How to Make Your Own Inexpensive Contractor Stamps
By Paul A. Boccadoro
For those of us who enjoy making our own uniform items, you know that it's difficult to reproduce contractor, inspector, or sizing stamps. It's just not economical to have a custom rubber stamp made for just one stamping, and it can be difficult to precisely cut out a stencil. Thus I'm presenting how to do this ink-transfer technique that I used in Architecture school where we'd routinely transfer computer printed titles onto building models.
- Recreated mirrored design (printed in TONER from a laser printer or copied on a photocopier. Ink-jet prints won't work.)
- Your cut pattern pieces (sleeve lining, waistband, etc.)
- Masking tape
- Chartpak blender marker, found at an art or craft store, or from Amazon.com
- Optional eraser to rub the print (this works best).
STEP 1: RECREATE THE STAMP DESIGN
Recreate the stamp design using software such as Photoshop or InDesign, and I highly recommend using accurate Civil War fonts from the New Blazing Star Press. It's best to have a straight-on photo of the original stamp with measurements to copy it as closely as possible. Or, email me photos and measurements of the original and I'll make it for you, if in exchange I can post it below for others to use.
STEP 2: PRINT OR PHOTOCOPY THE MIRRORED DESIGN
Print a MIRRORED version of your design – it MUST be printed in TONER from a laser printer or made from a copy on a photocopier. This will NOT work with prints from a standard household ink-jet printer. Make several prints so you can practice before doing your final one.
STEP 3: PREPARE TO TRANSFER THE DESIGN
You'll need a Chartpak blender marker, which can be found at an art or craft store, or from Amazon.com. Cut out your mirrored design, giving yourself a decent margin around the edges to secure it while doing the transfer.
STEP 4: WET THE TRANSFER
Have your fabric on a hard flat surface like a kitchen counter top. Tape the design face-down onto your fabric with masking tape. Holding the design firmly in place, and run the blender marker over the entire back of the design if it's small, or do one line at a time on larger designs (the chemical dries quickly and it must be wet when doing the transfer).
STEP 5: APPLY THE TRANSFER
Using the edge of the marker cap, a very firm finger, or (for best results) a rubber eraser, rub the back of the design with a lot of pressure to transfer the design. BE CAREFUL not to move the fabric or paper. Using a hard edge like the marker cap will make a darker transfer, while a softer item like your finger will produce a lighter transfer.
STEP 6: FINISHED
Let the transferred design dry for a minute, then remove the paper and now you should have a nice "stamp." Toner is not water soluable, so the stamp will not bleed when exposed to water or perspiration. Experiment with different pressures and tools for rubbing to achieve the desired "stamped" effect.
Practice on scrap material before doing it on your final pattern piece. When you're ready to do the final one, I highly recommend that you do the transfer on your cut pattern piece BEFORE sewing the garment together. Also, each print can only be used once, so make several copies so you can practice a few times. Some original stamps were red, and making your laser print or photocopy in color should work, too. You may get varying results depending upon the type of fabric you're using, so always do tests firsts. Good Luck!
IMPORTANT! When printing, make sure your printer's Page Scaling is set to "None" or "100%" so the stamps print at the correct size (use the graphic scale printed on the page to verify).
All stamp designs © 2012-2015 Paul Boccadoro. For personal use only. These may not be used or reproduced for any commercial purposes.
E. Tracy variation taken from a US dismounted overcoat
E. Tracy variation taken from two US mounted overcoats
Schuylkill Arsenal variation taken from a US dismounted overcoat
Peter Tait & Co. variation taken from a jacket worn by Lt. M. Glennan*
*Peter Tait & Co. used the regulation British Scale of Sizes for their jackets. The top number is the height of the man the jacket was made for (6'–0"), followed by the chest size (41") and waist size (36"). Jackets were made for heights ranging from 5'–5" to 6'–0", chest sizes 36" to 41", and waist sizes 31" to 37", which were combined in specific configurations. The numerals reproduced here were designed from the stamp inside the Lt. M. Glennan jacket, which was placed 2 3/8" down from the collar seam and 1" to the right of center. Photos of additional stamps were also referenced in "Imported Confederate Uniforms of Peter Tait & Co., Limerick, Ireland" by Frederick R. Adolphus, which also provided the Scale of Sizes.