Wargaming Tradecraft: Letter Punch or Letter Stamp


Letter Punch or Letter Stamp

These are what are called Letter Punches or Letter Stamps. Not exactly something you'll find a whole lot of use for, but if you find them cheap, then why not. (I believe I got these for about $8)

Punches are made out of strong metal so that you can hit them with a lot of force. You can mark light metal (like the following hobby material) and hard metal. (like keys) They come in different sizes and fonts, these don't include numbers but some do.
Either line up your letters ahead of time, or take them out one at a time. By taking them one at a time, you can keep them all in order easier.

To fight rust, they're sometimes conditioned with oil. If that's the case, careful about what you handle while working with them and wash your hands after. (Oil makes for terrible painting surfaces, wash with dish soap before priming if you get minis dirty)
 Here's some hobby metal. It's 40 gauge, which means it's crazy thin - don't handle too roughly or you'll damage it.

(Why can't measurements be real?)
 All you do to use these, is place it against a surface, firmly, and hit the other end with a metal (not rubber) hammer. To make the letters clear and readable, the indent needs to be strong; that means hit the punch hard, so don't miss.

The surface you're punching against should also be strong and able to take this force as well as relatively smooth. (A rough surface will impart it's texture on your metal.) A block of wood's a good choice. I use a glass palette atop my painting area - you can bet I remember to remove it before I start stamping.

Spacing becomes important when you're punching. Starting over with this sort of thing means you've wasted your punching material.

I've cut some paper in the size that I need the wording to fit on. Then, I use a knife to mark the lines I'll be cutting out later as a guide.

This'll take some practice, but spacing and alignment can be tricky. Get the letters as close as possible to each other without overlapping. As you can see on the left, I dropped my "Y" a little.

Punches are usually square so you know which way things are angled. Try to keep your characters straight, unlike the "E" to the side.

Most punch sets are designed to be read from the side you're punching them on. That means the text is sunk into the surface and reads left to right. If your material is thinner, the letters will jut out the other side and be raised. They won't be readable though, because they'll be backwards. (There are probably mirrored punch sets out there though.)

Here's the trick - depending on the letters you use, you can write backwards (right to left) so the letters jut out the other side of thin metal. Interestingly enough, a lot of our alphabet works reversed when using capitals.

Symmetrical: A H I M O T U V W X Y 1 8
Work turned around 180 degrees: B C D E K N S Z 3 5
Can't be turned around: F G J L P Q R 1 2 4 5 6 7 9

Symmetrical letters are the same on both sides if you drew a line down the middle. Other letters can be turned around to face the other direction and still be the same. As you can see, numbers don't reverse as well. (Some numbers might work either way depending on their font, so I've listed them twice.)

After you've got your metal punched, cut it out with a knife if it's thin enough, or use tin snips to cut thicker metal.

And here we have license plates for the Postapocalyptibuggy. "KTHXBYE" - Kind of a modern take on "Eat my dirt!"


  1. The whole way through the article I was trying to think of ways to actually make use of those. The licence plate idea is perfect for your postapocalyptibuggy (I was guessing on how to spell that, I was surprised I actually got it right when I went back to check. hah)

    It could definitely be used for licence plates on just about any type of vehicle, but I'm still having trouble coming up with more ways to use them. If you have terrain buildings made out of metal they could be used on those. Did you have any other uses for them in mind?

  2. As an avid scrapbooker/altering artist. I have several sets of these in varying fonts and sizes. They're perfect for greenstuff work, thick cardstock banners, foil, tin, bronze and gold leaf pieces to apply to buggies, koptas, tanks, jets etc and many other fun uses. One I REALLY like is a custom set of initials punched into a luggage tag for my transport bag.

  3. Those are all neat ways to use these. I might have to put some of those on my looooong list of things that I want to get.


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