Introduction: Carving Stamps
Making your own rubber stamps is a simple DIY project that doesn’t require a lot of tools. I used a special carving block and a lino cutter to make my stamps, but you can get started with some erasers and an X-acto knife as well.
You can watch the video or read the steps here, whatever you prefer.
What you’ll need:
- Carving block or erasers
- Lino cutter and/or X-acto knife
- Cutting mat
- Wood or other material to make handles
- Lacquer or clear nail polish
- Ink pad
Step 1: Start Simple
I’m starting with a simple design to practice my carving, which I simply draw onto the carving block by hand using a pencil.
I started by cutting the eyes, trying out the different tools. They all work well; it seems to be mostly a personal preference what you use. The U-shaped blade is the fastest though, since it removes the most material.
Once the eyes were done, I cut the outside shape at a bit of an angle and made tiny little notches with the V-blade all the way around. And that finishes my first stamp.
I intentionally left out the pupils so that I can draw them in after printing and give my soot sprites some more personality.
Step 2: Pushing the Limits
To find out how much detail this carving block can handle, I’m going all in with a paper crane design. In this case I printed the design from the computer and I will transfer it to the carving block, which works great for more detailed designs.
I went over the whole design with pencil. Then I placed the design upside down onto the carving block and traced the lines of the design, pushing down firmly. It turns out that the carving block takes over the pencil very easily, so it ended up a bit messy. But I can still see the lines, so it’ll be fine.
I started carving on the inside, so that the material has some support on the outside and won’t bend away when I try to cut it. I was really pushing the limits with these thin lines, so this wasn’t easy, but I was happy to see that it is definitely possible. The key is to take your time and go slow.
Once I was mostly done carving, I made a few test prints with the stamp. This shows any wonky lines that need fixing and the areas where I didn’t cut deep enough. It also becomes really easy to see what still needs to be carved away when there’s been ink on the stamp. It does get a bit messy though, so I hope you don’t mind getting your hands dirty!
Step 3: Trying a New Transfer Technique
Finally, I made a stamp with my logo. This time, I only traced the design itself with pencil, and simply rubbed it onto the stamp with my nail. This worked great and will be my go-to technique from now on.
This design is just as detailed as the paper crane, so I took my time. Of course I promptly made a mistake and had to start over, but I’m just happy it was early on and I hadn’t put a lot of work into it already.
I mostly used the X-acto knife for this one, because the design has so many tight corners. I finished up by cutting the stamp out of the block along the outer edge at a slight angle.
Step 4: Alternative Materials
The carving block works really well, as it is easy to cut and holds its shape well. It was a bit difficult to find however, and there are cheaper options available.
I heard a lot about eraser stamps, so I gave that a try. The eraser is a bit harder to cut than the carving block, so you have to use a bit more force, but it isn’t too bad. I’m actually really surprised how well this works. The only downside I see is that you’re limited to the size of the erasers that you have. For bigger stamps you’ll need to find bigger erasers. I still prefer the carving block, but erasers are a very good alternative!
Another option is to use wine corks. They’re free, but you’re very limited in terms of size and they’re not very easy to cut. They tend to crumble a bit and the material comes off in chunks instead of slices. It works for simple shapes, but you’re very limited in the amount of detail you can get. The actual stamping works well though.
Step 5: Adding Handles
To make the stamps easier to handle, I made handles for them. You can buy premade handles or use small blocks of wood if you have them, but I went into the forest to find a big stick. I removed the bark and then cut it into smaller pieces.
I stamped the design on top of each handle. This will make it easier to position the stamps when you’re using them. I didn’t have any lacquer to protect the print, so I used clear nail polish, which works just as well. I actually think I’ve used this nail polish more on DIY projects than on my actual nails.
Finally, I used CA glue (superglue) to glue the stamps onto the handles. I made sure to match their position to the print on top of the handle.