Not Just A Floor Wax But An Embossing Powder!

The embossing process used in the creation of some of your fancier wedding invitations and business cards is an interesting one. It’s often called thermography or thermographic printing. Slow-drying, wet ink is applied to a substrate. The ink is dusted with a thermoplastic polymer called embossing powder, and a heat source raises the ink while drying it.

Commercial embossing powder costs about $10 an ounce. As [Ken] discovered, its manufacture is quite closed-source to boot. He set about creating his own embossing powder, and succeeded with a combination of commonly available floor finish and distilled white vinegar. A standard-sized bottle of floor finish yielded about four ounces of homemade embossing powder.

How does this work? The floor finish is an acrylic-based stable emulsion. Adding vinegar destabilizes the emulsion, decreasing its pH and setting the polymer free.  It’s a fairly fast process, which you can see in the second video that accompanies [Ken]’s write up. From there, it’s mostly a matter of straining the material, letting it dry, and pulverizing the coarse matter into powder. In the first video, [Ken] performs a comparison test of Ranger, a commercial powder, and his own concoction.

For a completely different take on home embossing, check out this soda-can-turned-keepsake-box.

27 thoughts on “Not Just A Floor Wax But An Embossing Powder!

  1. Never knew floor wax was was actually an acrylic polymer. Wonder what other cool applications you could apply it to?

    Maybe you could cast your own plastic parts?
    Or perhaps you could use it to apply a protective coating to circuit projects (it’s a good insulator).

    1. Same here. I just assumed the “acrylic” claim was mostly marketing, rather than it containing copious amounts of plastic. Clever use of household products. Including use of a dryer sheet not only as a mesh to produce fines, but add anti-static properties as well, which I bet is quite helpful. If one didn’t want to use that, a bit of liquid fabric softener added to the water wash might accomplish the same thing.

      I was curious if there were other uses for the Product Formerly Known As Future, and found out it’s used in modelling and miniatures. Used as a base coat that readily accepts paint. A clear coat. Fills scratches in transparent plastic parts. Built up in multiple layers to produce objects that look like water and ice.

      It probably would serve well as a circuit coating. Personally I’m wondering if it will reduce the appearance of some scratches on the outside of my 46G acrylic aquarium that are a bit too deep for polishing out. It’s a common problem with acrylic tanks, yet I’ve never heard of anyone doing this. I’ll test and practice on some scrap acrylic first.

      1. I experimented with Future back in the late 90’s just before I quit building scale models. My experience with Future is that Future yellows over time, making your fish tank or whatever look like it’s filled with urine. However, since speaking with a modern scale modeler recently, this was actually caused by a reformulation Future did sometime in the mid 90’s and it was supposedly corrected a few years later.

      1. Extrapolate. What stage in the process and how could we use this. Please explain more, otherwise the comment is somewhat random. Reading the original article modelers use it to make clear plastic and other objects more shiny (or add color).

        From what I read toner transfer PCB making requires super glossy cheap magazine paper. All I can think is make the cheap paper more glossy? As in lower the adherence of toner to the paper before transfer so more of the toner can be placed onto the copper? Better finer traces?

        Maybe cooking the paper first with the embossing powder so it won’t melt when we print to and then iron on? I’m thinking temps of this Acrylic. Is this the same stuff they used to say can renew a car paint job and is a UV protectant?

        I mean this is fairly keen if one were to say applications for binding graphite into a conductive and non layers or diy resistors or capacitors.

        …Is this the same as that overpriced green soldermask paint?

        Anyone want to chime in please do.

        1. I’m guessing he meant using this on top of the toner after it’s been transferred to the copper to make cleaner/finer traces. Problem is how to get this stuff to stick to dry ink? I’d love to see someone mix this stuff with toner before printing to see if it helps in the PCB making process. That could kill your printer though i suppose…and how do you remove it after etching?

          I’m also intrigued by your soldermask idea. Somehow get this stuff to stick to the traces but not the pads.

    2. I use this floor wax to coat/seal my cured polymer clay works of art! Pendents, charms & sculpted items. It works well & leaves a nice shine. Can use multiple coats for even better sealer & shine.

    1. Cottage cheese isn’t a plastic in a true sense. No long chain polymers, just protein.

      Not a bad snack with fruit, or with some nutmeg and smoked salt, but not a plastic.

  2. This Future or whatever it’s called now is also excellent as a fabric stiffener. Want to make a stand up collar for your evil overlord costume? Fake body armor? Need to outfit a bunch of background extras with helmets and don’t have the $ to buy from mil-surplus for everyone?

    Obtain or make a form. Cover with plastic wrap or packing tape if it’s porous. Or if it’s smooth, wax it good with car wax. Lay the fabric on the form then spray the Future onto the fabric until it’s just saturated. Let dry then peel off the form.

    The fabric is now water *resistant*. A good soaking will get into the fibers and soften it. Bending, crumpling, wadding it up etc will break the floor polish and make your fabric flop. Easy to fix, if it’s wet let it dry, put back on the form and apply a fresh coat of floor polish.

    Ammonia is the recommended solvent for this floor polish but it takes a while for the typical diluted stuff to do much to it.

    1. From my understanding (and I’m not an expert…I watched the same videos you did) this is sort of just a plastic in powder form. The ink is just something wet for it to stick to before the heat gun melts it to the paper. I would imagine it will behave the same on any surface it can stick/bond to.

    1. timgray1, The image you provided is an embossing enamel and not the powder and when I clicked the image it came up at Amazon for $31.00. Not the same product? In the video I stated that the Ranger is about $ 5.00 for an ounce and a current check at Walmart is $4.59. I still think that the fun is in the hack and the price is secondary anyway. Thanks, Ken.

  3. My wife is into crafting like crazy and probably knows secrets to cheaper embossing powder along with all the groups she belongs to and youtube crafters she subscribes to. There’s all kinds of folks who make their own “whatever” out of household items and chemicals you’d never think of. When the end of the world comes, you may want a crafter or two in your camp… Some one the stuff she has is pretty much granulated hot melt glue as far as I can tell. At least it has that feel to it. I thought I had a lot of electronics stuff in my home lab. Her crafting stuff almost needs its own house!

    1. Make each other smarter then. That sounds pretty cool honesty, all the c^H b^H, I mean 25+ year old girls I’ve gotten involved with only care about tumblr, pintrest, facebook and bs bout bff drama and sleeping.

      Look, check out Edmund Scientifics, there are a ton of science toys and projects you could both work on to reverse engineer and make cheaper. Post something awesome you both collaborated on. :)

      Bring her onto HaD sure we are judgmental, asperger and adhd bipolar manic depressives but some of us like sharing and learning new stuff. Be forewarned there is a guy here something like [morose] who likes to get hannibal style and have posters deconstruct themselves when they post b.s. or act snooty. (Poor guy must have been bullied, never got the lead cheerleader and lurked four chan for far too long either that or he has an IQ of 160 and schizo.)

      Order small samples from sparkfun for wearables have her look/study at it and give us better ideas. Cheers.

  4. I know this post is a few years old, but for anyone reading it – you can also hack the “ink” needed for embossing by using glycerin. I successfully made the embossing powder Ken developed and it worked like a charm! RIP Ken, your legacy lives on! <3

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