You Bring It, This Blings It: Retrofitting a Hot Foil Stamping Machine

Hot foil stamping is a method often used to embellish and emboss premium print media. It’s used on things like letterhead and wedding invitations to add a touch of luxury. The operation is actually quite simple, where a custom die is heated, pressed into a heat transfer foil, and then transferred on to the print media. Some of the very first manuscripts used gold leaf embossing to decorate intricate calligraphy. You can also see it often used to decorate the sides of religious texts.

Professional foil stamping machines are often pricey and the cheaper ones you can get from eBay are usually poorly made. [Lindsay Wilson] found this out when he purchased a low-cost hot foil stamping machine that was too difficult to use reliably. It got shelved for years until he had another hot foil stamping project. This time he was prepared. He took the machine apart and robust-ified it by attaching it to a heavy-duty arbor press. He also retrofit the heating assembly with his own temperature controller to improve the accuracy for the foils he wanted to use.

We’ve actually gotten this done professionally at a book printing factory in Shenzhen and took some photos. This is the heat transfer foil. You can usually get these on huge rolls that mount on to the machine. They also come in various metallic colors such as metallic blue, green, red, as well as the usual gold and silver.

This is the actual machine used to hot foil stamp on to books. It’s also used to stamp the edges of the books to make it look more appealing at book stores.

This is an example of how hot foil stamping can decorate books. In this case, it’s used to decorate the edges of the books which makes it more eye-catching, especially when there’s a stack of them sitting on a table at a book store. It also reminds me of the bibles I always see in the drawers of the hotels I’ve stayed at.

Now we’re just waiting for a conductive heat transfer foil so we can stamp out our circuits on to book covers.

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