Daydreaming on Paper
May/June 2004
Carve Your Own Rubber Stamps, Page Two

Let me start by stating that I am right-handed. I have no idea if my carving methods work comfortably for lefties. If you are such a creature and are so inclined, drop me a note to let me know of any tips that may help other differently dexterous friends in their stamping adventures.

Step 5: Let's carve a stamp! I tend to start by carving a thin outline all around my image. Hold the knife at an angle with the blade facing you so that you are cutting away from the image. Make shallow cuts at first, using almost just the tip of your knife. Once you have done an outline, turn the stamp and do the outline again. What you want to end up with is a shallow, V-shaped ditch around the image. This is what the Speedball cutter does for you - make that ditch. In my opinion, that useful function is not worth the money; but, I digress.

Step 6: Now that you have your outline, take another go around the image, this time taking off slightly bigger and deeper chunks out of the edges. At this point, you should see why it is so helpful to trim your carving material close to the edge of your image. Keep going around the image, taking care to turn and maneuver the stamp so that you are always cutting away from the image. "Scoop" the knife as you cut. You want to end up with a sloped foundation for your image. Work slowly and err on the side of shallow versus deep.

Step 7: After you have cut away the outside edges, it is time to tackle the inside white space and to do more detail work. Again, work in shallow cuts. The smaller inside spaces will generally pop right out when you make your first shallow outline. For larger inside spaces, I do an outline and then carve away progressive chunks, working from the outline inward.

Step 8: Continue to trim the excess material away from your transferred image. Use the tip of your knife to really get into all the nooks and crannies. Take your time. Haste is the enemy of a good stamp carving. Patience, Grasshopper. Find your zone and revel in it. When you think you have gotten your image more or less perfect, it is time to stamp your image onto paper. This is your chance to fine tune your image so that the stamped results are exactly what you want. I do not like to do a lot of back end tweaking, so I tend to put a lot of time up front in detailing my image. Keep stamping and carving until you have the look you want. In general, the stamped image tends to be a little chunkier than the original. You may like it that way (I do), or you can use your knife to trim the fat, so to speak. Another way to keep the stamped image on the same scale as the original image is to use a pencil with a finer point and draw just inside of the lines when you make your tracing. Here is my first stamped image with my carving. I liked the results, so I left it at that.

Step 9: The only thing you have left to do at this point is to clean your new stamp. I use soap and water. I work up a light lather in my hands and gently rub the inky side of the stamp against one hand. Then, I rinse it under water and lightly pat it with a towel. Once dry, it is ready to go for next time.

The art of stamp carving is difficult to teach using words and images alone. I have tried to explain things as clearly as possible, but if you are having trouble with these instructions, please feel free to ask me for further clarification. Your questions will help me to make this article even better.

So, what are you waiting for? Grab an eraser and start carving! Need more inspiration? I have scanned a few pages from my carving notebook for your enjoyment.

Have fun!


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© 2004 Dawn R. Vinson. All Rights Reserved.