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Making a brass Vehicle ID Plate

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Wikispeeder Bruce C
Tewksbury, MA, USA   USA
I recently made a VIN plate for my cyclekart, and thought i would share how I did it, in case anybody wants to make one of their own.

This was a fun little project, as I got to try out some new techniques. There are a lot of ways to skin this cat, so if you don't have access to certain tools, don't let that stop you!

I took my inspiration from this video [url=][/url] and adapted it to fit my needs. The main changes I made to the process were the etching and filling, which I'll describe later.

The black spray lacquer is a fantastic resist for etching, I must say. The laser cutter set at a moderate speed and power removes it beautifully and with fine detail. I did bake the resist at 250F for about an hour to harden it off fully before taking it to the laser cutter. If you don't have a makerspace with a laser cutter near you, like I do, you could probably send a plate off to a shop to have it done. Alternately, you could use a classic photo etch approach with the blue iron on photosensitive film, or even do the photocopy resist trick. (I've have variable luck with the photocopy method, so wanted to try this to compare)

For the etching, I was very curious to experiment with a less toxic method that uses a saturated salt solution (Kosher, non-iodized salt) and an electrolytic process. I made one electrode out of a piece of printed circuit board, and the item itself acts as the opposite pole. Each piece was attached to some copper tape I had around (you can improvise here) and everything I didn't want etched (including the copper tape) was covered with clear packing tape. I placed the two electrodes in the salt solution about an inch apart, with the PCB electrode (negative pole) on the top. The electricity was supplied by a large wet-cell car battery. Ran it for about an hour and got a very nice etch.

I trimmed and sized the pieces, and removed the lacquer with acetone, and soldered on some threaded studs for mounting. Once that was done, I cleaned everything very well and sprayed on a heavy coat of lacquer to fill the lettering. This was allowed to dry, then baked at 225F for about an hour to harden it off. After that, some 220 grit wet/dry paper was used to sand off the lacquer on the upper surfaces, leaving the filled letters in black. I could have done it like in the video and used powder coat, but the lacquer seemed sufficient and somehow more vintage. A final bit of work with some 600 grit smoothed up the brass.

I will use stamps to put the car information on, then clear-coat it all with some Krylon so it won't tarnish. As you can see, I made a couple of these, in case I mess that up! I'm not totally happy with the lettering and the proportions, so I may remake this. The process was a great success, though, and I can recommend the salt etching to anyone.

Here are some pics of the process.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 2018-05-26 01:14 PM by Wikispeeder.

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Resist_after_etch.jpg    69.7 KB
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Wikispeeder Bruce C
Tewksbury, MA, USA   USA
More pics


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Filled.jpg    48.6 KB
Filled.jpg

Soldered_lugs.jpg    44 KB
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Cleaned_No_Numbers1.jpg    60.7 KB
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Wikispeeder Bruce C
Tewksbury, MA, USA   USA
I wasn't satisfied with the lettering weight and spacing on the first one, so I went back and tried again. Success!

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Old and New.jpg

Neto Ernest B
Berlin, OH, USA   USA
Good, and GREAT! (I like both of them, and I really like the look of brass on a vehicle.)

Wikispeeder Bruce C
Tewksbury, MA, USA   USA
In reply to # 33534 by Neto ... and I really like the look of brass on a vehicle.)

I do too.

Decided to take the plunge and do the hand stamping for the Model and chassis #, and it gave it that hand made look I was hoping for, just like the originals. It practically has an Italian accent.


Attachments:
4CM VIN PLate Polished and Stamped.jpg    40 KB
4CM VIN PLate Polished and Stamped.jpg

andrewroudny Avatar
andrewroudny andrew roudny
peterborough, ON, Canada   CAN
1939 CycleKart German "The Vulture"
No disrespect meant, but what I see in the video isn't exactly a garage "DIY" kind of thing. They have a CNC router and a computerized laser cutting machine. Just having the part made professionally would seem to be the better option over buying that gear, no?



"I never lose. I either win or learn.”
-Nelson Mandela

Wikispeeder Bruce C
Tewksbury, MA, USA   USA
In reply to # 33581 by andrewroudny No disrespect meant, but what I see in the video isn't exactly a garage "DIY" kind of thing. They have a CNC router and a computerized laser cutting machine. Just having the part made professionally would seem to be the better option over buying that gear, no?

None taken.

The essence (and results) of the process can be achieved in several different ways, without needing all the expensive equipment. As I said, the video was the inspiration only, and I didn't use anything but the laser cutter, and that only because I had easy access to one. For me, no CNC mill, and a simpler etching setup and instead of powdercoat, I used the same can of spray lacquer to fill the lettering as I used for the resist. I just hand filed the brass to shape.

If you wished to do this with humbler equipment:

Create your design on the computer, Print it out onto overhead projector clear plastic stock (see video below) or onto printer paper. Paper won't get you super-fine details, but it will be good enough for something like a brass plate. If you have artistic talent, you could even hand draw resist onto the brass plate itself. I figure we all have computers and printers by now tho.

Using photoresist film. In the video, they use a laminator to put the film on the metal, but it can be done with a household iron, if you put a piece of printer paper over the photoresist to keep the iron off it.

If that's too much, you can try photocopier transfer

How to do a saltwater etch. I used a car battery for the power source. My setup was perhaps even more rough and ready than this one!

We all use the tools we can get our hands on. That said, pretty amazing results can be had without a lot of gadgetry. At the end of the day, I'd like to be able to point to the more decorative parts and say, "Yes, I made that myself"

-Bruce



Edited 3 time(s). Last edit at 2018-06-01 05:51 PM by Wikispeeder.

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jcny Avatar
jcny Silver Member John Corey
Melrose, NY, USA   USA
1927 CycleKart French "Sam"
Great stuff, Bruce! Can't wait to see this!



Builder: John 'the Fierce' Corey, aka Lord Emile Salmson (or Lordy Miles On Some)

Woodysrods Silver Member Brian Woods
Westbank B.C., Canada   CAN
My son has a friend that owns a "Badge Making and Engraving business. So I sent him the attached drawing an measurements ante made the an ID platte for the dash of my soon to be finished Miller.
Brian

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