Background Matting Punches

Brian Marshall

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Nov 9, 2006
Stockton, California & Taxco, Guerrero, Mexico
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We make these and lots of other types of punches, stamps, and repousse tools in several of the workshops I teach. For matting punches use a very fine metal checkering file - made for metal, not wood. Got it about 25 years ago from Brownells, I think?

These files cut a row of evenly spaced lines. Prep your ANNEALED blank punch face flat, and taper to the shape of the end profile you need, rectangular, triangular, round, etc. Very slightly round off sharp corners. I prefer square stock, but round drill rod will work too. File the pattern you like on the "working end" - a straight crosshatch or diamond crosshatch. Harden, temper, and go to work...

There are at least a half dozen other methods if you don't want to spend the money for the checkering file. Keep in mind that you always start with ANNEALED tool steel. NOT cold or hot rolled mild steel like key stock. You can't harden that. (Well, you can, but then you get into case hardening and more complications... much easier to simply start with the correct blank stock.)


1. You can try filing the lines individually, with a triangle or watchmakers screw file. My first matting punches were made this way almost 40 years ago and some are still around today.

2. You can engrave the crosshatch with a 90 degree "V" graver.

3. If you have access to machine tools with the right shapes of cutters, you can get the same precise results as with the checkering file.

4. You can make and harden a die with a pattern you like and then drive the face of the punch into that.

5. You can drive the face of the punch into an old file, changing direction to get your preferred pattern - using either a copper/brass hammer or a benchtop press.

6. You can drive the face of the punch into coarse emery paper, rough stone, an old diamond lap - whatever you have lying around that will give you the texture you are after.

I usually test the pattern of the punch on a piece of clay, soft pewter or lead before hardening and tempering. Saves time if you decide to rework it. Still being soft, you can just file it off flat again, "erasing" your errors.

Don't forget to harden and temper when finished! There's a ton of information out there on the web about hardening & tempering and choosing the right steel for a blank. Simplest/cheapest for a beginner would probably be water hardening drill rod...

As for stippling punches - both sharp points and rounded points are useful - test 'em on a piece of scrap to see what looks best for the particular application. Easy to sharpen chucked up in a rotary tool and dragged across a stone or lap while spinning. Slowly!

Brian P. Marshall
Stockton Jewelry Arts School
Stockton, CA USA

Dave London

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Nov 12, 2006

Brian covered 99% of the methods , my 1% input is to grind down dental bits and insert then in 3/32 brass square stock( thanks John B) silver solder in place. If you look under a loupe or microscope at the end the dental bits have cutting edges on them.

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