DIY: Hand-carved stamps.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Hand carved stamps
Stamp carving is one of those activities that I tried a few years ago and didn't pick up again for a while. I recently bought a few stamp blocks and decided it would be a fun break from working on tax spreadsheets. If you're in the same position, I highly recommend it! Just remember to get those taxes done before April 15th!

Hand carved stamps

Back to the stamp carving! Here's what to do if you'd like to try it, and what you'll need:
  • Speedball lino carving set. The handle comes with 5 interchangeable cutting blades.
  • Carving block. I've used both a pink Speedball block called Speedy Carve, and a white block called Speedball Speedy-Cut. I like the Speedy-Cut much better because it is thicker and doesn't require a wood or acrylic backing after the stamp is carved. Larger stamps may require this, but mine were never more than a few inches across.
  • Simple line drawings and shapes.
  • Stamp pads. I like pigment ink pads.

Sketch out a simple design. Straight lines are easier to carve than complex curvy lines, so keep that in mind when you're starting out. A leaf shape is a good one to start with. Sketch it in pencil on plain paper or tracing paper. Flip the paper over and lay on the block. Fit it into a corner so you can use the rest of the block for other stamps. Burnish, or rub, the reverse side of the paper with a bone folder, the smooth side of a spoon, or even your finger, to transfer the pencil linework onto the block.

Hand Carved Stamps
A moth from my sketchbook, transferred onto the stamp block.

Start with a steady hand and always cut away from yourself. Using a #1 blade, apply gentle pressure and push the blade into the surface of the block at an angle. Don't push so hard that the entire U-shaped blade goes under the surface of the block, just the lower portion. Be careful; the blades are sharp! Using this technique, carve out the pencil lines. It's better to carve with long, fluid strokes rather than short gouging digs. Rotate the block as needed to carve the curved lines. In some situations I've found that moving the block is easier than moving the blade to get the cuts just right.

Hand carved moth stamp
Moth block carved!

Once the fine lines are carved, switch out the #1 blade with a #5 blade. Carve away the outside of the stamp. When the outside of the shape is clear and carved away, use an X-Acto knife or the flat blade that came with your set to cut the shape from the rest of the block. Wash it with warm water and gentle soap. Let dry.

Stamp it into the stamp pad, and try a couple test on scrap paper. If your stamp looks good, you're done! If there are some areas that need refining, go back and re-carve/remove those areas, and test it with the ink pad until you get it right. Stamp away with your 100% unique stamp!

Hand Carved Stamps
Simple leaf and snail stamps combine to make a fun spring-time card.
Varying the amounts of ink on the stamps can achieve different looks.

As with any craft technique, skill improves with practice, so keep at it. I've found that stamp carving is a very relaxing and therapeutic activity. Here are a few stamps I carved over a couple of evenings. I ran out of blocks, but I can't wait to get more!

Hand Carved Stamps
Trying my hand at text that reads "mini thanks!"
Remember, when carving words, they need to be carved in reverse!

If you're looking for a challenge, try carving words! It's tricky!

Hand carved stamps
Text and image stamps combine to make this cute Mini Cooper card!
I'll be listing sets of these in my shop!

Hand carved stamps
I couldn't resist trying my hand at a vintage-style trailer!
The fine lines were time consuming, but I love the effect.
Once you've carved stamps of your own, use them to create greeting cards, decorate packaging (I've been stamping that classic Mini all over my Vitamini shipping materials!), make framable art pieces, etc. If you use the correct ink, you can even stamp on fabric.

If you've been thinking about trying your hand at stamp carving yourself, I highly recommend it! I hope my project helped illustrate the process and inspired you to give it a whirl.

*Project and photos by Casey/Vitamini Handmade. All opinions my own.


  1. This is so funny. I have had all of the supplies for years now and have put them away because I just didn't like the final results. After reading your post, I might have to try my hand at it again. My biggest problem is that I am not proficient at it, get frustrated with the process, and put it away rather than just practice--LOL.

    1. That's exactly what I did! I think it was partially because my first try at it I used the Speedball Speedy Carve block which doesn't carve as nicely as the Speedy-Cut. I wasn't very happy with the result then, but I'm so glad I gave it another try. I'm a little addicted now. :)

  2. thanks for the tips. I bought a lino cutter a while ago but have yet to try it out.

    P.s. I drive a Mini, not a Mini Cooper but a Mini One (looks the same). He has a checkerboard roof and checkerboard stripes on the sides.

    1. Very cool! I love Minis of all kinds. :) I'm happy you found my blog. Thanks for stopping by and commenting!

  3. thanks for the tutorial and ideas!

  4. I am going to make stamp for my own business and came across your work. I have a vintage travel trailer that I use as an artist studio. Your design is great! I may do something like this myself for Christmas.

  5. Hi Rebecca! Definitely give stamp carving a try - it's so much fun! How cool that you have an art studio trailer. That's my dream! Happy Carving!

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