Make Your Own Wood Veneer Business Cards!




About: I'm a grad student in astrophysics, specializing in building extremely high frequency radio telescopes and receivers. As scientists, we rarely have enough money to do things the easy or conventional way, so...
Want some business cards with a different look? Here's a quick, easy, and fairly cheap method for making your own out of practically any type of wood veneer.  I made a couple dozen in about an hour at my local hackerspace, Xerocraft.  This Instructable was submitted, in part, to qualify Xerocraft for the Instructables Sponsorship Program.

Here's what you'll need:
  • Wood veneer.  You'll want this relatively thin- probably any normal, commercially produced stuff is OK. 
  • A custom stamp.  I ordered mine through Fedex/kinko's online store, but I'm sure others are just as good.  This will cost around $10-$20.  If I could do it again, I'd make the font a bit bigger and less complex. 
  • Measuring tools.  A decent ruler is nice, as is a square.  So long as your blanks end up smaller than the normal card size (3.5"x2.0" here in the US), it's not terribly important that the shape be perfect.  A bit smaller or a bit trapezoidal is perfectly fine.
  • A good, sharp knife.  I used a nice, new blade in my utility knife, one of the extra fancy bi-metal blades that Home Despot sells.  I'm not sure if it makes much of a difference versus the regular kind, though.

Step 1: Make the Blanks

Making the blanks is quite easy with a sharp knife and a good, thick straightedge.  Position the straightedge to where you want the cut, and score along the edge with the knife.  You'll want to be careful both when 'ripping' (cutting with the grain) and 'cross cutting' (cutting across the grain). 

If the grain's not perfectly in line with your rip cut, the blade can get caught following the grain, not the straightedge.  Splitting wood is seductively easy- don't go too fast, or you might deviate from the cut.  You should also align the straightedge so the grain will push the blade towards the guide, not away.  I like to keep the knife up at a relatively sharp angle, and cut clean through in one pass.  Quite easy, once you get the hang of it.  Use these rip cuts to split the wood into long 2 inch strips, which can then be split into individual cards.

When cutting across the grain (or on burled/figured wood, where the grain is wonky), you need to beware applying too much pressure and cracking or breaking the wood.  I like to hold the knife blade relatively flat (small angle against the wood), and try to score the surface once or twice.  Since you're only cutting two inches across, it's then quite easy to snap through the remaining material cleanly.

Step 2: Stamp and Seal!

Now that you've got a pile of 2x3.5 inch veneer 'blanks', it's time to stamp them.  My stamp is a bit flaky, so I make sure to apply solid pressure, and rock it back and forth ever so slightly- this helps make sure every bit of the stamp makes contact on the slightly uneven veneer.

Once the ink is dry, I hit it with some varnish, to bring out the color of the wood and protect the ink from smudging.  I used spray urethane from a can- I feared that varnish (which often contains solvents and/or oils) would smear the ink if I used a regular wipe-able or brush-able formula. 

Step 3: Final Thoughts

The cards I made turned out quite good.  My main complaint is that the font size is just a bit to small, so sometimes the words don't come out clear.  Easily avoidable in the future.

The cards are rather robust, but are still somewhat susceptible to breaking.  If this concerns you, you might try encasing them in epoxy to make them stronger- I don't think it's a big deal, though.  

If you've got access to CNC equipment, you might try making your own brass branding iron, to burn your name into the wood.  I think that would be pretty awesome, but requires more technical skills and labor. You might also buy one from lee valley (,41115&p=44057), but I don't think they offer enough lines of text to be suitable.

Some veneer can be warped or bendy; you can buy special products that soften the wood, and then press them with a pile of books to get them back flat.



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    7 Discussions


    6 years ago on Introduction

    Cool concept! I wonder if a paper trimmer (the one that slides along a rail) would work too. Btw, what brand is that square?

    1 reply

    The square is a starrett. Really overkill for this project- I bought it primarily for machining. As an aside, a good square in the shop is really quite handy, although you don't necessarily need to pay a lot. Borrow a good one, and buy a simple cast roofing square (that you test with the expensive one to ensure it's true) from a local hardware store. They're indestructible, and cost like $5.

    I'm not sure if a paper trimmer would work- it certainly might!


    6 years ago on Introduction

    Way COOL ! Try using a different color ink or even acrylic paint for the stamp to make it POP off the wood more, then the font size may not seem as bad. Using small sponge brushes you could even do multiple colors


    6 years ago on Step 3

    this is very cool! especially for me, a carpenter.
    I thought perhaps you could use 2" edge banding to save all the ripping cuts. It of course already has glue on the back, so you could iron it onto a thin piece of paper to strengthen it and of course cover the glue.

    1 reply

    Yup, that ought to work, although the ripping cuts are quite easy once you've had ~1 minute of practice.

    You probably also have much more selection in regular veneer (exotic woods, figured burls, that sort of thing) than in edge banding, but I've honestly never used banding so I'm not sure.