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I have many hand tools that are hardened steel or chrome vanadium. I'd like to mark them with my last initial for easy identification when friends come over and vomit their own similar tools out all over my garage and workbench.

I know that engraving by hand is common amongst mechanics, but I would like to use a hardened steel stamp because it would look neater and (I think) be quicker. Is it possible to leave an impression on hardened steel or chrome tools in this manner?

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I used to mark my tools using a car battery (with leads long enough to be away from the battery : safety gas explodes) and one of the small brushes from an alternator as the electrode to write with. worked well but you have to move quickly...

So, example photo from one done so long ago circa 1981 or '82 about...burnt initials

sorry about shadow but lighting was difficult and would hide the initials. If I remember I ground the brush to a point - no need to press hard and probably any hard carbon type material would work. I seem to remember that there was a tool which was a tube with a spring loaded electrode in it to do the same thing. Warning : it gets hot so make sure you hold it suitably - but as you are a welder I can assume you get the drift ! And I did that with all my snap-on tools - that was the 12mm single hex socket I had to hand.

  • This is insane but awesome:) Do you have any photos of the result? I will admit I have thought about this because I am a welder, but obviously traditional welding is too powerful and messy to work on small hand tools. – Tedwin Jan 17 '17 at 18:29
  • Youtube has several videos where they use a battery charger and some sort of mild acid (vinegar) and ?salt? and use a mask template to put initials onto normal hand tools. – Blackbeagle Jan 17 '17 at 22:33
  • When I was at work - time was chargeable to jobs (down to minutes) , so speed was definitely of the essence : setting all that up containers, templates etc, but as a vehicle electrician a battery, leads and the brush were easy... – Solar Mike Jan 18 '17 at 8:57
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It's possible to make it happen, but I'd bet you won't have good luck doing so. The hardness of the metal is what makes this the issue. There are a few other things you can do which may work for you.

  • Colored electrical tape - Wrap a few times around your tools with a specific color of electrical tape. Something like red or blue. While it's removable, it is highly visible and should make it easy to differentiate your tools.
  • Spray Paint - Much like electrical tape, but will stay put longer.
  • Powder Coating - Better yet, but a little more expensive to make happen. You can make your tools pretty much any color you'd want and they'd be easily detectable. Getting your own PC'ing gun and baking oven may be well worth it if you have a lot of tools to do. The outcome of the tools would look awesome and the durability of PC'ing will last for a LONG TIME.
  • Electrical Etching - Not as easy to detect, but acts fairly much like a welder, but with a very fine point. Not as easy to make it neat, but will last the life of the tool. It would also be a little harder to spot right off the bat.
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Have you considered etching them? I saw a video on youtube by Chrisfix a few weeks/months ago where he did this. Since it works with a liquid chemical, you can create a stencil to keep things neat and fill the etching in with ink or paint. The etching creates a depression, so anything inside it will hang around for a decent enough amount of time.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zGtDz_rGgs8

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Thanks for all the great ideas. I decided to try to stamp my initial into flat items like wrenches. I may try to electrically etch curved items like sockets later on. The stamping turned out way better than I thought it would! Here is a couple of examples:

enter image description here

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    Stamping works, but depends on how hard the items are... – Solar Mike Jan 19 '17 at 16:19

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