Raiding the button jar: How to make your own wax seal

January 26 | Guest post by Liz Gubernatis

Wax Seal made from a knight and a viking ship button

Wax seals lend a hand-made touch to invitations, place cards, and other paper-crafted pieces of a wedding. They're also a simple but gorgeous way to seal your handwritten vows until ceremony time, or to close a love letter for your significant other, all super-romantic-like. Beautiful seals are available commercially and from various vendors on Etsy, but here's a trick to making your very own at home with a small handful of supplies.

Materials and Tools:

  • One shank button with raised design, preferably made of metal, though thick plastic will also work in a pinch. (A shank button is one without those handy stich holes, and with a shank or ring on the back you would use to stitch it onto your item, instead.)
  • An old chess piece: bishops, kings, queens, rooks, all work well for this.
  • Epoxy
  • Nail polish remover

Special Note Regarding Buttons: The flatter your button, the easier it is to get a good imprint in the wax. Rounded buttons will work, but may require more wax or a finessed impression technique to see the whole image. Raid your local button jar, garage sales, or thrift shops for buttons with fabulous imagery, or if you're looking for something specific, try local yarn and quilt shops for a wide selection of awesome finds.

Procedure

Step 1: Clean your old chess piece. Peel off any felt on the bottom and use a dap of nail polish remover to clean any gunk off the wood's surface. (Yes, you can use plastic or glass pieces for this, too – I had an old wood set laying around missing a pawn, so that's what I've used here.)

Three Seals to Be

Step 2: Clean and dry your button, paying particular attention to the shank side. If it is possible to remove the ring at the back, go ahead and do so. If it's part of the button, leave it be.

Step 3: Knead your epoxy together according to the instructions on your product. I use enough to make a small marble. This lets me flatten it into a disc that covers the bottom of the chess piece with enough depth to seat the shank of the button. I like Wonder Putty because it's quick-setting and holds forever, and if I'm too impatient with my application, it's also easily sanded down to fix any goopy weird globs.

Mixing and applying the epoxy

Step 4: Use the epoxy to set the shank side of the button into the bottom of the chess piece. Try to keep this as even as possible. Let set/dry according to instructions. This is the hardest part. If you get greedy you'll have to start over when your button sticks in the wax and your handle comes off because you just couldn't wait. Don't let it happen to you!

Finished Wax Seals

Step 5: TaDa! Time to test your new seal. Melt your sealing wax using a torch and allow a few drops spill onto your testing paper. When a small pool has formed, wait about 10-20 seconds to let it begin to cool. Press your seal into the wax gently but firmly, and lift straight up. Voila!

Testing the wax seal on envelope

Applications:

Just about any paper product can be sealed with this, though you should always test on scrap first to see how the wax and your paper play together.

Seal ribbons on gifts, but avoid synthetic ribbons, which may smolder when wax is applied. Silk ribbons are best for this application.

Tips:

If your seal begins to stick to the wax when making impressions, it's probably getting too warm. Best way to fix this is to put it on ice between impressions — not directly, as the water would get messy, too, but fill a plastic baggy with ice (or grab a bag of peas) and let the metal part of the seal sit on it to cool — should lift clean away as you keep stamping.

If wax sticks to the button or seal, cool it off then use a toothpick to pick at any bits that are stubborn. If there is still some residual wax left, it can normally be removed with nail polish remover.

Niche links:

How can you make this your own offbeat item? Choosing your button puts the design decision in your hands. Here are a few ideas:

Your turn! Will you make yourself one of these? Please comment below telling us how you plan to use your bad ass wax seal.

  1. This is such a clever and simple trick, thank you!

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  2. YEAH LIZ!
    Good post, too.
    I'll be making one of these for J….I see a valentines day present in the near future….

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  3. This is my favourite idea! We were trying to get custom initial ones made, but it was way out of our budget. I am definitely going to try making these this weekend!

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    • Fantastic! I tried to make an initial – but buttons turn into reversed seals, so only those letters that are symmetrical work for this. There are SO many pretty buttons out there, though! Would love to see what you come up with!

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      • Ooh, I bet I could find a symmetrical "A" button! Thanks for the idea!

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  4. I saw this post and almost cried! My fiancé and I just had a family crest done, I'm going to look for a button that's similar in some way and have this done!! Thanks so much!

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  5. Rubber stamps will work for this, too. And if you want to use a letter for your seal, like for a monogram, a rubber stamp won't reverse the letter when you press it into the wax. :)

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    • Good point! Rubber stamps are already "reversed" so any wording works great this way.

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  6. When we used seals we found that you can get the wax at stores like Papersource ready to put into a glue gun. This made everything go a LOT faster.

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  7. PERFECT! I have always wanted a wax seal but so was too expensive! You solved long-standing problem! My wedding guests will get an even snazzier invite now!

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  8. aaahhh!! these would make great christmas or birthday presents too!!!

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  9. Silly question… does putting a wax seal on the outside of an envelope you are putting through the mail work, or is it only practical for inner envelopes? And if used (whether for inner or outer envelopes), is it likely to increase postage?

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    • Wax seals doesn't up your postage and they went through just fine on outer envelopes in the mail when I use them. Can't wait to make my own seals with Liz's method!! Thanks bunches Liz!

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    • They can. We used a wax seal on our invites. When the lady at the post office felt the envelopes and felt something raised inside, we had to pay an extra $.20 per envelope.

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  10. i'm so in love with wax seals and dip pens and nice heavy paper but i have no reason to ever use them besides the occasional scrapbook page. anyone i would write a pretty letter to, i talk to online so often it makes snail mail redundant and silly. anyone have a good excuse to use lovely stationary?

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  11. I find many excuses to use lovely stationery, but one of the best is to make a habit of sending thank-you notes. sending a paper note says something email and phone calls don't and people love to get them – especially moms and grandmothers. I love to send thank-you notes at Thanksgiving to people who have contributed to my life in some way throughout the year.
    another good use is love letters and even quick notes to your sweetie – tucked into a lunch, or other unexpected place, a note is a lovely thing to find.

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    • The viking ship has come into regular use in our house for sneaky love notes when one of us is going to be gone overnight somewhere else… it's a fun extra touch to handwritten notes just because, and has led me to writing more "snail mail" for an excuse to use it – and who doesn't love snail mail?

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  12. This is brilliant! I can use this technique in scrapbooking pages too! Great tutorial!

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  13. I was in an actual button store! I bought a wolf, a crest, and an anchor for less than $2! I have some sealing wax for practice but I can't get it to work, I think I'm gonna cheat and buy the wax for glue guns. So excited.

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  14. This is super cool! I'm so trying this! Thanks!

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  15. Hey this is a great idea. I have a cute button which I would love to use as a seal for my cute nephew. I am going to try this idea right away and hope it turns out fine. As I am going to try this for the first time, I am excited and happy.

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  16. Initially I was apprehensive but I followed step by step mentioned on this post and it turned out excellent. These wax seals are not only economical,attractive but also easy to make with minimal raw material.I will use them on my husband's company's letterhead.

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  17. These wax seals are somewhat better then the rubber stamps. Although I have to try to make one as your guidelines. Everything explained so well that it looks easy to do & it will be done with so less cost. I have a question though 'Are these seals reliable enough to use means how long-lasting these seals are ?'

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  18. Traditionally and conventionally rubber stamps,ink and colour prints are used often on letters,cards and envelopes.I was looking for some variety and it seems that my search ends with your post.Wax seals are so easy and comfortable to use and would give a shining,dazzling look to the cards.

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  19. I have been using traditional seals for a lot of uses. I run a small concern where writing is an integral part. As most of the information compiled are important and confidential, we mostly seal the written matter and deliver them. I think I will try these wax seals now.

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  20. I am a postgraduate student of Literature in the University of London and presently working for an exhibition on arts.I used these different coloured and different designed wax seals for the envelopes of invited guests. Everyone at the event complimented me for using this traditional way of sealing with a yet giving it an artistic,elegant as well as a modern touch using wax seals.

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  21. I will totally echo the praise of glue gun sealing wax. Making 80 of those suckers with the candle version was just not going to happen. We ended up making the seals on parchment paper and then pealing them off and gluing them on our invites. That way only the ones that turned out the best made it on the final product.

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  22. Thank You! You just did me a great service. I have been looking for a method to create great though inexpensive seals for a trove of RPG props (and potentially children's theater props, too) that need created. We need many with varied designs, so purchasing just would not work. Your method should work wonderfully. I am not sure just how crafty I am (and do not know if I desire to be) but this process is quick, easy and cost-effective. My thanks again.

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  23. What if you'd like to make a custom seal or stamp? I love this idea, but we have a family crest that we would like to design on the end of the seal/stamp, instead of a generic button. How would you guys go about customizing it a little bit more? Does anyone have resources they have used for custom stamps or seals?

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  24. Delighted to find so many people who know so much about wax seals. I have long (very long) wondered how to remove a square of paper which was placed over a wax seal on a document which is now framed. Suggestions have included nail varnish remover, a hair drier, glycerine and hot water. I am afraid of causing damage so can anyone tell me what I might do, please?

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