Leather Embossing With a 3D Printer!




Introduction: Leather Embossing With a 3D Printer!

About: My name is Chris, and I make things. Follow my makerspace on Instagram @makeeverythingshop And check out my new Youtube page www.youtube.com/makeeverything

In this instructable I will be going over the steps to 3d print a very simple stamp to emboss leather with. This is a great way to make custom branded products like hats and other merchandise with your own unique logo.

Below is a video that goes through the process step by step. For a detailed write up continue into this instructable for more!

Step 1: 3D Design in Google Sketchup (Free Version)

For the 3D design of the stamp I will be using Google Sketchup, this is the free version of the desktop application for mac. The template ill be using is Interior and Production design - Inches.

The primary tool I will be using is the 3D text tool. Its very intuitive to set up your text using the option boxes presented. The variables your going to want to adjust are the text height, and the extrusion distance. In my case I set it at 1/4” text height with a 1/8” extrusion.

Once I get my text laid out I go ahead and add 2 borders to create some definition on the stamp.

Step 2: 2. Flip the Design to Make the Stamp

An important thing to do once you complete your 3D design is to flip it so its a mirror image of itself, this will create a correct impression once its in the leather.

Step 3: 3D Print Your Stamp

Im using a MakerBot Replicator to 3D print my stamp. This could likely be achieved on most 3D printers, but something to note if you want a good amount of Infill so the stamp has strength when its being pressed in the vise. I also recommend printing it to a raft and then LEAVING it on the raft once the print is completed. The raft will keep the letters oriented properly.

If you don't have a 3D printer you could have it printed by one of may internet 3D printing companies like Shapeways.

Step 4: Set Up Your Stamping Blocks

Once the 3D print is complete you can set up the block you'll use to hold the stamp in place for repeated use. In my case I like to use some pieces of 3/4” plywood. You really can use any material that will fit your stamp with about a 2” border on all sides. You want the 2 pieces of wood to be the same size.

Step 5: Glue Your Stamp Down

I use 5 minute epoxy ( West system G5) to glue my 3D printed stamp to the center of one of the blocks. Take care to make it nice and square in the center of the block, this will make lining it up with your material easier moving forward.

Step 6: Set Up Your Block in a Bench Vise.

I like to set up my stamping blocks to work on a specific vise in the shop, This helps with alignment down the road when you are using this stamp. I clamp the blocks in the vise lightly making sure that the vise jaws are lined up with the 3D printed stamp. Once this is lined up I take a sharpie maker and outline the vise jaws onto the wooden blocks. I also note the TOP of both of the blocks. This might seem like an unnecessary step but I can tell you it makes the setup of this SO much easier and in turn your more likely to use it.

Step 7: Prep Your Leather

I am using Veg Tan leather I get from amazon ( ). I cut a strip that slightly oversized to the stamp I am planning to make. I recommend this because if you try and make it exact you may have alignment issues when you do the pressing. Its very difficult to get exact placement because the blocks shroud your view. Once you have the piece cut I run it under some sink water for a few seconds to get it wet.

Step 8: Clamp Your Leather and PRESS

With the leather wet I head back over to the vise and using the alignment marks I made earlier get everything set up. I use light pressure at first to get everything set and then put as much clamping force onto the jaws as I possibly can. This will ensure a good impression. Once its clamped I wait 10 minutes before I remove it.

Step 9: Pull Your Leather From the Stamp.

After 10 minutes I release the vise and pull out the stamp to see how it came out.

Step 10: Trim Your Stamp and Continue.

With the stamp complete I trim it to the desired size. Once this is done there are many things that you can do with the stamp. I usually dye the stamps brown and glue them to merchandise like Hats and backpacks. Using leather adhesive you can get a permanent bond really quickly.

Step 11: Enjoy Your Newly Branded Stuff!

I really like the look of these leather patches and the fact that they can be made at home/in the shop opens up tons of possibilities to personalize goods and use a variety of designs. I really hope you enjoyed this instructable and don't forget to check out and share the Youtube video in the first step. If you have any questions please let me know in the comments! Thanks!!



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28 Discussions

Thanks for sharing. Looks like the 3D printed piece has held up pretty well! How many embossed stamps have you made so far with it?

I made some mistakes in the last layer of the print, but it looks good.

· Advice for those who try:

-Make sure you can apply force on the entire surface, if you only apply force on a certain surface only that part will be strong.

*You can also use laser engraved methacrylate for a result totally free of impurities.

2 replies

What 3D printer do you use, I'm interested in 3D printing but know nothing about it. Your's seem to be working very well.

2 replies

I am using a makerbot replicator x2. Its just OK. I have a lot of issues with it clogging and half of the time when I go to print it messes up halfway through. Im looking for another option.

Sorry for you, if you ever find something good tell me, I'm starting to look for a 3D printer but I don't know where to start as there is so much stuff around and more I don't know anything about these, by the way which material are you using to print these ... lets say negative plates ?


Question 8 days ago

Very clever! I wouldn't have thought plastic would work for embossing leather. It looks like you used ABS. Have you tried this with PLA?

What do you use for the printable media? Plastic is hard and durable enough????? I know everyone is enamored with 3-D printing, but this looks like a job a CNC router would perform better. One could use hard wood or metal for the blank.

3 replies

I was wondering the same thing. Shapeways can print in various metals (including steel, I believe) as well as lots of different types plastic, but printing metal becomes a good deal more expensive.

The different plastics they use have different qualities, some being more flexible than others, some probably being more durable. I would imagine that if the stamp isn't pretty tough, pieces of the image will start to chip off with use.

Any ideas on ideal materials?

PLA might be able to withstand 11,000 psi, but it would have to be solid to do so. The ridges on the embossing blocks you are making won't withstand anything like that. If I step on a lego in the dark it's likely I don't have shoes on and the reason the lego doesn't break is my foot gives first! Even with shoes I can't put but maybe 100 psi on it. Not unless I pick my foot up and stomp on it with rengence! Not nearly the same thing. I can certainly step on plastic project boxes that have been 3d printed and break them. Professional leather workers use a small metal tool or a single letter at a time. I don't think your embossing with the plastic plates and vice are going to last. And I don't think you have the experience with the technique to say it'll last a long long time. Less than a few months? While it might not require much pressure to emboss wet leather it will take a lot of pressure to make it last. I have items that didn't last a long long time and I used a hammer and individual metal letters.

VERY good idea, I actually like it, except for use of plastic. After you have had one of your projects actually last a long, long time you can call me wrong.

With sufficient infill there's no problem about plastic taking pretty enormous pressure on leather...as anyone who's ever stepped on a lego in the dark can attest :-)

It doesn't really take a ton of pressure to emboss wet leather, This will last a long long time...and when it breaks, just spend an hour and print another one :-)

See here (go to test 3 compression): PLA can take up to 77.4 MPa of force, on that test sample that translates to 11,000 psi.


really enjoyed the video, creative use for 3d printing.

thought you did an excellent job, great sound, video, editing, it clicked along at a good pace so i did not get bored. :)

the cadd program used is actually "Trimble Make"

Might want to note (for the complete newbs in the audience) that you want the smooth side of the leather against the stamp...

what weight leather did you use? thanks.


9 days ago

Another quick way to align the dies is to screw a strip of plywood on the die parts to rest on top of the vice jaws.

Great video,do you have a YouTube channel