Stamp Carving Fun

The stamp carving continues apace and we're still not done.  This is truly addicting!  This is a little tutorial about how we did it.

But first, some links to sites that were very helpful and inspirational.  I first started thinking about making stamps while I was reading Gennine's Art Blog.  I discovered her blog a couple of months ago and find all her posts inspiring.  She is quite an artist and works with color and whimsy in a way that I'd like to someday.  Check out her January 30th post for a look at her lovely hand made stamps (scroll down on the right to see her list of archives).  This Whip-up link also inspired me and when we went letterboxing last week, that sealed it!  While writing this post, I searched for hand carved stamps and got this great Flickr link.  I think we may need to join that pool!


Artist Carving Block- we used Speedball Speedy Stamp (pink) which is very smooth and flexible, I also have a whole bunch of Speedball Speedy Cut (yellow/gray) blocks.  These are grainier, but the stamp images are fine.  I have heard great reports about Staedtler Master Carve Blocks, so I will try this when we run out of what we have.  You can also use those soft white rectangular erasers.

Carving tools- We used an inexpensive Speedball cutter set from Michaels.  Our favorite tips are 1 and 4, though there are 6 different shapes.

Craft knife- to cut and shape the carving block.

Plain paper- for drawing desings

Tracing paper- to transfer to the block

Pencil- need one that draws a dark line and will transfer easily from paper to block (see below).

Self-healing mat- is helpful to work on to make sure you don't damage your work table.

First, draw your image on a piece of regular paper.  If you are going to carve words, this is especially important so you can be sure to make a mirror image when carving.  You can also cheat and print out something on paper or use a picture from a book or other source.   Here I chose to print out these words in a favorite font.  I made several sizes to choose from. 

Second, trace this image to the tracing paper.  Be sure to go over the lines heavily with the pencil.  Make the lines accurate as this will be the image that you use to cut.

Lay the tracing paper face down on a piece of carving block with a margin of about 1/4 inch around.  You can easily cut the stamp block with a craft knife.  If you do this, be sure to do it over your cutting mat.  Now, press on and rub the back of the paper all over the image.  You are transfering the pencil marks to the block.  We discovered that the Speedy Stamp accepted an image the best, the Speedy Cut (seen below) didn't accept the transfer as well.  In this case, I went over the pencil lines directly on the block to make sure they were dark enough to see.

Now begin carving.  You may choose to get out most of the background first (using a #4 tip), or you may want to define the main image first (using a #1 tip).  I've done it both ways and found either one works fine.  With all the stamps we've carved in the past week, none have been irreparably damaged by a misplaced nick.  Just have fun with it and it will work out.  Remember to always cut away from yourself!  It is best to keep the tip low and shallow so that you don't gouge too deeply.

Cut around the shapes.  If it helps you can color in with the pencil areas that will not be cut, so that you can keep track of what you are cutting.  Also, when cutting a curve, turn the block slowly while holding the tip still.  After a little practice you'll be cutting curves with ease!

When you think you are done carving try out the stamp on a piece of scrap paper to see if you like the image.  Keep carving to make it right, then you can cut away any excess around the stamp if you like with the craft knife.

Keep in mind the idea of positive and negative images.  I made the owl above by cutting out only the details.  Chloe made the owl below by carving out most of the owl and leaving the lines as the image.

This little card is off to someone who needs a bit of cheering up.  Hope he likes it!  I hope you enjoy this tutorial and that it inspires some creative carving at your house!