I’ve been really excited to work with Pork Pie Hatters over the last few months. I’ve made hat stands, hat blocks, and some fun laser cut experiments for them and it’s been sincerely fascinating to find ways to blend their classic hand crafting tools and techniques with the kind of digital fabrication that can bring mass production polish to boutique small run items.
As part of defining the look of Pork Pie Hatters products and bringing some cohesion to their packaging, they commissioned me to make a set of huge stamps to brand their cardboard hat boxes. Since these giant roller stamps would be inconvenient to hide away in their stores, I decided to make the whole design fit with the old school aged wood aesthetic of the rest of their equipment.
The process started with prototyping some structures in CAD. Once I figured out how to evenly roll a stamp across a big surface like a cardboard hat box and sussed out how to make the stamp’s handles ergonomic I turned the design into a laser cutter-able Illustrator file and started cutting on some maple veneer ply.
In parallel with this process I was developing the pattern for the stamp. I wanted something that had the same kind of classic aesthetic without getting too cute. I did my usual trick with mocking up a custom font in Illustrator using some brushes to stand in for my kind of wobbly handwriting. Once the illustration was nailed down it was flipped horizontally and etched into some low-odor stamp rubber.
From there, the wood was assembled with some urethane glue and plenty of clamping.
After the glue set I applied the laser cut pressboard base in the exact same way. The cutaways on the inner ribs are actually to let expanding foam through the interior, and once the pressboard was set I poured the foam into the hole between the handles, which reinforced the whole thing for a lifetime of stamping and shop related abuse.
A few coats of stain and polyurethane finish later, I had a fancy looking durable stamp that weighs nearly nothing and is durable enough to tolerate being used as an everyday tool.
I actually adore putting decorative features to mask the artifacts of assembly. Covering up the foam pouring hole with a decorative pig emblem was a special nerdy delight.
Lastly, I adhered the stamp on to the curved base and it was ready to test. I gave Pork Pie a brayer and extra large stamp pad to make sure the ink spread evenly across such a large surface.
There you have it, folks. A professional looking tool made from a few simple digital fabrication techniques and some easy hand finishing. I really love when a process can be this straightforward and precise and take the hand crafting out of the equation. Laser cutting allows me to put the time and labor and love in the conception step and not on the execution.