24 November 2020

Badge making

Although badge making has been around for centuries (it was the Chinese who invented the process over 6000 years ago) it was only the invention of the drop stamp machine in the mid 1800’s that led the way for “mass” production in the early 1900’s.

The basic process of making a badge is very much the same whether it be for a football club badge or any other collectors field and there are several different badge types and methods used, some of which have very complex processes involved, below is a brief overview of the original method and then below that a few variations of the same theme.

The process begins with a coloured drawing of the required badge and an exact copy of the design is created by someone known as a “die sinker” who cuts the design into a piece of cylindrical metal. 

The design itself is left flush with the surface with recessed areas between them to hold the enamel. 

The die is then heated to harden it and incorporated into the stamping machine, once the design is stamped onto the metal the metal is then cut to shape using a punch which forces the badge through a pre cut hole the required shape.

The fittings are then soldered onto the stampings and the rough badge cleaned in acid.

The next stage is the application into the recesses of the relevant coloured enamel which is heated to fuse it to the metal. Each individual colour must be done separately otherwise its possible they would bleed into each other.

Once this stage is complete the badge has a lumpy rough appearance and must be ground/polished down to the flat level whereupon the original design is apparent.

A final heating may then be done to remove any scratch marks from the grinding process.

Hard Enamel – Cloisonne badges

The original hard enamel badges were known as Cloisonne and were created from a flat piece of metal which was then die struck (stamped) , this embeds the image into the metal base. This produces raised metal lines depicting the text and graphics. These recesses are sometimes known as canals.

Into these recesses the relevant coloured cloisonne paste (a type of heated powdered glass paste) was poured, the badge is then baked at high temperatures until blazed hardened. The result is hand polished (or machined in bulk manufacturing) until flush with the metal lines that separate the colours. This process is then repeated for the next colour and so on till the badge is complete.

Hard Enamel – Epola badges

A newer type of hard enamel cloisonne badge which is now very common is known as Epola.

These badges use the same principles but a hard epoxy enamel paste is used instead of the powdered glass. As well as being a cheaper alternative this also gives the opportunity to utilise over 1,000 Pantone colours in the process whereas the originals had a much more limited colour palette.

The resultant badge however is very hard to tell apart from the original and only an expert can truly tell the difference between cloisonne and epola badges.

Soft Enamel badges

These badges are similar to epola but the edges between the colours are not as smooth. The process is very similar to hard enamel but a softer enamel is used which is cheaper and doesnt lend itself to as much detail as the more expensive option.

The finish of this type of badge is often slightly recessed to create a multidimensional look or can be coated with an epoxy dome which helps both prevent scratching and gives a smoother look and feel.

Die Struck – Stamped badges

Another version of badge which uses the processes above are known as Die Struck. These basically use the resultant badge from the stamping process but dont actually fill in the recesses with any colouring. They can still be given a high quality appearance but without the extra cost of enamel filling.

The average die struck badge can have several different finishes applied to each individual badge, this can be either matt surfaced, highly polished, hammered effect or raised-relief areas. This type of badge gives a sophisticated and elegant look giving a 3-D effect.

The above badge can be seen in various metal finishes such as gold, silver, bronze, copper or nickel. 

Insert badges

This was a popular method in the 70s and 80s for football badges in as much as they didnt use any sort of enamel. Basically a shape was cut from metal with a recess shape left in the middle. Into this recess was glued a pre-printed emblem. A very basic but still collectable football badge. 

Photo Etched badges

This is a more recent process and isnt really relevant to football badge collecting as this isnt the usual method used for football badges. However the process is involved in creating these is interesting in as much that an image of the photo, picture or artwork is chemically etched into the metal with acid. This creates recesses which are filled with soft enamel. This particular process allows for very high definition of the design with the various colours separated by metal lines.

That then gives you an insight into the process behind the making of one of the most collectable items in the world of sporting memorabilia – football badges !!!