A Quick Look at How to Easily Carve Perfect Rubber Stamps

How to Carve Rubber Stamps
Carving rubber stamps is a fun project all by itself, and the finished product can be used again and again to add personal style and flair to letters, collages, and scrapbooks. This article gives an overview of how to make your own stamps.
Rubber stamps are a great way to add style to all sorts of different projects. They can be used in scrapbooking, collage art, correspondence, and any number of other paper-based crafts. Although there are thousands of different rubber stamp designs for sale, from insects to letters to abstract patterns, homemade rubber stamps add a personal touch and individualized style to your creations. Unlike drawings or collage elements, rubber stamps can be used again and again in a variety of ways. And making your own rubber stamps is a fun, easy project in its own right.

Materials

The materials you'll need to start creating personalized, reusable rubber stamps are:
  • a block of rubber
  • stamp carving tools
  • a rubber stamping inkpad
  • a design to create into a stamp
Most of these materials are easy to find at your local craft or hobby store. The design can be anything from a picture found on the internet to a graphic you have drawn yourself.

Choosing a Design

When choosing a design to carve into a stamp, there are a few important things to remember. First, if you're just starting out with rubber stamp making, choose a simple design to practice with. It should be relatively small and uncomplicated, with few details and small lines. As you practice, you'll be able to create more and more complex stamps, but its best to start with something simple. Your own initials in block letters or an elegant abstract pattern would be great choices.

Getting Started

To get started, cut your rubber block down to the size you want for the finished stamp. Be sure to leave a little space on the outside so that the design won't be too close to the edges of the block. For a design that's 2 inches by 2 inches, the rubber block should be about 2ΒΌ inches on each side. A soft rubber block can easily be cut with a box-cutting blade or a pair of heavy duty scissors.

Transferring the Design onto Rubber

The next step is to transfer the design onto the block of rubber. When you ink the finished stamp to create a print, the design will show up in reverse, so you will need to transfer a mirror image onto the stamp to use as a carving template. There are several different ways to do this. If you are using a computer image, you can flip the image using a graphic editing program and print the design on a piece of thin paper. When this is done, you can use glue or tape to attach the paper to the rubber block, then use a fine-pointed carving tool to trace the image into the rubber.

Another method, which is often easier, is to draw or trace the image onto tracing paper using a pencil. Soft leaded pencils are better because the image will be easier to transfer onto the rubber. When you've drawn or traced the image, press the tracing paper face-down on the block of rubber, so that the design is touching the rubber. Using an ink roller or other hard object, press the paper and the rubber together. This will rub the design onto the rubber in reverse, so that you'll see a mirror of your image on the rubber in pencil.

Stamp Carving

When you have transferred the design onto the rubber, the rest is easy, but remember not to carve out the design! On the finished stamp, the design itself should be raised, with everything else around it carved away. The secret to making a successful stamp is to carefully carve away the excess without removing too much or too little. If too much negative space is carved away, the stamp will become fragile and difficult to use. If too little is carved away, the ink will appear in places where you don't want it. A rule of thumb is to carve around 1/8 of an inch down from the top of the rubber block. If this isn't enough, you can always carve away more later.

Its best to start the actual carving from the outside edges of the rubber block, working your way inward toward the design. You can carve away an outline around the image to give yourself an easy guideline for where to stop. Be careful with the sharp carving tools, holding them as steadily as possible to protect the stamp and your hands.

Testing and Perfecting the Stamp

When the space around the design is carved away, you're ready to test the stamp! Press the stamp, design-side down, firmly against an ink pad. Archival ink is best for craft projects because it won't fade or damage paper. If your stamp is large, you can use an ink roller to roll printing ink over the surface of the stamp. Take care not to use too much ink, or it will drip down into the carved-out area and make a messy print. When you test the stamp, the design may not be to your liking. In this case, you can wipe the stamp clean with warm water and continue carving until you get it just right.

Possibilities for finished rubber stamps are endless. If you like, you can affix a wooden handle to the rubber block to make it easier to hold. Homemade rubber stamps make excellent gifts and can be used again and again with inks of different colors. (Make sure to clean the stamp before you use it with a new color of ink!) As with any craft, practice makes perfect, so don't get discouraged if your first few stamps aren't perfect. Keep at it, and before long you'll be making beautiful rubber stamps more interesting and unique than any you can buy at the store.