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I am planning to buy some small steel sheets (such as those) and a letter punch set (such as this one) to engrave some data for safekeeping. It is for a one-off job so I am not looking to spend to much - but enough to do a good job.

I am wondering:

  • whether a normal (500g?) metal hammer or rubber mallet will do
  • whether I will need any kind of support (e.g. special bench) or if I can improvise one easily - I assume I need a hard material
  • whether the steel sheets are appropriate for engraving - not too hard for the punch set?
  • Anything else I should know or haven't planned for?

I am probably overthinking it but I would not want to realise too late that this was a bad idea!

  • Wouldn't it be easier to print out the data and store the sheets in a small fireproof safe. Print out multiple copies and store in different locations. – Barry Jan 15 '18 at 0:18
  • 0.9mm seems awfully thick. What are you trying to protect it from? Also do they have any "maker spaces" in your area, and do they have anything like a Laser Cutter/Etcher? Renting time on theirs may be far cheaper, easier and more accurate. – Harper - Reinstate Monica Jan 15 '18 at 0:39
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  • whether a normal (500g?) metal hammer or rubber mallet will do

A 500g/1lb metal hammer should be fine. A 1000g/2lb would not be overkill

  • whether I will need any kind of support (e.g. special bench) or if I can improvise one easily - I assume I need a hard material

Solid support is needed, but it need not be hard. End-grain wood is typical - a straight section of log/firewood will serve. Set on ground or a concrete floor to minimize bounce, or use a very heavy support.

  • whether the steel sheets are appropriate for engraving - not too hard for the punch set?

Stainless steel in most grades is very difficult to punch as compared to mild steel. You should also realize that you are not "engraving" which is a cutting process (can be done with cutting tools or acid or electricity, but material is always removed) - you are stamping (or embossing) into the face of the material, deforming it to make an impression. In stainless steel, that deformation causes "work hardening" so it can be quite difficult and may exceed the capacity of your punch set. Using a thinner stainless sheet in "dead-soft" condition as sold might help with that.

A simple wax-resist chemical or electro-chemical engraving process might be a lot easier (coat with wax, scratch through the wax to the bare metal, immerse in an etchant bath where the bare metal is eaten away and the metal protected by wax is not.)

  • Anything else I should know or haven't planned for?

Wear safety glasses for sure (the potential to have a chip fly off the hammer or punch and into your eye is always there) and hearing protection of some sort is also wise when hammering.

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  • I agree entirely and would add that if you chose stainless steel for corrosion resistance, brass might perform as well in most environments but will take the punch impression deeper without the risk of dulling your punches. – herb guy Jan 15 '18 at 2:56
  • I like the idea of aluminum, brass or copper; because of corrosion resistance and ease of handling. I think you will find that punching these higher grade materials will be far more manageable/rewarding. – Paul Logan Jan 15 '18 at 3:53

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