5 Reasons You Should Make Your Own Stamping Blanks
I’ve been working in my industry for almost 7 years. Three of which I’ve worked with higher-end metals (14k Gold Fill and Sterling Silver). I’ve ordered pre-cut metal stamping blanks from just about every source I could find and while I did find a few suppliers that were able to meet my volume and quality standards, I always found myself back at the [metal] cutting table.
If you, too, waffle between buying pre-cut metal stamping blanks and manufacturing your own, here are a few things to think about that may make your decision easier.
1. Quality Control. I remember ordering my very first pre-cut blanks a few years ago — I had no idea at the time that it was even possible to manufacture my own. I ordered them with pre-drilled holes, because “work smarter, not harder”, right? When I opened them, my heart sank. The pieces that I had spent my hard-earned money on had scratches ALL OVER them and the holes had tool marks around them. I buffed and polished my fingers raw and was able to get them to a finish I was happy with, although I did still end up recycling a handful. In the end it cost me more in time and energy than it was worth. As I mentioned before, there are some manufacturers that do provide higher quality, but that’s still no guarantee that each piece will measure up to your standards.
2. Consistency. One of my biggest gripes when ordering from wholesalers is the lack of consistency. For example, say I find a pre-cut blank manufacturer that actually supplies the high quality blanks that I require (FINALLY!)… chances of that same manufacturer carrying all three of the metals that I use (yellow gold, rose gold and sterling silver) in the exact same size and gauge is almost unheard of, causing me to go on a wild goose chase to see if another manufacturer carries the same size and gauge blanks in the material that I need — not to mention the quality standard. Insert HUGE eye-roll here.
3. Versatility. I love, love, love when a client comes to me with an idea for a custom piece and we can work together to make that dream come to life. The knowledge and ability to work with my materials is priceless in these situations. I don’t have to depend on another manufacturer to carry the exact shape, size, gauge, material, etc. that I need… I have the tools at my disposal to create a WIDE range of possibilities for my clients.
4. Affordability. When you sit down and really do the math (excluding your precious time), the cost difference between buying pre-cut blanks and making your own may seem negligible — which could be enough of a reason to not add the extra workload. Some pieces I make cost me almost exactly the same price to buy pre-cut and some are up to $1.50 less if I make them myself, but, as mentioned in the previous bullet points, I have the peace of mind that my pieces are consistent and of the highest quality. Plus, in my mind, any savings I can pass on to my customers is worth a close look at.
5. Availability. One of the most important factors I look for when choosing to work with a supplier (outside of the quality of their product) is their ability to keep the items that I need on a regular basis in stock and readily available to me in bulk quantities. When Mother’s Day or Christmas rolls around, I need to be sure that I can get exactly what I need, in the large quantities I need, in a prompt manner. Unfortunately, if I choose to depend on someone else, who may be in the thick of filling THEIR orders, to fill my own orders, I run the risk that they're out of stock — which means I’m completely screwed. By choosing to manufacture my own blanks in bulk, I can be sure to have plenty of what I need on hand at any given time.
I won’t lie — if you decide that manufacturing your own blanks is for you, prepare to work a little harder, especially if you choose a thicker metal. I’ve spent the last two days hammering out discs and my arms and hands are SORE. Also, prepare for a higher upfront cost as you’ll need a pretty specific range of tools at your disposal.
What are the must have tools I need to create my own blanks?
When you consider the hundreds of tools that are possible to invest in, this is a short list. In my experience, these are the mandatory tools for basic bars and discs (you can also make washers with the disc cutter). I buy my tools at Rio Grande simply due to the quality that they provide. To be clear: this is in no way a sponsored post. All opinions are completely my own and are specific to my business.
1. To cut discs I use the Swanstrom Disc Cutter ($350 for the set, including a 2lb. brass hammer).
2. For bars I use a 12”x 12” Precision guillotine metal shearer ($435).
3. After I cut each piece, I toss them into my Lorotone rotary tumbler ($215 +$60 for steel shot) to polish and thoroughly clean them. Keep in mind, too, that if you prefer a rounded edge on your bars you’ll also need to file them down which will add to your time investment.
4. Lastly, I've experimented with several brands and types of hole punches, but the one I prefer is the Deluxe Four-Hole Metal Punch ($55).
As you can see, it’s not a decision to make lightly and is highly personal. While buying pre-cut metal stamping blanks is less time consuming, has a lower up-front cost, and may run you close to the same cost per piece, choosing to manufacture your own can offer the freedom to work with your first choice of metal (instead of what’s commercially offered by your supplier) in the highest quality with the utmost consistency in both look/feel and availability.
Are you already making your own blanks? What tools do you find you can't live without?