Brass Foil Stamping Dies

The camera on my phone is getting worse… This one came out with hardly any of the detail showing :frowning:



The small packaging company I work for is thinking about getting into doing custom foil stamping on our stock paperboard boxes. After speaking with a foil supplier, I quickly understood that the cost of dies would be the sticking point for us and our customers.

I recently bought my fiancee a Shapeoko for her birthday and wondered, “Is it possible someone is using something like a Nomad to make their own foil stamping dies?” I contacted Carbide3d and they suggested I look in the forums. BOOM! Here we now are. Here you are.

I have one hundred billion questions for you. Maybe it is closer to 8 questions, but you have done EXACTLY what I was wondering was possible. If you had a couple of minutes to spare, it would be great if you could answer some questions. For starters:

When using the Nomad (I saw your beast of an upgrade a minute ago), how long did the average die take?
What was the biggest size die you were comfortable making?
How much per die is your company saving?
What is your cost per die?
How long did it take for you to get things dialed-in/up and running with your own tool creation?
What foil stamping machine(s) do you use?

Even if you do not have time to answer my questions, I really appreciate the fact that you shared what you have here.

Thank You!

I am always happy to help. Never hesitate to ask!

Your questions:
How long did the average die take? Depending on the level of detail, 6 to 8 hours. Some with a lot of fine detail would take 12-16 hours (usually overnight).
What’s the biggest die size I was comfortable with? I made dies up to 5" x 5" and a couple other projects that maxed out the capacity of the machine. Naturally, larger = more time.
How much per die is my company saving? A company called H&M used to make our dies for $77 each. When you count shipping (brass is heavy) we were paying about $90-$100 per die. With the Nomads, our die cost was about $30 each. With my new monster machine, the cost is about $8 each, and that includes my pay lol. The nomads, on average, saved the company about $4500 a month. New machine saves about $15,000 to $20,000 per month.
What is my cost per die? Right now, considering the high worth of the brass chips, my cost per die is hovering right around $8
How long did it take to get set up? It took me about 3 months to get good enough to not break tools or scrap dies. Keep in mind, I had ZERO CNC experience of any kind when I started!
What foil stamping machines do I use? Franklin Foil stamping I have three like this. I also have two Trekk machines, which are custom built to provide up to 20 tons of pressure.

if you have any more questions, or would like to have me make dies for you, just let me know! Depending on volume, I’m sure we could work something out that will be mutually beneficial :slight_smile:


Good Morning from Iowa James!

Thank you so much for taking the time to not only respond, but to reply so quickly and with answers that get right into the heart of what we are considering.

I just spoke with an incredibly helpful foil vendor and asked him about using CNC machines for die creation. He said we would need a machine that had hair-thin tools for detailed designs. Have you found finer designs to be a challenge? What is the thinnest space/channel between design elements and thinnest line you would tackle using the Nemo?

I also learned that a lot of places use acid to etch magnesium or copper dies. Is there a reason you went the CNC route with brass vs. etching? I understand that brass lasts the longest but is also the more expensive.

The gentleman I spoke with this morning also mentioned H&M. He also said the brass used would need to be perfectly flat. Where do you get your brass stock? Is it special? Do you have to mill it flat or lap it?

Your help has blasted me miles ahead of where I was in investigating this project, James. You have bolstered my faith in my fellow man (and the internet)!

And yeah, I will absolutely keep you in mind when it comes to getting dies should we jump into production with this project!


Things got busy… I’ll give a nice answer on Monday! meanwhile, have a great weekend!
(Just got hit with 39 new work orders… that’s 87 new dies I need to make!)

Holy cow that seems like a lot of work. I very much look forward to your nice answer. You have a fantastic weekend too, James. Again, I really appreciate your taking the time to help me out with my very nichey questions.

My apologies for the time frame of this reply. I could go on and on about workloads, people getting fired etc. But I won’t!

Referring to your questions:
The only thing I have found challenging about the finer details is the amount of time it takes. Some dies would take 24hrs or more to complete. (Now those dies take 30-40 minutes!). So if you have a lot of fine details, I do not recommend the small machines.

If you insist, here’s what I used to use on the Nomads:

.1mm is about .0035 inches! So .004 would be the minimum space required. I only ran foil stamping dies, so I had depths of .005 to .010

We used to use acid etched magnesium, but most of our runs are in the hundreds, and the magnesium dies just cannot stand up to that, along with the constant heating and cooling. Cracks would quickly form along the edges.

I get my brass stock from a local metal supplier. You can too! there are a surprising number of them everywhere.

I get 12’ lengths (they deliver right to my shop).

I then cut the pieces I need with a hanly little metal cutting band saw:

Then I used a $700 cutter head on my $3200 knee mill to make sure the parts are flat within .001. That’s all I need for stamping leather. I can’t imagine a tighter tolerance would be needed for paper, as that medium is just as variable as leather.

I hope I have given enough information :slight_smile:


No problem on the delay. “People getting fired”… that’s intense. I’m glad you were presumably away from the fray to the extent that you didn’t catch any employment-ending shrapnel.

This is outstanding information, James. I really appreciate you taking the time to answer my questions so completely (with pictures no less)!

I imagine the knee mill is faster than using a smaller-not-$700 bit in the router to bring your stock within the tolerance you listed.

I think you have answered all of the questions I had on deck, James. I do have one more new question. The new bigger machine you have can cut the same die in a fraction of the time that the Nomad would take. I know little about making chips with a CNC router but on a gut level I figured there would be a spindle speed and/or heat limitation that would prevent such a drastic jump in efficiency. Please tell me what makes the bigger machine so much more capable.

I hope the center of your week is Tootsie-Pop delicious and the tail-end of your week is looking even better. On behalf of all of my fellow box makers here in Iowa, thank you again for sharing your smarts with us.


Indeed. Just one pass and I’m ready to make the die.

Since I was the guy that was doing the firing, I think I was pretty safe LOL

The “bigger” machine is faster for a few reasons:
–Higher RPM means I can cut processing time by significant amounts.
–Higher torque/ horsepower means I can use bigger tools, and take deeper cuts.

My 400v 3 phase 30amp 40,000 rpm spindle does a wonderful job!

My primary roughing tool can be seen here:

Basically, the faster you can remove the chips, the faster you can go. Bigger tool = bigger chips = faster still. That’s where the larger faster spindle comes in to play. My finish passes with the tiny tooling:

Are still 5X faster due to the RPMs.


Good Morning James!
Firing someone is never fun. Hope the changes you made help even more than you had hoped.
Thank you for the explanation as to how the beefier machine is so much faster. I had not considered tooling and torque. That makes a lot of sense.
The detail you provide is ideal.
If you ever have leanings toward teaching in a more formal setting than a forum (although this is teaching for sure) and you feel your spirit leaning in that direction, the vote from this stranger is for you to do it! You get to the heart of things without being dry.
Best of luck to you in all of your endeavors, James!

Good Morning James!

I was just speaking to my boss about the prospect of a foil stamping machine and went to my notes to look up the model number of your Franklin stamping equipment. I don’t think you ever shared that with me so right here and now, I am asking what model number are they?

Also, what is the biggest sheet/blank you can fit into them?

I know you shared you had some custom built machines as well. Please, sling me the model and make of those too if they even have one being as they are custom.

Hope this follow-up finds you well! Thanks again for all of your help.


Hi James,

I’m getting into this now. When you say “hardened brass” is there a special kind of brass I should look for - some kind of letter-number designation or something?

Thanks again for all of your help.


When you talk to your metal supplier, ask for “1/2 hard” or “full hard”, C360 brass. 1/2 Hard is pretty easy to come by - the difference will probably affect how long the die actually lasts, maybe @JamesC can expand on that :


Hi, Mike. Thank you for sharing this with me. I just ordered a couple of bars from the folks behind the link provided. Have a great day. -Kip

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Hi James, I’ve been lurking since I got my Nomad 883 Pro over a year ago. I’m using it to make parts for Irish concertinas that I build from scratch. Part of decorating the leather and the bellows requires making hot foil stamp dies. I’m getting pretty proficient with making some complex things in 2d in Carbide Create but I’m not sure where to start with setup for these dies. I have a 2’x3’ sheet of 3/16” brass half hard but as of yet I’ve only done wood and aluminum in the Nomad. Is there any tips for how you setup for this type of die? It’s a contour path I’m guessing. Here is a photo of what I make. The foil stamping will go on the leather around the end frames. Seth Hamon.


Here is the bellow section and the dies will foil stamp in place of where the printed decorations are.


Have you seen:

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I haven’t and I follow Winston. That would work on the leather ends so just need to make a flat die for the paper decorations that glue between the flats. Thanks, Seth