The Business Card Banned From Planes

I can’t think of a more boring blog subject than business cards. But when I started thinking about designing my own, I wanted to put my own signature on them. I had a few non-negotiables: I wanted them to be made in the United States, I wanted them to make an unforgettable impression without being cheesy, and I wanted them to say a little bit about BLCKSMTH just from looking at them.

The finished product…well, minus the “@” symbol

Enter St.Paul Stampworks, an engraving and stamping company based in St. Paul, Minnesota. Since its inception in 1870 by its founder, Axel Mellgren, this company started out making “marking equipment” including seals, door numbers, and plates for church pews. Eventually Mr. Mellgren diversified into categories like medals, badges, and printed materials.

Over 130 years later, I found them online and contacted Joyce, a personable salesperson, who understood exactly what I was looking for when I described it. In fact, she didn’t bat an eye when I told her I was going to use their metal tags, traditionally used for identifying pipes and electrical fixtures, as business cards!

The cards start as a large aluminum sheet which needs to be cut down into smaller pieces with a machine called a “shear”.

Raw aluminum sheets, ready for the shear machine
Shear with the operator, Lowell

Next, the pieces are placed, one at a time, into an intimidating-looking machine, called a “kick-press”: This puts the hole on the side of the card. I’m also planning to use these cards as a tag on my postcards that I sell on the Etsy shop…but in reality, I think the machined hole just adds to the cool and industrial look of the cards. Additionally, the kick press also is used to round the edges of the card, important if you want to not stab potential clients in the hand when you hand them your card. If you care about that kind of thing.

The kick press

Next, a chase containing the letters is created, similar to assembling letters for a printing press. I was informed that they did not have the “@” symbol, simply because it’s a relatively recent addition to symbology (a word I thought I just made up, but upon research means exactly what I hoped it did), and there’s not much call for email addresses on tags traditionally used to label plumbing and electrical pipe.

Stamp, in chase

I decided it would look pretty neat if I just wrote in the “@” symbol on the cards by hand. I also intend to write my phone number and Twitter handle in appropriate circumstances.

Finally, the chase is placed in a punch press, the metal blank is placed on top, and the punch press goes to town.

Punch press in action

I think the end result is great, and serves to not only be something memorable I’m proud to hand over, but also showcase the precision and craftsmanship of its manufacturers. Thanks to St. Paul Stampworks (especially Joyce!) for their patience with a pretty picky customer, and thanks especially to Jim Mellgren for taking pictures of the process.

The process

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