by having a turntable for more intricate lining up and a variable height table as well. A jug cord type set up and it could revert to a drill press again if needed. Some times it helps to be able to have a lot more clearance for some jobs such as over the top of small product box lids that are already made up. Many embossing machines do not have much of a clearance gap. I just had to do today a lot of mods to get my embosser to be able to do 200 of the box lids as shown.


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Very informative, I have been looking into making a hot stamping machine as opposed to buying one of those cheap Chinese ones off of Ebay.
Any updates on your project?

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