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!
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.
|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.
|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!
|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!
|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!
|Text and image stamps combine to make this cute Mini Cooper card! |
I'll be listing sets of these in my shop!
|I couldn't resist trying my hand at a vintage-style trailer! |
The fine lines were time consuming, but I love the effect.
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.