Sunday, September 19, 2010

Using Touchmarks

The beginning blacksmith may derive sufficient pleasure from the creative activity alone so that marketing and selling is not a consideration. However, the situation changes when making the transition to blacksmithing as a business.

The best strategy for growing a business is probably doing good work. When the work is good enough for the maker to stand by it may help the business to sign the work. Traditionally smiths and other craftsmen have used a distinctive maker’s mark to stamp the inverse of the mark in the finished product identifying it as their creation. They are also known as maker's marks.

Touchmarks are coining or embossing stamps with a unique image associated with a practicing craftsperson or shop. I have read that making a touchmark was part of the ceremonial transition from apprentice to craftsman and that the touchmark was destroyed upon the death of its’ maker.

It is my experience that clients who have commissioned work like the notion of having their work signed so that is sufficient reason to do it. However, another reason is archival. Well executed metalwork will likely be around for a long time and it is uncommon enough that there is some probability it may eventually attract historical interest.

In recent years I have helped students make touchmarks but I actually had mine made by a manufacturer specializing in stamping dies. I chose one stamp to strike my initials and another stamp to strike the stylized persimmon logo.

I don’t touchmark everything I produce especially small items which may be appropriate for sale at an art/craft show. Even a small custom item I would likely sign with just the logo stamp. Larger forged projects are signed in an inconspicuous place with the persimmon logo stamp, the DJE initial stamp and alphanumeric stamps which identify the month/year of production; for example, 10.09.

Each smith will have to decide whether to bother using a mark and what symbol would be appropriately unique. A well made tool steel stamp will hold up through thousands of strikes in hot or even cold annealed mild steel.

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