Stamp Making

Stamp making can be a quick and easy project or it can be an in-depth expression of artistic talent which requires skill and finness. Both can be fun. 

I decided to make a stamp for my blog's logo because I like the imperfect look that homemade stamps create and I have no idea how to make that style in a computer. I know that many people can do amazing things with photoshop or other programs but I am really more of a hands on kind of gal. So I opted for the old fashioned way. 

To begin making your own stamps all you need is a surface to cut and something to cut it with. I remember as a kid making stamps out of potatoes. That was fun but if you something a little more finished that won't rot you will have to go out and get a few relatively cheap supplied. 

 

The above photo illustrates all the tools you will need. 

1. Tea. I recommend a good chai. Ok, this is not necessary but tea helps me to everything so I consider it necessary. 

2. Stamp carving set. This one was about $8 and comes with multiple tips that can be stored in the handle. You can get fancier sets but I'm cheap. 

3. Design. Your stamp needs a design. You can print something off the computer or draw it yourself. You could draw your motif right onto the stamp but you would need to do it backwards so that when you stamp it the design comes out the correct way. I don't have that kind of talent but if you do then by all means, go for it. 

4. Tracing paper. Not completely manditory (as you could draw directly onto the carving block) but really really useful. I'll show you how this works later. 

5. A pencil. I use a 3B. Something with softer lead that will transer well is best. 

6. Something to cut into. For this I used Speedball's Speedy-cut carving block. No, I have no idea why they called it that but it works great for making stamps. Really easy to cut through. If you are really just beginning you could try making a simple stamp with an eraser but they usually don't cut as easily as these specialized carving blocks. 

Process:

Assemble materials. Nothing sucks more than sitting down to some real hardcore crafting and then having to get up every few mintues because you forgot some supplies. Stamp making is not as time sensative as working with glue but gathering everything before hand also helps you to make sure you have everything and don't need to run to the store. 

Once your materials have been acquired you can begin. Step one is to trace your design onto the tracing paper. 
 

If this is your first time making a stamp then go for something easy. A line of hearts or a balloon. Something fun but not too detailed. I may have been stretching my abilities with this design but I've got a couple others under my belt so I thought I would give it a whirl. 
 

To get the image onto the carving block you flip the tracing paper over and place the side you drew the design on to the block. You then rub the back of the tracing paper so that the design rubs off onto the block. Some people use special rollers but I just trace by pencil over it which works well enough for me. 
 

Voila! You have some backwards letters on your carving block. Don't be daunted. Trust that the design is what you want and just carve line by line and it will come out great. You can go about craving it one of two ways. 

1. Carve out wherever there is a pencil mark. This will give you a negative stamp where the raised area around the lettering takes the ink and the lettering itself is void of color.

2. Option two is to carve out everything around the lettering or design which will leave it raised. The ink will then adhere to that surface and when used, create the inked impression of the design you made. 

I opted for option two. 
 

This can take a good amount of time depending on how intricate your design is. You can see all the cuts I made in just getting the W carved out. Slow and steady definitely wins this race. Go too fast and you could take out half a letter without even realizing it. 

Halfway done. That line you see as the bottom is where I decided my stamp would end.  I didn't need to use the entire carving block so I carved in a line to keep myself from going any further than that. You can use as much or as little of the block as you want and cut the rest off and use it for another stamp. And unless you carve really really deep into your stamps you could also flip it over and carve the other side as well. 

Done! It probably took me about half an hour to carve the whole thing. Like I said, slow and steady but I managed not to take out too many letter chunks. Once you think you've got it looking good then take it for a test spin. 

See how when I inked and printed it there are a few places that are still too high and leave a mark? Well I can either carve them out a little bit more and make the stamp as close to perfect as I can or I can leave them and expound on how it adds handmade character. Your choice. 

Now it is true that these stamps are bendable and could break so if they are long and thin like this one you might want to be gentle with them. Better yet, if you have a piece of wood laying around that roughly fits the size of your stamp you could always glue the stamp to the wood so you had a nice little handle for it. Of course, that means you can't carve the back so you have to decide which is more important. For small stamps or ones you plan to only use once or twice I wouldn't bother with the wood. But if you make, say, your signature or an address label and want to use it again and again then scrounging up some wood or other solid chunk would be useful. Or if the stamp is really big. You can buy those craving blocks as big as 6" by 11" or maybe bigger so a wood backing would really help something that size. 

To recap: For about $15 you can get the supplies you need to make your own stamps. Anything your little heart desires. Now go and make something awesome!