Rubber Stamp Carving: Reader Tips & Big Savings

28 Jan 2013

A while back I wrote about how Julie Fei-Fan Balzer's techniques for successfully making custom rubber stamps had me eager to try rubber stamp carving myself. I asked for your advice, and you gave it!

Today I'm sharing those tips on how to make a stamp from our savvy, creative readers:

hand carved rubber stamps
Custom rubber stamps by Julie Fei-Fan Balzer.
A good work surface for stamp carving: Use a sturdy piece of wood (I used 1/2" plywood) in a workable size (10" x 12" works well). Looking at the wood horizontally, attach a 3/4" x 1" strip of wood along the TOP of the back edge. This keeps the stamp from sliding and protects fingers from slips of the carving tools. Attach another strip of wood along the BOTTOM of the front edge. This hooks on the edge of the table you are working on and acts as a stop to keep the whole surface from sliding away from you.
~ leah l

I find putting rubber shelf liner or rubber rug backing under the piece helps keep it from slipping as I am making long, straight cuts. I have also learned, when teaching how to make a stamp, to tell students to limit the first several days of carving to only an hour or so at a time! It's so fun and can be a bit addicting, and students carve until their arms and hands are sore the next day!
~ Kari McKnight Holbrook

If you want a sturdier custom stamp, use the linoleum tiles instead of the rubber ones. To make them easier to carve, preheat the oven at 250, turn it off, and then pop the tiles in for a few minutes. They will be as soft as the rubber but hard when cool. You may have to repeat the heating if the design is intricate but it's much easier on the hands.
~ cylonserenity:

For rubber stamping materials, rubber erasers make nice small stamps. You can even find them in flower, butterfly, or other shapes, all you need to do is add detail. I find a lot of them at dollar stores. Many of the erasers are thick enough that you can carve both sides.
~ GenevieveCrabe:

By now I must have carved hundreds of stamps. All you need is an eraser, a craft knife, and a soft pencil. Linoleum carving tools work as well, but I prefer a simple craft knife, it is matter of personal choice.
~ Konsumschaf

Speedy Carve is inexpensive and very easy to use, so if you make a mistake, it's not an expensive mistake! Plus, you can cut it down as small as you likeperfect for making art stamps of any size!
~ Pirategrrl775

Using pencil to draw the image on the rubber will result in a smeared line and you'll lose the design. Go over the design lines with a fine point ink pen. Work from the inside of the design to the outside line. Carve on a sheet of paper for easier cleanup.
~ The Commander

My advice: Try it! I recently made my first stamp and I am hooked. I was concerned that it would be difficult or too time intensive. It wasn't either of these things, and now I can't wait to make another one. Knowing how to make a custom rubber stamp is going to broaden my art by allowing me to include my very own original stamps. Absolutely awesomely fun.
~ libbyQ

I second libbyQ's emotion: Try it! With these tips and Julie Fei-Fan Balzer's stamping techniques on her Cloth Paper Scissors WorkshopTM video Stamp-Making Adventures: Carve, Cut, & Print One-Of-A-Kind Designs, it's hard to go wrong.

If you've resolved this year to try stamp carving or any other new-to-you technique, we want to help you keep that resolution with a sale now through January 29 on mixed-media books, magazines, DVDs and more.

P.S. Do you have tips to add to these? Leave a comment below!


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Comments

pdrapala wrote
on 28 Jan 2013 11:26 AM

Hi, Thanks much for the tips on carving.  I'm working on my second carving this semester in school and appreciate all the helpful tips you have give me today.  Please keep them coming as I need them.  Sincerely, Pam Drapala, Yuma, AZ

pdrapala wrote
on 28 Jan 2013 11:26 AM

Hi, Thanks much for the tips on carving.  I'm working on my second carving this semester in school and appreciate all the helpful tips you have give me today.  Please keep them coming as I need them.  Sincerely, Pam Drapala, Yuma, AZ

Susan@658 wrote
on 29 Jan 2013 12:35 PM

Another tip: if some aspect of your design (like an eye, or birds feet) is critical to success, carve it first, not last. That way, if you screw up, you haven't invested lots of time. I've been carving for years and think it's worthwhile to invest into Docker's tools. They come in sets, and are expensive, but cut smoothly in almost everything. Also, if the stamp you want is large and doesn't have lots of detial, consider cutting it out of sticky back foam and mounting it on cardboard. It's fast, and an easy way to make background stamps.

on 2 Feb 2013 8:02 AM

I have found that Speedy Carve (and the others by Speedball) are too crumbly for carving.  It's ok for block prints that don't have a lot of detail, but if you want detail, I use OZ Kut from Stampeaz.com.  It takes an amazing amount of detail and is still pretty easy to cut (especially with sharp tools).

Also, I use Printshop to make my images (I can't draw worth a darn, and this way, any letters that I use on the stamp will be crisp, sharp, and facing the correct direction).  I've tried various techniques for getting my images onto the rubber, and the technique that works for me is printing off of the image, taking it to the local library and making a copy.  Try copy  machines in your area.  Not all toners work the same way, so you will want to find a machine you like. Then, I put the image face down on the rubber, put an old white t-shirt on top, and iron on very high heat, no steam.  Take the iron on and off, making sure you don't move the image or get rubber on your iron (this is why the t-shirt is so important!).  The iron melts the toner on the image and attaches it to the rubber.  The toner doesn't rub off the rubber once dry (a few seconds) and gives crisp and clear images.

Lindaab2 wrote
on 2 Feb 2013 10:16 AM

I haven't done carving with anything but corks, but it makes a fun, rustic stamp.  I like the bottle corks with big knobs to pull out of the bottle.  One day when i was looking for a quick filler, used one for a stamp.  After that I carved a moon shape, star, etc.  One way to jump in without investing any money!