Serial Number Stamp Update!

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by pinefd, Apr 27, 2010.

  1. pinefd

    pinefd V.I.P. Member Premium Member V.I.P. Member

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    I just wanted to update you on the status of the stamp project that we were working on in this thread: http://www.mylespaul.com/forums/luthiers-corner/80282-serial-number-stamps-anyone-want-one.html


    But first a brief overview…

    We wanted to come up with a number stamp for stamping serial numbers onto headstocks with a number font which was as close as we could come to that found on vintage Les Pauls. Pretty much every modern-day, off-the-shelf number stamp I was able to check out had shortcomings. Many were close, but none seemed to have all of the fine details we were looking for in a stamp. So we set out to re-create the font using a combination of many vintage headstock photos along with actual stampings from Gibson’s serial number stamp that was used back in the day. And together with constant input from several very knowledgeable vintage folks, I came up with this version of the number font (after nearly 100 iterations of same):

    [​IMG]

    And with this "accurate" font in hand, I would then be able to order a custom made stamp that would do the trick. In researching custom stamp makers, I was able to come up with (at least) two possible options. One was a “typical” custom stamp maker that could make us a stamp like this for around $125 each, using our font:

    [​IMG]


    I thought the price was a bit steep, so I started looking into other, less expensive alternatives. About then, I was contacted by a fellow MLP forum member whose mom is in the custom stamp making business. She specializes in making stamps using photopolymer technology, which I believe is similar to the product Chris mentioned in post #6 of the previous thread. She’s been working hard on putting together a stamp kit that might work for us. Having just returned from vacation (thanks for updating everyone for me in my absence, Jim), I just received and had a chance to test out this stamp kit. I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on the kit and the results.

    And BTW, if we decide that this is a viable option, and we order at least 8 kits, the cost for each stamp kit would be around $55 plus shipping.


    The aforementioned stamp kit consists of five sets of individual numbers, 0 through 9 (in case people wish to use duplicate numbers in the same serial number), an acrylic block for mounting the numbers to, a (somewhat crude) template for placing and aligning the numbers, a few dry stamp pads (ready for use with your preferred ink), and instructions.

    Here’s what the kit looks like, along with the stamping process and the results:

    The individual polymer numbers (and placement/alignment template):

    [​IMG]

    Here is what the acrylic block looks like with a sample serial number attached. Note that I added a 1/8” wooden shim to one end of the acrylic block to compensate for the height of the individual numbers, and make it easier to apply the stamp evenly:

    [​IMG]

    Here I’m inking the stamp, using a small ink pad and oil based ink (which I believe is what was used back in the day):

    [​IMG]

    And a pic of the stamp all inked and ready to use (although a bit over saturated with ink here):

    [​IMG]

    Here I am aligning the stamp on the practice “headstock”:

    [​IMG]

    And applying light pressure to the stamp:

    [​IMG]

    And now I’m removing the stamp:

    [​IMG]

    And lastly, here’s what the sample serial number looks like (although a little blotchy due to a little excess ink on the stamp or uneven pressure):

    [​IMG]

    And another example of a stamped sample serial number:

    [​IMG]


    There are a few potential drawbacks to this kit that I'd like to mention. First, there is the obvious, in that you have to align the numbers by hand. I did my sample serial number by hand, and without the use of tweezers, in about 2 minutes, with a couple of minor adjustments made after the first couple of trial stampings. If you're doing an occasional guitar with this, it wouldn't be a big deal, but in a production setting where you're changing the numbers frequently, it might be a bit of a pain.

    Also, I'm not yet sure whether this polymer can stand up to the cleaning solution required for cleaning oil based inks; although if Naptha will do the trick, it will probably be gentle enough so as not to hurt the stamp. And besides, You can also clean the stamp well just by re-stamping on paper until the ink is virtually gone.

    And lastly, I'm not sure that the font size is right on the sample kit I received. The height of the stamped letters is approximately 13/64"; and while most people have mentioned they thought it should be 3/16" (a 1/64" difference), the first person I received measurements from told me the serial numbers on his vintage guitars measured 13/64". And I'm sure if we want to reduce the size of these numbers for future kits, it can be done fairly easily.

    On the plus side, this stamp kit allows significant flexibility with how you lay out the numbers. And if you're trying to precisely replicate a serial number with a number or two that's a bit out of alignment, it's easy to do with this kit. And the see-through nature of the acrylic mounting block allows for easy and precise placement on the headstock. Plus, at less than half the cost of the alternative stamp, it will be much more affordable, especially for the casual user/guitar builder.


    Again, I’m very interested in hearing your thoughts as to the aforementioned stamp kit, and what you think of the results.

    And a big thank you to all those who have helped out with this project through your suggestions, photos, and posts in the previous thread and via PM and email.


    Frank
     
    7gtop, Freddy G, Big Red and 4 others like this.
  2. nuance97

    nuance97 Premium Member

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    Looks really excellent to my eyes. :applause:

    When and where can I buy one?
     
  3. expo

    expo Senior Member

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    I like the general idea. A nice kit.:applause:
    Great work.:)

    The blotchy version is a bit to blotchy (but the outline is great), and the softer version looks like a blotchy one should look. :)
    (like the white ink)

    I think the actual perimater has to be a bit smaller all around.
    Like selecting it in photoshop and reduce the selection about one pixel..

    and there are some parts especially on "2" and "7" were you can tweak a bit.
    Maybe you should try to stamp all numbers and compare them again.


    I have no idea with the height, but I think you are close.

    [​IMG]


    I want a set.:D

    :dude::dude::dude::dude:
     
  4. Fletch

    Fletch V.I.P. Member

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    Hmmm... it seems like the ink didn't absorb very well into the wood on your sample. It looks like the wood is sealed or shellacked or something? It almost looks like if you touched it it would smear right off. It looks great on the paper samples though.

    The numbers look great themselves but it seems like maybe there is another issue causing the blotching? What kind of ink did you use for the sample?

    fletch
     
  5. PoorMan

    PoorMan Senior Member

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    Personally, I prefer the $125 option.
     
  6. pinefd

    pinefd V.I.P. Member Premium Member V.I.P. Member

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    Thanks for the kind words and the suggestions/questions, guys!



    Expo, I think you're right with regard to reducing the thickness of the characters a bit. In fact, my original font was, I believe, thinner than how the finished stamp appears. We suspected that might happen, and I tried to make the original thinner than it needed to be, taking that into consideration. But I guess it wasn't quite thin enough. That may also explain why the overall size of each character came out a little bigger than my original. I'm working on thinning the numbers out even more for the next go-around, and will be tweaking the numbers further after seeing them in print and comparing them to actual headstock numbers.

    While I think I understand some of your notations with regard to number tweaks, can you elaborate any more as to what you're suggesting for changes? And as you suggested, I'll try and print out all the numbers tomorrow and post a photo, so you can see how they all look.

    Thanks!



    You're right, Fletch, the ink looks like it didn't work great, but I know I have seen some faded headstock pics where the numbers looked very similar. And the wood was, in fact, sealed prior to applying the stamp...as it should be. Although I made up these wood samples about a year ago, so I don't recall whether I just applied sealer, or whether there's lacquer on there too. Either way, the ink should work, and does dry eventually. It's oil based ink, BTW, which I believe is what was used...and may still be used...for serial number stamping. However, I don't know specifically what brand or type of ink it is, because I used some ink I received with one of the number stamp machines that I purchased previously, and it wasn't labeled.

    In the next day or two, I'll try and do some experimentation with this stamp, using other ink, and also with regular rubber stamps using this ink, to see if I can isolate what the problem is (if any).


    Any other comments or suggestions from you other experts out there? And keep in mind that I'm not married to this method shown above, so if any of you have any serious (or not-so-serious) reservations about it, please let me know!


    Frank
     
  7. pinefd

    pinefd V.I.P. Member Premium Member V.I.P. Member

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    In some ways I prefer it too, although I know it's going to be too pricey for some of the folks here. I will be looking into this option more in-depth over the next few days. I need to find out whether we may run into the same font distortion problems as above. Also, I'm not sure whether there will be as much flexibility in designing the stamp which would allow us to get the proper spacing between characters. Also, keep in mind, with this option, I'll have to place a minimum order of 6, and if it doesn't come out right the first time, that's a hell of a lot of money to throw down the drain.


    Frank
     
  8. Fletch

    Fletch V.I.P. Member

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    I think somewhere in the other thread someone said that India ink is the way to go with nitro so it won't blur or disappear when sprayed... it's available here in any craft store. Maybe that's worth a shot.

    fletch
     
  9. pinefd

    pinefd V.I.P. Member Premium Member V.I.P. Member

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    Yes, I believe it was Mike (Ole' Lefty) who suggested that. I'll give that a try as well.

    Thanks.


    Frank
     
  10. Sgt.Pepper

    Sgt.Pepper V.I.P. Member V.I.P. Member

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    I think it looks promising so far. As suspected by a few people, the stamp making process thickens up the thin lines, and adds all the blurry blotchiness you'd ever want, so maybe it's better to start with something extra thin and clean?
    Also, is it just me, or have the numbers got thicker in the width by the stamping process?
    This seems a really valuable test to see exactly what's needed to clean up the numbers to get the final result spot on.
     
  11. Rhubarb Red

    Rhubarb Red Senior Member

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    I think it's a brilliant concept - especially for the "hobby" builder, and I think Frank should be commended for all the effort he's expended getting the project this far.

    I think this will give a "cleaner" orientation (because of its transparency) and better control of pressure than a library rotostamper.

    All you would need to do would be to make a template from ply or MDF that's the same shape as the headstock with location pins that push into the tuner holes. Cut into the template is the shape of the stamp which, when you drop the stamp in, orientates the serial number in the position it's supposed to be.

    Great idea - put me on the list to buy one!.
     
  12. 69GTLP

    69GTLP Senior Member

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    Damn you Brits are a smart lot:dude:
    $55 is a lot easier to swallow for me.
    Frank you and everyone else who has put the time into this, I Thank you!:applause:
     
  13. skyeking69

    skyeking69 Senior Member

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    Yes Frank...great work!! And everybodies input. I too like the $55 option
    count me in too Frank!!:applause:
     
  14. jworle01

    jworle01 Senior Member

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    Im in for the 55 option! Looks good so far.
     
  15. pinefd

    pinefd V.I.P. Member Premium Member V.I.P. Member

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    Thanks again, guys for all the kind words and great suggestions. And for all those who have expressed interest in one (or more) of these stamps, I've got you on the list. It seems the overwhelming majority of folks prefer the $55 option. And after spending some time today playing around with a traditional "library rotostamper", as Rhubarb Red calls it, I much prefer the ease of use and visibility that the $55 option shown above provides.

    Also, as a follow-up to Fletch's comment above about the ink not looking right, I realized today that in fact, the ink that I applied 24 hours ago had not dried completely. So, that definitely tells me that I was using the wrong ink. So, before I go and request a new prototype stamp kit be made up with thinner numbers (as discussed above), I hope to try out different inks with the stamp set that I already have, to see if the ink makes a difference in the appearance of the applied stamp.

    But in the meantime, I've been working on putting the original numbers on a diet, making a thinner version as shown below. I've also done some tweaking of numbers 2, 5 and 7, based on how these stamped numbers appear as compared to the numbers I've seen on actual headstock photos.

    Here's the new, tweaked, thinner version of the numbers:

    [​IMG]

    And the original version for comparison:

    [​IMG]


    Please keep the comments, questions and suggestions coming!


    Frank
     
  16. The Thruth

    The Thruth wizzard MLP Sponsor

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    Hey Frank, put me on list too for 55$ version :thumb:

    i'm in after sergeant confirm that final version is "correct" :dude:
     
  17. Juan7fernandez

    Juan7fernandez Senior Member

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    I'm in for one too!!!
     
  18. Juan7fernandez

    Juan7fernandez Senior Member

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    A 55$ that is IMO.

    But in the end I'll take one of what ever you decide to go with. I honestly cant find any other alternatives.
     
  19. Gothika777

    Gothika777 Senior Member

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    Look the stamps r different shapes and sizes- you'd have to cut them to the same size for that to work which may not be possible, so u might as well do what Frank did
    [​IMG]


    If I had the dosh, I would get the libary type stamp -I think its worth the extra dosh. Hypothetically if I made a few of guitars the little numbers would get on my nerves and you'd probably loose a few to your cats
     
  20. PoorMan

    PoorMan Senior Member

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    Frank, if no one else wants the more expensive version, count me in on this one.
     

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