Laser Etch Rubber Stamps for a Drone Stamp Revolution!




Introduction: Laser Etch Rubber Stamps for a Drone Stamp Revolution!

"In Drones We Trust" is participatory art project inviting volunteers from across the United States, and around the world, to rubber stamp a tiny image of an MQ1 Predator Drone onto the surface of their money. You can learn more about the project here and see hundreds of examples of drone stamped currency, stamped by project participants, now put back into circulation. I've created over 400 laser etched drone stamps which have now been shared with volunteers from throughout the United States (and internationally). The project is ongoing, if you want a stamp of your own, you can either make one (or a hundred!) from the information here, including the image file used, or, for the cost of postage I will send you one for free! Just go here!

This instructable will take you through the process of making the stamp, distribution, publicity and creating the website/tumblr archive. This project was made while an Artist in Residence at in San Francisco at the Pier 9 Workshop/Autodesk Inc.

Here are a couple of articles written about this project:

Step 1: Your Supplies...

1) First, you need a laser cutter - I am using an Epilog Legend EXT36 120Watt Laser Cutter. You can use others of course but be sure you look up the settings for your particular model for etching the rubber

2) A rubber sheet made for laser cutting rubber stamps. I used RPO 035 - No-Odor Laser Rubber from A single sheet allowed for over over 150 rubber stamps as mine are rather small - of course depends on the scale of your stamp how much material you will need.

3) Wood for the stamp handles. I made all of mine from scrap 3/4" thick pine boards of various size from scrap at the Pier 9 Workshop. You will need a table saw, mitre saw and a vertical bandsaw (if you don't have access to these I'd recommend buying 3/4" molding at you local hardware store and a handsaw).

4) Tacky Glue for attaching the laser etched rubber stamp material to your handles.

5) Rubber Stamp pad(s). I tried many, the best I have found, particularly for stamping on currency, seems to be Ranger brand pads. These are pretty darned amazing - archival, permanent and a wide range of colors. I used the "Library Green" as it matches well with American currency.

6) If you make a bunch of these and you want to send them to your friends, get some smallest size padded envelopes.

Step 2: Create a High Contrast Graphic...

This image began as a 3D model, we posed the drone in the 3D software, took a screen capture, which we then exported to Photoshop. You can of course use just about any image to make a rubber stamp but you will want to convert such to straight up black and white. There are many tutorials online about how to turn a photo into a rubber stamp, such as this one. Pretty straight forward image processing. Be sure to remember, whatever image you are printing (or text) will print in reverse!

What is most important to keep in mind is that you want a reverse image, the area to be etched (removed) by the laser cutter should be BLACK. The actual image you want to have stamped as your image should be WHITE.

Above is the actual image used to create my rubber stamp. I share this here so you can make your own and participate in the larger project.

Resize this image in Photoshop to 3/4" X 1/4" at 300 DPI.

Open the photoshop image in Illustrator. What you will then do is to create a vector rectangle where the stamp will be cut - basically align with the edges of the graphic. I then duplicated the graphic and created a larger grid of stamp images to cut. Really depends how many of these you want to make. Make as many as you like and share widely! Once you have your layout, you are ready to etch! Well almost...

Step 3: Laser Etch Your Rubber Stamps...

Be sure you are familiar with the operation of your laser cutter - if you are not using an Epilog 120W be sure and check what settings to use that are specific to your system. Also, regardless, the settings below should be tested on a single stamp before doing a mass of them to be sure the settings work well with your machine. I am working in a rare space at Pier 9 that has 3 of these Epilogues, each one seems to work a bit differently than the other, so adjusting these settings may be crucial to making a successful stamp!

1) Settings - these are what I used:

Use "Combined" print job, for vector (cuts) and raster (engraving) using the following settings:

Raster: 30% speed, 90% power, top-down engraving

Vector: 20% speed, 90% power, 2500 hz

2) Again, test your settings before you stamp a large number - the material is not cheap - you want to be sure you have your settings correct so as to not waste material! Be very careful of fires!

Step 4: Make Your Rubber Stamp Handels

1) First I measured my wood planks to 3/4" marks with 1/8" spaces between each measurement to compensate for the saw depth of cut. I ripped the pieces very carefully on the table saw.

2) I squared up four pieces at a time, kind of like putting the board back together, and taped it with blue tape wrapped around both ends to hold it all together. This allows me to cut all four at the same time safely on the mitre saw.

3) I measured 2" marks and drew a line with my square on the face of the taped together pieces. These were then carefully cut in groups of four, moving each of the four cut pieces to a growing row of handle pieces.

4) Next we go to the vertical belt sander to sand each piece down to an angle at one end, roughly just larger than the size of your stamps. Takes a bit to get the hang of this - be careful as you don't want to sand off your fingers!

5) When these are done, stack them up and on to the next step!

Step 5: The Assembly Phase - Put Them Together!

1) I put a small dab of Tacky Glue on the left side of the area where the rubber stamp material meets the wood. I then pushed each piece of rubber stamp across this glue, positioned and pushed gently into place. You want these to go on straight!

2) Set them aside to dry, Tacky Glue dries pretty fast, I'd say 1/2 and hour to an hour tops to where you can use your stamps!

3) Finally, I use my green stamp pad to stamp a drone image on the handle of each stamp.

4) Your stamps are done and ready to be used or shard with others!

Step 6: Share Your Stamps and Get to Stamping Money!

•My work area at the residency at became a bit of a temporary mailroom! I've mailed approximately 250 of these to folks all over the United States, with individual stamps sent to Germany, United Kingdom, Switzerland, Scotland, Canada, New Zealand, Japan, United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Pakistan!

•You can certainly just give these away to your friends if you like!

•To give away the first 100 stamps, I announced the project on Facebook, see the picture above - this got the ball rolling!

•I as well wrote and emailed a brief press release to around 50 media sources online. The stories you see on the first page of this instructable are the result.

•I created a tumblr blog/website a permanent archive for this project. So far there are many hundreds of images of stamped currency from around the globe.

•Finally, start stamping! It is not a "participatory project" unless you participate! Stamp away! Have a drone stamping party! Seriously, I've taken my drone stamp with me to various gatherings, dinner parties, classes - just about everyone carries some cash, have them stamp it or stamp it for them, take a picture and send it to me!

Oh, and to the question, "Is It Legal?" to stamp money - read this from the wonderful "stampstampede" project:



  • Tiny Home Contest

    Tiny Home Contest
  • Fix It! Contest

    Fix It! Contest
  • Water Contest

    Water Contest

138 Discussions

The conversation here has been fascinating - actually quite what this project is all about - creating an opportunity for critical thought and dialogue. From dialogue could come action. It might interest any of you, I've made a new stamp called "Hands Up Don't Shoot!". Get one here if you are interested.

1 reply

Why do you continue to make "Hands Up Don't Shoot!" stamps when it has been proven that Mike "Gentle Giant" Brown never put his hands up in surrender? If someone tried to pay me with your B.S. "Hands Up Don't Shoot!" stamped currency I would refuse to accept it.

Now THAT'S how you do it! keep up the good work and try not to get droned to death!

Fantastic. I'm glad that you are receptive to different points of view. I'd really very much like to have an appropriately sized Muhammad with bomb in turban stamp just as it was published in the Danis Newspaper Jyllands-Posten and republished by Charlie Hebdo. I'd be willing to mark up currency with your drone stamp in conjunction with the Muhammad stamp in honor of the atrocity committed by radical(?) Islamists in France. If you truly believe in freedom of expression then why not? I'd make my own but I don't have access to a laser cutter and I don't think that there is a Maker Space anywhere near me that has one. Can you help me out? Je suis Charlie!

Hi there,

While I condemn the senseless killings in Paris, and support 100% the rights of anyone to express themselves, I do not agree with the much of the content put forward by the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. I think many of the cartoons are simply insulting, offensive and not particularly clever or interesting beyond the effort to shock and offend. Just too easy.

There is a larger context of bloodletting by both sides in this "war on terror" that truly needs to be addressed in order for there to ever be peace. From our perspective in the west, these killings in Paris, and elsewhere, are senseless acts of terror. From those who have been on the receiving end of our "war on terror" I suspect their is no less consideration of what we do as being "acts of terror". From drone strikes in Pakistan to our senseless invasion of Iraq, and the ongoing chaos in the region we still see today. There is a cycle of killing, revenge attacks, radicalization and hatred that I fear will only escalate in the coming years.
My drone stamps are intended as a political critique of our drone policies - which, the CIA has determined in their OWN reports, to be counterproductive, leading to further enmity among local populations and quite possibly the best recruiting tool the terrorists could ever hope for.

Sorry, but I am just not interested in your idea as it runs counter to my goals as an artist.

Anyway, if you are truly interested in making this rubber stamp there are any number of commercial services online that will make you however many of rubber stamps you may desire.

Respectfully, Joseph

this will dry under Velcro protection for aboug 24-48 hours. Since my re x ray shoed I broke my forearm, 2 weeks ago. I am a bit limited.
The arm looked so swollen and bruided that Surgeon put cast on for pain control. Funny, the swelling got worse, they took cast off yesterday, re xrayed it, and today report shows fracture. only 5 more weeks to go

hey Fyi
I must have been over working your stamp. the ribber part fell off, after 50$.
I re glued it with 6000 glue


hey Fyi
I must have been over working your stamp. the ribber part fell off, after 50$.
I re glued it with 6000 glue


If you're interested in this, check out non-profit started by Ben Cohen of Ben & Jerry's. +26,000 of us are trying to #GetMoneyOut of politics & spread that message through stamping money as well. We want to reduce the crazy cost of U.S. elections, lobbyists influencing our politicians, and corporations flooding money into Washington to get their way--join us! It's a petition on steroids that you can do anywhere and anytime.

7 replies

Defacing US currency is indeed, a Federal crime:

U.S.C. § 333 : US Code - Section 333: Mutilation of national bank
obligations -

Whoever mutilates, cuts, defaces, disfigures, or perforates, or
unites or cements together, or does any other thing to any bank
bill, draft, note, or other evidence of debt issued by any national
banking association, or Federal Reserve bank, or the Federal
Reserve System, with intent to render such bank bill, draft, note,
or other evidence of debt unfit to be reissued, shall be fined
under this title or imprisoned not more than six months, or both.

So, are you having trouble understanding what "with intent to render such bank bill, draft, note, or other evidence of debt unfit to be reissued, " means? If you are, it means making the money appear to have a value that is not backed by the US Government. Things like turning a $10 bill appear to be a $1000 bill, eliminating the ink from the surface of the bill to re-print the a different value onto the bill in a counterfeiting scheme and so on. It does not apply to rubberstamping "", StampStampede's notes, or the Predator stamp onto the currency as doing so does not change the value of the currency as far as the system is concerned. It doesn't prevent you from dropping a penny and sufficient change to operate the mechanism into a machine that rolls a MallOfAmerica token out of the penny, or other systems like that.

But if you sincerely believe that this law does prohibit these activities, then your action in not reporting these activities to the Secret Service or the local police when you see them happening makes you complicit and an accessory after the act to the crime you are complaining about, and subject to the same penalties. Feel better?

That is ridiculous. When you deface a bill people will feel entitled to reject it (or unfit to be reiussed as you aptly quote).

I suppose you don;t care if somebody that doesn't notice the stamp finds herself in a situation in which a debt can't be paid for this reason.

Being over dramatic this could be somebody trying to pay for food or rent.

"Art" that causes actual trouble to 3rd parties indiscriminately doesn't seem legitimate to me.

Since this is actually illegal in many localities I will actually ask Instructables to remove this,

You are free to accept or reject any form of payment you choose. The law in this regard is specifically aimed at addressing the various counterfeiting methods that make use of existing currency to create new varieties of currency, which as a result specifically makes the currency invalid and ineligible to be re-issued by the federal reserve banks.

Considering the fact that people are arrested or charged with counterfeiting for presenting $2 bills, which are legal currency in the USA, and are such a low value that counterfeiting them would cost more than the advantage of being able to pass them, I'd say that your decision to accept or reject a bill stamped with either a concern that the bill in question is involved in some sort of tracking system, may be being used to pay for political corruption, or as a reminder that you are using currency that at some level helps fund spying both domestically and abroad, is purely your own business.

Of course if you are going to get upset about this, I do hope you will turn yourself in for defacing currency when your ball point pen blows up in your pocket with your money, and gets ink all over it, or your going to turn in your prospective girlfriend for writing your phone number on a $10 so that she remembers it when she gets home and can put it in her address book. Wouldn't want to encourage anyone to deface the money they are using after all.

Yes!, Yes! I was going to post about the Stamp Stampede and you beat me to it. Every bill I spend is stamped. Been doing it for many months. Get the money out of politics!

it is wrong to deface money to make a political message. how would YOU like it if your political rivals stamped all of YOUR money with a slogan against your beliefs? you would throw a fit at the bank and insist they pick through the money to find you clean notes. what is crazy is you most likely fail to realize that BOTH parties have the same exact problem and BOTH parties are made up of millionaires and billionaires. for every koch brothers there is a george sorros.