Introduction: Cut a Royal Seal

Picture of Cut a Royal Seal

If you ever need to send a letter, adding a wax seal is the undoubtedly the best way to show class. Cutting a seal is a simple but laborious task, and the finished product is very rewarding. A seal made of the proper material will last generations.

Step 1: Tools and Materials

Picture of Tools and Materials

-metal lathe(optional, highly recommended)
-precision Dremel bits (small bits with coarse teeth)
-rat tail metal file
-400 grit sandpaper
-600 grit sandpaper
-jeweler's rouge(Flitz)
-Craftsman Bench Buffer(optional, makes things easier)

-3" to 6" round aluminum stock, 1" diameter
-one sheet of paper
-glue(stick, Elmer's, whatever)

Step 2: Design

Picture of Design

I used Powerpoint to design my seal. Simply draw a circle, draw your design with the various shapes, and group everything together. Then resize everything to a 1" diameter and REMEMBER TO FLIP IT horizontally or vertically. Print and cut out a copy.

Tips for designing:
-Be aware of your limitations. You'll probably want to stick to 2D designs for your first run.
-Lines should be far apart and easy to distinguish from one another. My simple JP symbol was more than challenging.

Step 3: Cut a Chunk

Picture of Cut a Chunk

The size of your chunk depends on how big you want your finished piece to be. I cut mine 2" longer to be safe.

Step 4: Machine a Blank

Picture of Machine a Blank

The exact dimensions of the seal are not important. This is a custom job. Just remove the oxidation and turn a flat face. Then add a fillet to taste. You only need to do one side at this time.

Step 5: Apply Design

Picture of Apply Design

Center your design on the face and glue it in place. Be sure it's dry before proceeding!

Step 6: Secure the Piece

Picture of Secure the Piece

Use a towel to avoid scratching. You'll want the face to be perfectly flush with the surface of the vise. Confirm with a straightedge.

Step 7: Cut Your Design

Picture of Cut Your Design

Chuck a pointed bit into your Dremel, and set the depth to about 1/32". Then carefully make a pass along your design. Go slow. Once you finish one pass, lower the bit another 1/32" and go again. It'll take a while but the final product will be nicer. Continue until you have a depth of about 1/8". A thin, pointed file can be used to smooth edges.

Step 8: Polish

Picture of Polish

Chuck the rod back into your lathe and go over it with 400 and 600 grit sandpaper, followed by the jeweler's rouge. Polish the face too. That part needs to be the smoothest.

Step 9: Part

Picture of Part

Turn a fillet in the chuck side and then use a parting tool (or in my case, a hacksaw) to cut off the raw end.

Step 10: More Sanding

Picture of More Sanding

My seal was left with a nub on it, so I used a palm sander to flatten the surface. A flat metal file would also work. I then polished it as I did with the other section.

Step 11: Finish!

Picture of Finish!

That's about it. By now you should have a completed seal. To use it, drip a nickel-sized drop of molten wax onto a closed envelope, wait 5 seconds, and press your seal evenly onto it. Wait another five seconds, and your seal should lift free.

If you liked my instructable, please support my work and vote for my entry in the Dremel Contest, Craftsman Tools Contest, and Epilog Contest once judging starts. I would really appreciate your ratings and votes!


Kyrc00 (author)2011-04-29

As much as I appreciate the tutorial, somehow all the steps seem completely meaningless, minus doing the finish. Take a diamond wheel point dremel bit, like 5/64", and simply etch the design into the piece of metal before finishing it up. All it takes is a steady hand. I did a topography map on the back of my iPhone and people ask where I got the custom case. ;)

Not to say that I don't appreciate your efforts here, but for such a simple, I think the steps are far too over-complicated, turning a two-step process into eleven.

~Just Friendly Advice

zappymax (author)Kyrc002011-11-03

and also instead of steel, you could perfectly use a bronze rod, much easier to etch any design. no problem with a seal on wax.

JamesRPatrick (author)Kyrc002011-04-29

Thanks for the Just Friendly Advice.

dragonsniper (author)2011-09-26

not u apdog4 @ everyone else- is that all u got?!?!?!?!

Garlikguy (author)2010-12-15

Choo choo we are a train!

Once again- TWSS

So I says to the farmer, "That's not a llama, that's my wife!"

Bestiality is illegal!

Ok, now we are back to the smallest size.


or reply here, so it actually gets smaller


or reply here I gess.

aqwiz (author)Garlikguy2010-12-27


Garlikguy (author)2010-12-11

Dr. Horrible's sing along blog?

JamesRPatrick (author)Garlikguy2010-12-11

Check out KipKay's orangboard.

(scroll down)

Garlikguy (author)JamesRPatrick2010-12-12

Seriously, this is like a record or something!

JamesRPatrick (author)Garlikguy2010-12-12

Not even close.

Garlikguy (author)JamesRPatrick2010-12-12

I ment for comment replys on an instructables. Lets get ssmaller.

St Jimmy (author)Garlikguy2010-12-12

smaller it is, then (ji)

l3owzaaaah (author)St Jimmy2010-12-14

sorry for the random post, I just wanna see how small it goes.

dragonsniper (author)l3owzaaaah2010-12-18

energizer keep going!

Garlikguy (author)dragonsniper2010-12-18

keep replying here though to make it really long. Only reply to the latest coment plz!

cheesepuff04 (author)Garlikguy2010-12-26

Cheese Scrolls!

Garlikguy (author)cheesepuff042011-02-18

Well, this kind of died out....

dragonsniper (author)Garlikguy2011-03-05


Garlikguy (author)dragonsniper2011-06-24

it did?

Or did it...

Garlikguy (author)cheesepuff042010-12-27

wow, it keeps going on and on and on and on and on.

l3owzaaaah (author)Garlikguy2011-03-18

even smaller?!?!?!?!

Garlikguy (author)l3owzaaaah2011-03-24

I don't think so...

dragonsniper (author)Garlikguy2011-04-05

cmon keep it going

goldenbacon (author)St Jimmy2010-12-14

Any smaller?

Quite possibly.

@ St Jimmy
That's what she said!


jeremyfisher (author)Garlikguy2011-01-03

Even thought this is 22 days old, I'ma continue it on. Just for teh lulz.

Garlikguy (author)JamesRPatrick2010-12-12

To turn off these notification messages, please visit your preferences:

I've hit ocean!

corradini (author)2011-06-08

Quite a few thoughts/suggestions: (and, nice work, btw!)

1) Missing from your tool list is the Dremel attachment where you can set the depth. (But - 'spect for you using JB Weld, which is as essential as duct tape and WD-40 for any DIY'er!)

2) You spent (imho) disproportionate attention on polishing the opposite end (don't get me wrong -- it's a beauty!) - but the functional end is still fairly rough. Kind of a backwards priority. No insult - I do that ALL the time: spend way too much time/attention on the parts that don't matter as much - must be my ADD. ;-)

3) You didn't mention which Dremel bit(s) to use, other than 'coarse teeth'. I'd suggest something else (and I've been working on precision groove grinding for some time). You do NOT want to use diamond bits - they'll clog (aluminum is 'gummy'). I'd go with the HSS (high-speed steel), and almost certainly a ball-end (like their #107) -- it won't wander like a straight or point bit, especially if you use the SIDE rather than the end, and it's easier for the wax to release cleanly from a rounded channel.

4) You don't need a lathe or a buffer/grinder. The aluminum rod (I'd recommend getting 6061 aluminum, which is about the most common) should have square ends to begin with. (Try or one of their stores, or or - or ANY metals supplier in your local area - they'll probably have cutoffs ('offcuts') of 1" dia 6061 and might even just give you what you need from their scrap bin - just ask nice and look poor.)

If you need to face a cut end, just use a flat fine-cut file (rub it with paraffin first to keep it from gumming up, and use a "file card" or just a wire 'toothbrush' (any hardware store) to keep it clean. I'm not sure why to bother with all the lathe work, OR use all that Al - when you're done engraving, just cut off an inch w/ a hacksaw (or better yet, a tablesaw - yes, you can cut Al w/ a standard carbide circular saw blade, and it'll be nice and square - just clamp it *securely* and use your miter guide (and eye protection!)). Then epoxy it onto a 3-4" long 1" dia walnut dowel, sand the wood to 400 grit or so (too fine a grit does NOT improve the finish of open-grain woods like walnut or oak!) and ease the edge on the other end a little with sandpaper. Then finish with something like MinWax wipe-on semi-gloss poly -- or just linseed or tung oil (let dry WELL between coats!) or even vegetable oil.

0000 steel wool and/or wet-dry automotive sandpaper (any car parts store) will give you an unreal mirror finish. If you really want to go to town, use toothpaste (moistened) and a cloth - seriously. You could polish the Hubble mirror with that.

5) The acid-etch suggestion is well-intentioned I'm sure, but a Bad Idea -- trust me on this one. (The details involved in masking, templating, etching, and a number of other issues - well, let me put it this way: your effort:results ratio will be VERY high, unless you REALLY know what you're doing, in which case you wouldn't be reading this. >;-)

sypher (author)2011-03-14

Would chemical etching yield better resuts?

thepelton (author)2010-12-29

Incidentally, I have been working on a roller seal instructable, but it takes a long time because I have to use the library computer, and can only get it for an hour a day.

thepelton (author)thepelton2011-01-14

It's done, now. I hope you have seen it.

JamesRPatrick (author)thepelton2011-01-14

Very good! Keep it up!

thepelton (author)2010-12-30

Incidentally, remember to wear a mask while you are machining aluminum. It is slightly toxic, and it's better to not have to worry about it making you sick.

thepelton (author)2010-12-27

I have been carving wooden seals out of walnut. It is hard enough to stand up to pressing into wax, clay or dough, but not so hard it is difficult to carve, like yellowheart.

JamesRPatrick (author)thepelton2010-12-27

Interesting, will you post a picture?

thepelton (author)JamesRPatrick2010-12-28

This roller seal was made out of Padauk, a bright red wood from the Andaman Islands that is about the same density as Walnut. The whole piece is about three inches(76.2mm) across, and about an inch and a half thick(38.1mm). It makes a figure that is about ten inches long in a soft material like sculpey or dough.

thepelton (author)thepelton2010-12-28

Ten inches, incidentally, is about 254mm. The whole idea was copied from roller seals used by the Mesopotamians about 3 thousand years ago. The picture repeats itself if you roll it far enough.

About This Instructable




Bio: Currently pursuing a degree in Mechanical Engineering. contact: jamesrpatrick(at)
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