I was tempted into rubber stamp making after seeing hundreds of DIYs on Pinterest and Craftgawker. I bought a set of carving tools and a handful of craving blocks from a local Dick Blick store. Needless to say, my initial foray into stamp making was not encouraging. I put the whole project into a cold storage and decided to stay with commercial products.
Just a few weeks ago, I decided to give it another try mainly because I wanted to improve product packaging at my shop with some special wrapping and stamping. Surprisingly, I made better progress this time around. As the old adage goes, practice does make perfect. I started with a basic leaf shapes, then progressed to letter OM, a few birds and an elephant. Not all of them came out right at the first attempt, of course. I do feel encouraged. Along the way, I learnt a few things about materials and attitude:
1. Use blocks of different size, texture and thickness. Simple erasers like Staedler's, though small, are a good base to work with for small and simple designs. They cost very little and if the stamp turns into a dud, you can put it to its original use as an eraser.
Of the several lines of carving blocks available, Mastercarve is the best in terms of thickness, texture and ease of use. It is so thick that sometimes I feel that one can carve on both sides. However, it is the most expensive and currently not available anywhere. The lotus, OM and the elephant above were made with mastercarve.
Speedball Speedy Carve is currently the best available in the market and it comes is variety of sizes and prices. It has a nice solid surface which allows for carving small and intricate designs. However, it is not very thick which means that large stamps will be wobbly to hold and may have to be mounted on a wood block. The birds on a cup above was made with this material
Speedball Speedy Cut is a poorer cousin of Speedy Carve. It is of poorer quality with a crumbly texture. One should not attempt anything that is delicate or details. That does not mean it is totally useless. It is okay for simple shapes like leaves and is good for experimenting since it is very cheap. The big leaf in the photo above was made with this block.
2. Be patient. There will be many moments when one is tempted to dip into an inkpad to test the image. Resist them. Similarly, know when to say when and resist the temptation to keep slicing every inch of excess rubber. Avoid it. Come to think of it, stamp carving almost has a meditative feel to it; embrace that feeling.
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