Introduction: Zippo(ish) Lighter Engraving - Pokemon, Warhammer 40k, Studio Ghibli, ...

About: I'm a DIY and photography enthusiast who loves to make stuff in his spare time. My DIY interests are pretty diverse, mostly I see something I want to make or a technique I want to learn, then start doing it un…


One of my more recent projects, done in the beginning of 2013. Thankfully by this point I actually learned how to take proper pictures, so I don't have to apologize for crappy image quality. Go me!

I probably could've taken more pictures in between, but the steps are not that complicated, you'll see. They just need a bit of fine motor skills / practice.

Anyway, I was on my facebook, and I saw a post by Studio Ghibli (I looooooove them!), posting awesome Zippo lighters with their characters. I wanted to have one of those, but they were limited edition, only available in Japan and expensive. Plan B it is then, make my own!...for now. I swear I'll get myself some original ones once I can justify and afford them.

So, eBay be praised, I got some cheap Zippo-ish lighters to practice on for next to nothing. They can't hold their gas, their flame sucks, but they're cheap and good enough for practice.

After reading up a bit on engraving metal it turns out the proper way of engraving is with something called "pneumatic engraving tool". Which kind of costs several hundreds of dollars. A *decent* one costs about 1000-1200 bucks, sans compressor. Well, that kind of beats the purpose as I could've bought dozens of lighters for that money.

Time for plan B.2: Find a way to do it cheaper.


Find a way to engrave Zippo lighters (or similar) in a satisfying way and make myself some lighters!
And while at it, expand to add some of my favourite little creatures, first generation Pokemon!
I think for good measure I'll also throw in some Warhammer 40k, just because I can.

Safety Advice:

This instructable uses a dremel with a pretty safe attachment, so you should be alright.

Still, as metal dust is involved, usage of protective goggles and a filtering facepiece (painter's mask or similar) is advised.

Copyright Notice:

The motives on the lighters such as Totoro, Mononoke Hime, Charmander, Pikachu and so on are copyright their respective owners. The usage of this material is strictly for personal, and with this instructable possibly educational, purposes and entirely non-profit.

Step 1: Tools and Materials


  • Image editing software + printer
  • Scalpel / cutter knife
  • (Permanent) Marker
  • Dremel with flexible arm and a small, round diamond engraving bit
  • Head-mounted magnifying goggles (optional, but very helpful)


  • (Zippo) Lighter
  • Rub 'n Buff (optional, but advised)
  • Tissue / Toilet paper (if Rub 'n Buff is used)

My advice before ruining a perfectly fine Zippo with your first attempts is go get yourself some cheap knockoff lighters that look the same and practice on those first.

Also I found that brushed chrome looked the best, so I'd recommend lighters of this type.

Step 2: Transfer Your Motive and Start Engraving

You can either freehand-draw your motive on the lighter using a (permanent) marker, or if you suck at drawing just as much as I do, print your motive, cut out the general shape and draw around it, then either cut out more parts and use them as templates or filling details in freehanding.

Image editing software such as GIMP comes in handy for resizing purposes.

Once your motive is on the lighter, strap on the filter mask and protective goggles (metal dust is not good for your lungs) and then, provided you have some, strap on your magnifying goggles as well. I went with something between 3x and 5x magnification just so I can see just what I am doing a little bit better.

Now, the engraving bit you want for lines is a diamond-dust-covered round (ball) engraving bit; the smaller, the better.

For area engraving I'd recommend the same type of bit, but bigger.

Moving on to the dremel settings and movement:

My dremel was set somewhere at 15.000-20.000RPM, so it was going fairly fast but not at full speed.

When engraving a line I did not score the whole line at once, but rather worked in small strokes, being careful about not slipping away. As for the depth of the engraving, I tried to make rather shallow, but definitely visible and clearly noticeable (using your fingers) grooves. With real Zippos this is rather easy to achieve, as most of them are chromed copper or so, either way the color of the material changes once you're deep enough.

Step 3: (Optional) Coloring Using Rub 'n Buff

Sometimes the engraved motives are not that visible, so there's a need to improve that.

In most cases I went with Rub 'n Buff Ebony or Antique Gold.

Here's how you do it:

Once the lighter is engraved, clean it thoroughly to remove all metal dust residues.

Then put just a little bit of Rub 'n Buff on your finger and start applying it to the engraved face of the lighter in round rubbing motions.

After it has been applied, use a tissue / piece of toilet paper and without applying too much pressure, wipe off the excess Rub 'n Buff in round rubbing motions. Use a bit of water / damp tissue for more stubborn areas. If all goes well, the Rub 'n Buff should stay inside the engraved grooves while the rest will be removed.

If you have engraved a large area, only wipe excess off around the edges, let the inside dry for a while, then rub excess off there as well.

Examples of lighters finished this way can be found on the next page.

Step 4: Finished Lighter Gallery

That's all, folks!

If you have any questions, feel free to ask.

If you use this instructable to make your own lighters, I'd love to see them!

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