Introduction: Creating Large Format Rubber Stamps

Picture of Creating Large Format Rubber Stamps

A local artist approached me to see if I could produce some rubber stamps so that she could mark her limited edition prints. However when one works with artists and you get talking ideas start to flow so we moved on to produce some large format laser engraved stamps of line drawings. This Instructable well 'tell the story' of this journey and the experiments to enable others to learn from what we discovered. We hope you find it interesting and helpful, we would welcome any feedback or suggestions  from others who have been down this road as well.

The artist is Jenny Beard and her website shows other pieces of her work. We would like to thank Jenny for the chance to develop something different and exciting. You can see more of our work on our website ATAmorecreations.

Step 1: Selecting the Image and Creating the Digital Design.

Picture of Selecting the Image and Creating the Digital Design.

The first thing to do is to select a suitable image. In case of creating the initial stamps we were give a simple line drawing which we then transformed into a digital image using a simple drawing package. We like to work on a large format at this stage to enable the detail to be clearly seen, and it is easy to rescale later.
It is important to always check drawings carefully particularly if you are producing them for a client! Anything that is going to be made into a stamp needs to be MIRRORED otherwise when it is imprinted it be backwards! If there is text involved always double check spelling and get someone else to check it too!

I tend to keep a record in a Moleskine sketchbook of any work I do for a client. This is the first page of development for Jenny Beard. You can see her original sketches and the first impressions from the stamps.

Step 2: Using the Laser Cutter

Picture of Using the Laser Cutter

NOTE:  I realise that not everyone has access to a laser cutter let alone owns their own. However there are many places and will continue to be more places where members of the public can access a laser cutter. Techshop and other open access schemes are growing, many schools, colleges and universities also will allow public access. There are also commercial access schemes as well. It will be rare to find someone who is going to allow free access but you never know. I am fortunate to own my own because I worked and save hard to enable me to purchase my own to develop my creative and design skills further. I offer a cutting service for a small fee to people who live near me. At the moment I am cutting a lot of quad copter parts for local enthusiasts, it does not take long for word to get out and it does not take long to start covering your costs either.

Safety: Laser cutters by the nature of the technology produce fumes, smoke and other contaminates. It is import ant to ensure that you are prepared for two major things, fumes and fire.

FIRE: burning with a laser is a fire risk so it is important to be prepared. Because my machine is in the house it is housed in a room with a smoke alarm and a good fire extinguisher. I also have a large extinguisher outside of the room just in case. NEVER leave a laser cutter working on its own!

FUMES: Extraction and ventilation are important. My machine vents outside through a filter system. There is little or no fumes in doors. 
Outside the fumes are diluted quickly and don't pose a risk. The HEPA and carbon filter system removes most of the material effectively.

As each machine is slightly different I am not going into the detail but rather giving general steps and tips which I have gather from experience. I you are going to be working with some else's equipment make sure that you appreciate that it is their machine at their expense and they will likely know more than you about it! There is nothing worse than having a Mr Know-it-all wanting to just take over. If you are prepared to watch, listen and learn then you will get a much better service.

My laser is a 50w 400x600mm CO2 laser by Thunder Laser systems. It is excellent and I am very happy with the service and support that I get from them. The picture here is of my machine in the factory while it was being built and tested!

Settings that I used are as follows:

cutting:  speed 6 power 90%
engraving: speed 200 power 40% scan gap 0.10 ramp engrave.

Step 3: Selecting the Rubber and Engraving

Picture of Selecting the Rubber and Engraving
There are three types of laser rubber available as far as I am aware:
  1. standard which is a light grey colour
  2. low odour which is also light grey colour
  3. eco green rubber which is green in colour.
All are available in different thicknesses and up to A3 in size.

Standard laser rubber is easy to use but stinks of pot/weed when you engrave it!  Low odour still smells strongly even through the filters. Both of these produce a lot of dust so the machine requires a lot of regular cleaning.
The eco rubber as with all so called eco materials costs three times the price! However unlike a lot of other eco products it seems to me to be much better to use and produces better imprints.

In the UK there are few suppliers of these materials but it all seems to come from the same source. I now go tot he source for my supply.

If you buy these materials it is important to store them carefully to prevent damage. They are not cheap materials to use.

I have also tried some silicon rubber sheet which seems to work very well too but I am going to compare prices at some point. The only problem with the silicon is that the supplier couldn't advise me of its suitability for using in the laser or as a stamp.

The software that I use is called LaserGrav which is supplied by Thunder Laser. The image in the form of an image file (jpeg in this case) was imported into the software. The it is mirrored (dont forget this step) then INVERT the image so that you will removing the background and leaving the image to be printed.

Next input the correct settings for engraving the image and cutting the outline of the final stamp. These settings will depend on your machine or the machine you are using and the material you are using. This where you need to experiment on small pieces first and record the successes for later use. I make a note in a Moleskine and also keep a sample piece of the material with the settings written on them. These are then my reference for later projects.




Step 4: Mounting the Rubber on a Suitable Backing and Inking for the First Imprint

Picture of Mounting the Rubber on a Suitable Backing and Inking for the First Imprint

For the supports and backing for the small stamps I use some acrylic discs on the larger stamps I use thick MDF or thick acrylic. The rubber is attached to the backing with contact adhesive. Don't use double sided tape as this will affect the final print (it seems to leave an impression on the final imprint).

The supports need to be of a substantial size to prevent any flexing of the stamp during printing.  Mark the backing so it is easy to see which way up the image is.... ie which is the top!

The first loading of the stamp and creating the first imprint is exciting!  Take your time and record what you do so that you can use the best combination. You will see in the images below a sample strip with my notes. Try different combinations of backing (felt/rubber/thick card/paper) to get the best print.

Inks: there a pads as used in offices and liquid ink which needs to be spread on a hard smooth surface and the picked up with a printers roller before being loaded onto the stamp.

Step 5: Conclusion

Picture of Conclusion

I am sure that over time I will find better and different ways of printing and creating these stamps. I am awaiting some different rubber to try and would like to do some comparisons between them.

I hope that you have found this Instructable interesting. If you have any comments that would help me develop this project further then please post them.

If you dont have a laser cutter then please try the suggested locations which are given earlier.

Enjoy!

Step 6: Update....

Picture of Update....

Eco rubber seems to be more dense and slightly firmer than standard grades.
Standard grade stinks and makes a huge mess. (wont be using that again)!

Comments

todayprinting (author)2013-08-29

You are trying to do flexographic printing. Google this and you will find a myriad of supplies from metal and wood type to photopolymer rubber plates to ink rollers to instructions on how to do what you are reinventing. Also look up Intaglio, offset, letterpress, rotogravure and other types of printing. You have a great start and understanding of the process.

Thank you thats useful and really interesting, its certainly true you can always learn something from the Instructables community.

mszymczak (author)2013-08-29

This is a very nice project and well documented. I'm glad you acknowledged that not everyone has access to a the laser cutter and how creatively using 'public' accessible machines might work for the rest-of-us mortals.

Mindmapper1 (author)mszymczak2013-08-29

Thank you! Yes creative use through publicly available machine is a good option, thats what I used to do.

obviousgenius (author)2013-09-02

I'm not trying to be mean spirited, but you need help with your punctuation.

DIY-Guy (author)obviousgenius2016-05-07

You said that very well "obviousgenius".
Do not be concerned about someone else purposely misjudging your intentions, which you stated clearly. The bitterness is not yours to bear.
Meanwhile, it sure is good to see everybody making obviously helpful comments! :)

Maybe you read this and take heed?

One young man went to apply for a managerial position in a big company. He passed the initial interview, and now would meet the director for the final interview.

The director discovered from his CV that the youth's academic achievements were excellent. He asked, "Did you obtain any scholarships in school?" the youth answered "no".

"Was it your father who paid for your school fees?"

"My father passed away when I was one year old, it was my mother who paid for my school fees.” he replied.

"Where did your mother work?"

"My mother worked as clothes cleaner.”

The director requested the youth to show his hands. The youth showed a pair of hands that were smooth and perfect.

"Have you ever helped your mother wash the clothes before?"

"Never, my mother always wanted me to study and read more books. Besides, my mother can wash clothes faster than me.

The director said, "I have a request. When you go home today, go and clean your mother's hands, and then see me tomorrow morning.

The youth felt that his chance of landing the job was high. When he went back home, he asked his mother to let him clean her hands. His mother felt strange, happy but with mixed feelings, she showed her hands to her son.

The youth cleaned his mother's hands slowly. His tear fell as he did that. It was the first time he noticed that his mother's hands were so wrinkled, and there were so many bruises in her hands. Some bruises were so painful that his mother winced when he touched it.

This was the first time the youth realized that it was this pair of hands that washed the clothes everyday to enable him to pay the school fees. The bruises in the mother's hands were the price that the mother had to pay for his education, his school activities and his future.

After cleaning his mother hands, the youth quietly washed all the remaining clothes for his mother.

That night, mother and son talked for a very long time.

Next morning, the youth went to the director's office.

The Director noticed the tears in the youth's eyes, when he asked: "Can you tell me what have you done and learned yesterday in your house?"

The youth answered," I cleaned my mother's hand, and also finished cleaning all the remaining clothes'

“I know now what appreciation is. Without my mother, I would not be who I am today. By helping my mother, only now do I realize how difficult and tough it is to get something done on your own. And I have come to appreciate the importance and value of helping one’s family.

The director said, "This is what I am looking for in a manager. I want to recruit a person who can appreciate the help of others, a person who knows the sufferings of others to get things done, and a person who would not put money as his only goal in life.”

“You are hired.”

This young person worked very hard, and received the respect of his subordinates. Every employee worked diligently and worked as a team. The company's performance improved tremendously.

A child, who has been protected and habitually given whatever he wanted, would develop an "entitlement mentality" and would always put himself first. He would be ignorant of his parent's efforts. When he starts work, he assumes that every person must listen to him, and when he becomes a manager, he would never know the sufferings of his employees and would always blame others. For this kind of people, who may be good academically, they may be successful for a while, but eventually they would not feel a sense of achievement. They will grumble and be full of hatred and fight for more. If we are this kind of protective parents, are we really showing love or are we destroying our children instead?

You can let your child live in a big house, eat a good meal, learn piano, watch on a big screen TV. But when you are cutting grass, please let them experience it. After a meal, let them wash their plates and bowls together with their brothers and sisters. It is not because you do not have money to hire a maid, but it is because you want to love them in a right way. You want them to understand, no matter how rich their parents are, one day their hair will grow gray, same as the mother of that young person. The most important thing is your child learns how to appreciate the effort and experience the difficulty and learns the ability to work with others to get things done.

As someone who has struggled with dsylexia all my life but excelled in the creative aspects of life I find you comment really unhelpful. Unfortunately the world if rather full of folk like you who tell others how they should do something and on closer investigation you find that they can't actually do what they shout about themselves. Posting unhelpful comments is just that, unhelpful but you seem to get some kind of kick out of this judging by your comment history, you screen name and you photo with its unfortunate caption.
Oh well at least there are other around who do appreciate the work, time and effort that other go to in order to share their experiences.

JulianAzz (author)2015-08-26

great idea!

perfectsleeper (author)2015-07-05

Simple and nice work..

ck0050 (author)2013-09-01

All the cool projects I see nowadays are made with 3D printers or Laser cutters... So much for the DIY

Mindmapper1 (author)ck00502013-09-02

Mmm so you don't use any tools for your DIY? A laser cutter and a 3D printer are just tools. I am just using the technology available to me.

ck0050 (author)Mindmapper12013-09-02

Yes, you are right, are just tools and I would use them too, but here where I live it's difficult to have access to such tools. It's just a little frustrating.

Madrigorne (author)ck00502013-09-08

Try this - get a piece of linoleum from a hardware store and glue it to a block of wood, then draw your pattern on the linoleum and using a knife, a dremel, a u-shaped woodworkers carving tool, a sharpened spoon, what have you ...carve out everything BUT your design, all the negative space. If you have one already drawn that you want to use, photocopy it (to preserve the original) and trace it onto the linoleum using carbon paper (they still sell it)

kewpiedoll99 (author)Madrigorne2013-09-23

You can even more easily trace it onto the lino by using a pencil and covering the back of the drawing with graphite. This works great for tracing. But BE VERY CAREFUL when you carve lino; it's pretty hard, and it's easy to cut yourself. Always cut AWAY from yourself. It's surprisingly easy to forget this simple rule (I have).

ck0050 (author)Madrigorne2013-09-09

That's a good idea! Thank you.

Mindmapper1 (author)ck00502013-09-02

I understand that all too well about materials which in the UK are hard to track down at times.
Look for open workshops, schools or colleges offering access.

ck0050 (author)Mindmapper12013-09-09

Thanks!
If it's hard in UK, you can imagine how it is here in Brazil.

danzo321 (author)ck00502013-09-02

There is a way to do it.. friends at Five in One Social Club glue thin sheets of some foam rubber to wood blocks and press into it with a tool, leaving permanent denting which works well.

rhino (author)2013-09-02

Very nice project! I was thrilled to read that you worked hard and saved for your laser cutter. That seems to be a forgotten skill these days! Well done!

Mindmapper1 (author)rhino2013-09-02

Thank you. Yes it was hard work but its now paying for itself so the hardwork paid off.

drusilla (author)2013-09-01

Thanks! I will try to find a source of the 'eco rubber' you described. I've been laser cutting for a while, and have been meaning to make stamps but never got around to choosing a material. I picked up some rubber sheets at a hardware store once, but chickened out over fume concerns.

Mindmapper1 (author)drusilla2013-09-02

I got mine from Hobbarts in the UK

granthams (author)2013-09-01

Very informative instructable. For folks who don't have access to a laser printer, photopolymer offers another solution. My video, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FedvcdgFH5o shows the steps to working with photopolymer. Also to print a
large design, consider mounting the stamp die on a curved surface, which will
give a much sharper and even impression.

Mindmapper1 (author)granthams2013-09-02

Yes thats an excellent idea I will give that a try. Thanks for the helpful comments.

estrella55 (author)2013-09-01

Thanks, wish I had a laser cutter and time to play. Someday! If you would like to avoid the background printing when you use the rubber stamp; Cut around the image before adhering it to the wooden block. The wooden block could also be cut in the same shape or at least smaller, also giving the stamper a better idea of exactly where the image will be printed.

Mindmapper1 (author)estrella552013-09-02

Yes I have done this on version two! Thanks for the tip.

guggenheim (author)2013-09-01

Very nice work.
It is actually very common to remove all excess material from around the main image to avoid any ink spill. So you could go about it with the laser or with an xacto knife. Great instrcuctable!

Mindmapper1 (author)guggenheim2013-09-02

Ah just done that on the second version using the laser! Thanks for the tip.

zhamster rules (author)2013-08-29

I really like art and that is REALLY amazing!!!! I am a awesome artist, but that is better than I can do!!!:-)

thank you.

Mic100 (author)2013-09-01

good work :=)

sabu.dawdy (author)2013-08-30

awesome

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