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Last week, I was fiddling with the packaging for Laser Lace Letters, and nothing quite seemed right.  It's a victorian steampunk project, with stories told through letters and other documents, so I started asking my friends what they thought of when they heard the words "Victorian mail."

"Wax seals!" they all said.
"But didn't wax seals go out of fashion with the rise of the postal service, around before the Victorian period?" I said.
"Doesn't your story involve tiny robot swarms, evil laser cutters and Aether travel?" they said.
"Oh," I said.

There are a few places online where you can order custom made brass matrices (the part that makes the impression in the wax is called a matrix), but ever the DIYer, I wanted to see if I could make a serviceable acrylic matrix on the laser cutter at the Dallas Makerspace.  It turns out that making a custom wax seal is rather simple.  If you have access to a laser cutter or can drop a few dollars at Ponoko, you can make a completely customized acrylic matrix for under $20.

You'll Need:
  • Thick acrylic to laser cut - 4.5 mm or thicker
  • A peg, bobbin, or any other item with a flat end to use as a handle
  • 2 part epoxy glue

Step 1: Design Your Seal

(Seal of the city of Lausanne, Switzerland, made by Antoine Bovard in 1525.  Source: Wikimedia Commons.)

Seals have been used for hundreds of years to show that documents were genuine.  In ancient times, they carried the emblem of the owner, usually with a ring of text or a banner around the outside identifying the owner (or sometimes carrying their motto.)  The practice of sealing documents with a personal or family symbol dates back to Ancient Rome, and its believed that the tradition of family heraldry came from the practice of handing down a seal from generation to generation.

Today, commercial seal makers offer general purpose seals with initials and popular symbols; but since you're laser cutting this seal, you can put whatever you like on it!  Here are a few tips to keep in mind when designing your seal.
  • The easiest way to get your art to cut correctly on the laser is to make it in Inkscape or another vector drawing program.  You'll be able to draw your cut line on the same canvas as your art.  This makes it easy to center.
  • Your art should be in black and white.  The black areas will be raised in the impression.
  • Make the cutting outline of your stamp smooth; circles and ovals work best.  Some historic seals are in the shape of a pointed oval, too.
  • Leave some room at the edges of the design.  Seals work better if the edge of the matrix is smooth.
  • When you have your design finished, you must flip your art horizontally.  The process of leaving an impression in the wax will flip it back.




Tips, Tricks and Resources
  • How to wrap text around a circle (or any other shape) in Inkscape.
  • Heraldry clip art from the Open Clip Art Library.
  • If you want to make a seal that looks old, try using one of these open blackletter fonts from the Open Font Library.
  • You can also use these sample files.  They're adapted from the files I used to create my seal for Laser Lace Letters and make a seal that's slightly less than 3/4" tall. Feel free to use them to create your own!




Sample File 1 
(Right click to save)



Sample File 2 
(Right click to save)
I've made one big change - I've changed the amount of time you wait before pressing the seal into the wax. I originally said five seconds, but really the optimal time for the acrylic stamper seems to be between 5 and 10 seconds. It may be different if you're using a melting pot, melting spoon, or glue gun style wax.
set the seal on a piece of ice when you're not using it. This makes it easier for the stamp to "come off" and it sets the wax faster.
Ooooh, that's a good tip! Thanks!
<p>hi </p><p>can I put a stronger laser . ( more than 3 watt)</p>
I thought it would come up with a tag or something, but I guess I'll announce it here - <br> <br>This Instructable WON the Gorilla Glue Make It Stick contest! https://www.instructables.com/contest/makeitstick2012/ <br> <br>Thank you to everyone who saw it and voted, and thanks to those who gave feedback, too! <br> <br>Wooo!
&quot;But didn't wax seals go out of fashion with the rise of the postal service, around before the Victorian period?&quot; I said. <br>&quot;Doesn't your story involve tiny robot swarms, evil laser cutters and Aether travel?&quot; <br> <br>L-ing OL over here!
Me too.
&lt;3
Oh, I wish I had your toys. <br> <br>I would suggest a way to tell which way is up on the stamp. You don't want to stamp your name upside down, do you?
Sure! I just look at the matrix before I press it into the wax (since the designs I've done so far have a clear top and bottom), but I suppose you could put an alignment mark on the back of the matrix or on the handle.<br> <br> I get access to my toys because Dallas has&nbsp;<a href="http://www.dallasmakerspace.org" rel="nofollow">an awesome hackerspace</a> with an awesome set of tools. &nbsp;If you poke around where you live, you may find a similarly awesome group.
Ah! Totally beat me to this idea. Great work. I'm definitely trying this out!
Great minds, eh? :)
indeed :)
Hmm... <br> <br>Apparently there is a setting on our Versalaser for automatically adding shoulders when cutting rubber stamps.
Well, that's cool!
love it! great work. How deep were you able to make your contours?
The etched design is about 1mm deep. It could be deeper, and I'd love to see what those results looked like. <br> <br>FYI, the reason I chose acrylic that's much taller than the etching, is so that the piece can absorb some of the heat from the wax, and also be pressed into a thick puddle of wax without it flowing up over the back of the seal, which would make it hard to get out.
Wonderful!

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