Picture of Hand Engraving Zippo Lighter

Zippo is great. Free repairs (not counting shipping), customization, and awesome legacy.

When it comes to customizing your lighter, however, Zippo is very restrictive: you may only fit a certain size parameter, you cannot engrave the sides, and uploading image designs cost a whopping $15.
Custom engraving companies are willing to engrave your Zippo lighter... for a $10 minimum and about $2 a word. Restrictions also apply.

Having more time than I have money, I decided to engrave my Zippo lighter by myself.

This is the first time I EVER engraved something, and I got pretty satisfying results: You can do this too!

Here's an instruction video I made for a different lighter for a friend; essentially the same steps I took to make this Zippo lighter, except with more shortcuts (for lazy people):

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Step 1: Materials

Picture of Materials

Most of these instructions were inspired by this Instructable by Kactapuss. Maybe take a look at that before proceeding.


  • Scrap Metal
  • Dremel + diamond engraving bit
  • Plain Zippo lighter
  • Permanent marker
  • Masking tape (a light color)
  • some sort of smooth tape (packing tape)
  • Hobby knife

Step 2: Generating ideas

Picture of Generating ideas

I can't really help you get an idea.
I have two pictures of what I wanted my lighter to look like when it was finished.


But once you have that idea you need to format it to fit your lighter. You may need to play around with the font size and print out multiple copies of your design to match sizes with your lighter.

Attached is a copy of the final font an size I used for my lighter. (If you don't have the font download Bebas Neue).

This step is a lot of guesswork and no real measurement. The only measurement used in this step was the ruler in Microsoft word, and the dimensions of the lighter (1.5 x 0.5 x 2.25).

Keep printing until you have the right size. I recommend you use scrap paper ;)


I heard that Photoshop had this measurement feature, so if you know what to do and you prefer doing that, go ahead! I still recommend you to match up before you finalize the stencil.

swee13412 months ago
awesome guide! I did this bass clef design. not quite as perfect as yours but I think it turned out pretty good!
TSJWang (author)  swee13412 months ago

Wow that looks pretty beautiful!
I think you just need to engrave a bit deeper, just like shading in deeper with crayons.

It looks pretty awesome.

Victor8o512 months ago
Looks awesome, electroetching might be also a option for those who don't have such a steady hand.
TSJWang (author)  Victor8o512 months ago

Yea I was considering that; it was actually my first option. I was planning to etch the chrome with some muriatic acid and peroxide.

The problem I ran into however was sealing off the whole lighter. So I would have to put the design on, and then cover the whole case in wax or something.
A couple of problems with this: surface area is so great I don't think there's enough nail-polish or wax, and the hinge is extremely difficult to get a good seal.

So I just hand engraved it :P safest option for me at least. If there is some way to electroetch this safely, I would love to try it on my other lighters!

EoinM17 TSJWang12 months ago
If you use salty water and a cotton bud to etch it might work without having to seal off the entire case. I used this method to etch my initial on the back of my watch. First, get a 9 to 12 volt power source (you can even use a pp3 9v battery but they wear out quickly) and using alligator clips connect one terminal (it doesn't matter which) to the metal being etched and the other to the end of the cotton bud (aka q-tip). Then dip the q tip in your salty water and rub it over the stencil you applied. You can use nail varnish but I just used masking tape and it worked great. Repeat until the etch is deep enough. You might want to use something other than a q tip because you will go through a lot of them for a deep etch. Just peel off your stencil and wipe dry when you're finished and you'll have a perfect etch!
TSJWang (author)  EoinM1712 months ago

Oh. I was afraid to rub off the toner to transfer, but if masking tape doesn't rub off, I guess I couldve!

Well this instructable is about hand engraving anyway, but thanks for the tip!

It looks great! I love the way your positioned the "bangs" so when you open it both of them are right side up!

TSJWang (author) 12 months ago


I'm really happy about how this turned out as my first time engraving!

Verticees12 months ago


M3G12 months ago

Awesome work!