Antique Spoon Plant Markers – How To-sday

January 5, 2010 separator DIY Tutorial

I’m clearly on a major metal stamping kick right now, but I’ve still got projects, so why stop now? This is a cute and unique way to label your plants, using old silverware that you could easily get from a thrift store.

  • Antique spoon (Modern stainless versions don’t stamp well at all.)
  • Metal stamps (Mine are from Evie’s Tool Emporium on Etsy!)
  • Nail file, steel wool, or fine grit sandpaper
  • Permanent marker
  • Heavy rubber mallet

1. Place the spoon face-down against a very firm surface. Using a heavy rubber mallet, pound the back of the spoon until it is completely flattened. I found that setting the spoon atop a towel on the concrete worked better than a countertop or table.

2. Count out the letters in your word. Mine has six letters, so I marked six equally-spaced dots with permanent marker. These dots are to help you line up and space your letters properly when you begin stamping. Don’t worry about ruining your spoon with permanent marker; we’ll remove it in the last step.

3. Beginning with one of the middle letters, carefully place your stamp over the corresponding dot. Be sure that the letter is facing the proper direction, and then firmly whack the top of the stamp once with your rubber mallet or hammer. As you can see from the photo, I hit mine too hard, leaving a circular impression around the letters.
4. Using a permanent marker, completely fill in each letter. This will create a patina look to make the letters really pop against the silver surface.
5. Using a nail file, steel wool, or very fine sandpaper, gradually buff away all the permanent marker using a small, circular motion.Finish by wiping away all the dust and marker residue to polish it to a shine. Stick it into your plant, and voila!


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  6. It is a good option to use spoon as plant identifiers. I have also tried this trick. But if we use proper identification marks for plants then it looks more pretty, wonderful and also gives a stunning look to the garden. I bought some plant markers and labels from IdealGardenMarkers. The Markers are very attractive, weatherproof and durable. Thank you for sharing your views with us.

  7. There are some fantastic tips here, such as, ‘using a tea towel on concrete’ and ‘stainless spoons don’t stamp well’. Thanks! Been trying to make some spoon markers for my veg garden but it is slow going! I will try the concrete and tea towel tip with some older spoons this afternoon! Best wishes Sam

    1. I’m so glad you’ve found the tips helpful, Sam. I’d love to see pictures if you do end up making those spoons!

        1. Normally I’d say yes, but since these are so available at thrift stores, opp shops, and garage sales, it seems like a fun way to give them new life. 🙂

  8. Love the idea! But I was wondering if the letters would be too tiny on the label… Where can I get larger letter stamps?

    1. Hi there! You can get them from the same place as the smaller stamps. Etsy is a good source, as well as Amazon or Harbor Freight. 🙂

  9. My daughter just gave me a beautiful spoon she bought for me from the faded nest, and now I want to make them. I don’t like to ask the seller what size stamps she uses as it seems such a cheek.
    Lindsay, you say you used 1.5 but recommend going up to 4mm which seems a big jump in size.
    What would be the best letter to measure because an ‘o’ is smaller than an ‘h’ 🙂
    I don’t want to invest in a set of punches only to find they are too small/big.
    Any advice would be most welcome

    1. Moira, you can probably search for letter stamp sets on Etsy to get a size comparison. If you want to put a lot of text on the spoon, then maybe the 1.5 is just what you need, but I think the 4 is a lot more typical of what you see from the already-made stamped spoons. You could compromise with a 3 if you’re worried though. I think that the size measures a full-size letter, like an ‘h.’

      I hope that helps!

  10. I heated my spoons up with a blow torch to soften the metal a bit before trying to flatten. Then put the spoon in a strong vice. Still need to hammer a bit but it helped. Brasso helps shiny the spoons up at the end. Brasso with fine steel wool would work a treat. Yes, need a strong surface to pound on, flat concrete or edge a brick.

  11. I know it’s an old post, but I googled stamping spoons, and your blog came up first. Thanks for the tips, I made some and they look great.

    1. Hello! I used 1.5mm because they were all I had at the time. Now, I’d recommend going up a bit – maybe to a 4mm.

  12. Re: above: i buy all kinds of vintage silverplate in questionable condition for .10 – .25 cents/piece at thrift shops, church sales, etc, i’ve been doing it for years. look for places and situations that have TONS of mismatched flatware, and then dig! (hint: look for tarnish to find the old stuff!!). if a piece is in really poor shape i’ll craft with it, but if it’s shabby chic or better after i (lightly)polish it, i add it to my collection and use it on the table 🙂 hope that helps

  13. How much on average are people paying for a vintage flatware piece. And Silverplate? My local thrift store had SP for 1.99. I wasn’t sure on the markings so I only bought 3.

  14. Love this idea! I didn’t use mine in the garden though. I decorated my kitchen in herbs and spices and needed something by the door for keys. So I did the spoons just like the pic but then I attached them to an old piece of barn wood with wire. I bent the ends up to hang the keys from and it looks awesome! Thanks for the idea!

  15. Cute! If you use dry-erase markers over the permanent marker, it should wipe right off (also works great if you’ve accidentally used a permanent marker on a white board!

  16. I had a hard time finding the stamps but finally found them at a hardware stopre they were selling them to mark your tools, love this craft do pie servers for weddings

  17. Anonymous, I used a 1.5mm stamp set for the images here. I would actually recommend going larger in the future, unless you have a longer word.

    – Lindsay

  18. Thanks for the sweet compliments and the questions, everybody!

    Anonymous: That’s a great, very cute idea, but this is an entirely different look. It just depends on what you’re going for! 😀

    Carina: Yes, it would be the same procedure. You just have to finesse the stamps into the curve a little!

    Mrs. R: I have overwhelmingly found stamping on stainless steel to be problematic and ineffective. It’s so solid and dense that the stamp just bounces right off, barely leaving an impression at all.

    I would definitely recommend sticking to old silverware from antique, vintage, and charity shops/thrift stores.

    Another problem with the stainless is that it doesn’t flatten out the same way as old silver, so you really just can’t replicate the look as well.

    – Lindsay

  19. I have several sets of stamping alphabets and the all the tools, etc., but I would love to know more about the types of metals that the spoons ideally need to be.

    Really struggling with stamping on stainless steel right now.

  20. Busy Bee Tools in London, Ontario, has the metal stamping alphabets in two sizes. The shafts are about two and a half inches long – plenty of room to hold and steady the individual letters. You could also kludge up a clamp with two pieces of wood to hold several letters together into a word… They cost ten dollars for either size (includes the numbers 0 – 9 as well). I suspect any decent hardware or tool store would have these for much less than the craft places!

  21. This is beautiful! Tell me, do the spoons need to be a soft metal like silver? I have had some issues stamping on stainless steel. Any tips?

  22. I’m excited to try this project out for my husbands garden. He would just loovvee it! Thanks

  23. Thank you so much for showing this!! 🙂 If want to keep them as spoons, and not hammer them, is it still the same procedure?

  24. I did these in these in a much simplier version. I typed out each name. printed. Modged podged it on. Then applied several coats of a spray outdoor sealer. { Valspar clear flat – interior/ exterior premium enamel}

  25. Thanks so much for your time and energy! I found you my accident! Thank you Lord!
    Brenda from Kentucky USA

  26. Thank you so much for this tutorial! It was just what I was looking for!

    Wishing you a wonderful day!


  27. I made a couple of these yesterday – using stainless steel spoons – took a really good hammering to get them flat and I had to use a metal hammer to do it. The stainless steel is really hard to my letters didn’t imprint very well either, but I was really please with the results.

  28. Hi!!
    It´s gorgeus. I like IT, its very creative….
    I know your blog today, its very creative. I like so much….
    I go on around here a litle bit more ;D
    Kisses from Madrid♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

  29. My Experience:
    Don’t frustrate yourself, invest time into finding silver plate silverware (not sliver which is SO expensive and too beautiful to smash). Stainless Steel is WAY TOO strong, even with a hammer. I found plenty silver plate at a local antique shop, but didn’t have any luck at a thrift store. Buy extras because you will probably screw the first couple up- until you get a feel for how to punch the letters well.

    You need to lay a towel between the spoon and hard surface, while hammering and punching letters-it is key in my experience. Helps stabilize the spoon. Skip the permanent marker, get some acrylic paint and rub it on with fingers, and before it drys rub excess off. Quick and seems to adhere very well.

    Thanks Shrimp Lady! I love this project.

  30. Hi Lindsay: I am thinking of trying this, but did you have to have a special set of the alphabet to be strong enough for the metal on a spoon? The descriptions I’ve seen say for sheet or soft metal.

  31. I just bought a metal stamp set and am so excited to have found your wonderful tutorial! Thank you! I’m looking forward to browsing around your blog. It’s lovely!

  32. The antique spoons are so interesting. I have lots of that here at home and I think I have now an idea on what to do on them.

  33. Lindsday

    I have just come across your site and look forward to reading the rest of it. Thanks a million for posting this tutorial up – the markers are fabtastic. Quick question what size is the type on these spoons?


  34. I’m so glad I found this site. oooooooh a MARKER! I bought the stamping tools but had no idea how to get my letters so dark. I thought I didn’t hit it hard enough. Now it makes sense. Thanks

  35. Oh my this is soooo helpful. I’ve seen these for sale at Anthropologie and they seemed so easy to DIY. GREAT tips listed in the readers’ comments. Thanks Lindsay.

  36. Very nice *and* ironic since I’m going to use this great tutorial to mark plantings in my vegetable garden which I plan to eat from all summer. Thank you for posting this wonderful project.

  37. Merci beaucoup pour cette superbe idée!
    si vous me le permettez je vous citerai sur mon propre blog, à très bientot, miette

  38. I’ve done it with stainless steel, and it worked, but it took a lot more hammering to flatten the spoon. I also had a much harder time getting the marker off afterwards. Old silver flatware works much better.

  39. I tried this with stainless steel spoons, and they didn’t really bend or stamp– is silver softer? Or is there a certain type of spoon I should look for?

  40. Love this idea and I’m glad to know I can get the stamps at Harbor Freight. I can’t wait to get them and see what else can be done with them. lol

  41. This is the cutest project and totally inspiring! But, let me share my experience: I bought a little (1/4 size I think?) set of small letters from Harbor Freight, it came in a little red case with a “punching tool.” It was only $10! WRONG set to buy. The letter stamps are very short so you can’t really hold them alone to pound them in, they are made to go into the stupid “punching tool.” The punching tool is apparently made for soft materials like wood or leather, because it bounces around when trying to hammer into the spoon.

    Also, the rubber mallet is a little difficult to get the spoons flat, so I tried a hammer – much faster results! But the letters with the punch tool still does not work, and the letter size I bought was too small. So keep this in mind when buying the letter set! Get a bigger size letter with LONG “handles.”

    Now I need to go back and buy the other ones. I can’t wait to get my spoons in the ground and am sad that my first attempt was a flop…but…I hope this helps the next person! 🙂

  42. this is so awesome! i’ve been wanting to make these as a gift for a friend. thanks for sharing!

  43. What are those stamps called? Where did you get them? I would love to try this, but I don’t know where to get the stamps.


  44. Where does one get the metal stamps..? They werent listed in your list of materials I noticed.

  45. Do these have to made with silver spoons or could you stamp on the newer stainless steel spoons? Just wondering before I get too excited.
    I’d love to make these for my psycho gardening husband.
    [email protected]

  46. I LOVE this! I just bought some metal stamps the other day but I’ve yet to use them. I think I found my first project!

    Would you mind if I shared your tutorial as a “Teach Me Tuesday” feature on my blog? http://[email protected] Thanks!

  47. I LOVE it! When spring comes and I replant my herb garden I will HAVE to make these! 🙂

  48. Those are so cute! I have always wanted to try metal stamping, it looks like fun! This project would make a really nice Mother’s Day gift, thank you for sharing!

  49. Now I’m really impressed ! I tried this over the summer and do you know what happened ? NOTHING – I didn’t even bend the damn spoon – How is that even possible ???? I am pretty strong too so I don’t think it was lack of trying. Hence I gave up spoon art. On to the violin perhaps….

    1. Were your spoons sterling silver? I have tried this with metal dollar store spoons and same result of nothing. Silver is a soft metal so it works much easier, aka works. Maybe this helps?

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