I just started metal stamping and am having some difficulties ... the stamps don't seem to be going through well enough to leave a good impression. If I hit it harder, though, it is bending the metal. Is the problem with the stamping blanks I am using, or are they all about the same?
All metals are different in hardness and it is best to use softer metals for stamping projects. The metal gauge/thickness is an important consideration. Depending on the gauge of your stamp blank, you will need to adjust the firmness of your strike. Sterling silver is softer than other metals and therefore easier to stamp.
One key ingredient to obtaining a good stamp impression is the stamp itself. Be sure to use a quality stamp with good design definition. Working on a steel bench block will give you a firm foundation which is also essential. Make sure you are holding the stamp vertically then strike the stamp very firmly with a hammer, one time. The firm strike will help assure your impression transfers fully the first time as it can be quite difficult to align your punch for a second strike. Make a few practice stamps in parts of the metal that you know will be scraps to help gauge the firmness of the strike that will be required.
Tip: You can hit the punch again with the hammer if you feel you didn't hit the punch firmly enough the first time to make a good impression and you are sure the punch didn't move. It is not advisable to do this because most of the time the stamp will move slightly after the first stamp. Hitting again after any movement of the stamp position could cause the image to blur. If your blank does bend, you can hammer it flat again using a rawhide or rubber mallet to avoid marring the metal.