Hand machined mechanical pencils

Hot foil stamping (17/09/15)

A couple of years ago, we bought one of those cheap little hot foiling presses off EBay. Although the acutal heater/die plate were well built, the rest of the machine was too rickety/flexible to be of any use, since dies need to be perfectly flat and parallel to the substrate when printing. Recently, I dug it out again, took off the heater and a few other bits and mounted them on the little arbor press which is rock-solid.

At the moment, I need to print on polypropylene sheet. There are many different types of foils available, all designed for a particular material. Most of the cheap ones you find on EBay are intended only for paper or card, and won't work well on plastics. I found an excellent supplier of foils - Phillips Foils Ltd. - and bought both gloss black (type GPZ/800) and metallic gold (KPP1/52) for polypropylene. As for a die, I used Metallic Elephant, who do a great next-day service.

Temperatures were 150°C for the polypropylene and 100°C for paper/card/other stuff. Dies are mounted using Loctite 638 - this can easily be removed by heating to 200°C.


I took off the entire heated plate assembly from the original machine. This comprises an upper block with the heating element (ceramic plate heater) and a lower removable block to which the actual die is attached. The heater plate is mounted to the ram via an intermediate plate and four adjustable spring-loaded screws - this allows the die to be adjusted so that it's perfectly parallel to the substrate, which is essential for reliable printing.

I'm using one of my temperature controllers to regulate the temperature, with a relay-switched socket. The thermocouple is placed in the removable block so it's as close as possible to the die.

I also mounted the pull-out table - makes it much easier to place work accurately.

The old machine (what's left of it!)

Table pulled out

Closeup of heater plate

Some tests

Temperature controller

Round die

This "die" is an old jewellery casting out the scrap box, faced down so it's perfectly flat.

Die glued to heater block

Gold on glossy paper

0.5mm polypropylene and 6mm white acrylic

6mm white acrylic

Foils after stamping

Windflower die

Here's a proper die I had made up for a product I'm working on at the moment.

Die as it arrives

Glued to heater block

Copy paper

0.5mm polypropylene


Oh, the manual for the original little Chinese press had this wonderful paragraph of advice:

After tried Inida to be good may start officially to burn India. After volume tin foil burns India to use, gyrates receives the paper axis knob to cause red to instruct the knob faced the tin foil which on was allowed upwardly to take out causes to use up.