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I am borrowing from the well-designed How to Run the SparkTruck Stamps Workshop Instructable but tailoring this for a professional development workshop at our school.

Goal:

  • Create a wood-mounted, laser-engraved rubber stamp

Materials & Tools:

  • Laser cutter
  • No odor laser rubber (the low odor laser rubber from LaserBits has quite a strong smell after engraving or cutting); one sheet will provide room for about 30-50 1.25" x 1.25" stamps depending on the spacing
  • Double-sided mounting foam (Foam mounting double-sided tape will also work but not as well)
  • 1.25" x 1.25" wooden blocks (approximately .75" thick)
  • Ink pad
  • Scissors
  • Sharpies
  • Plain paper

Step 1: Brainstorm Your Stamp

Your stamp can be anything you like but here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Think about your identity as a person and your role as a teacher. What kinds of words or symbols represent who you are (e.g. "Chef", "Horse riding", "Caring")? You may also want to list words or symbols that represent your students and your interactions with them (e.g. "Good effort!", "Funny", "Spell check").
  • Animals
  • Shapes (heart, star, etc.)
  • Slogans and catch phrases ("Just Do It!", etc.)

Write down ten ideas on a piece of paper.

Step 2: Sketch Your Stamp

Using the brainstorming list you created, use a sharpie and piece of paper to sketch two possible ideas for a rubber stamp.

Step 3: Create Your Logo in Illustrator

Note: I use the notation Menu-->Item as in File-->New to represent clicking on the File menu at the top of the screen and choosing New.

Choose one of the sketches and create a digital version of it using Adobe Illustrator or another vector drawing program (e.g. InkPad on an iPad).

Create a new document In Adobe Illustrator CS6, click File-->New. Change the Width and Height to 1.25 in and click OK. You may want to click View-->Zoom Out (or Zoom In) to adjust the viewable size of the square.

Create a shape, download an image, or add text:

1. Use the shape tools to create an outline. Click and hold on the Rectangle Tool to access other shapes:

Click and drag to create a shape. Use the Selection Tool (black arrow) to move or resize a shape.

2. Download an image from the Internet using a browser (e.g Chrome). For the sake of simplicity, include the word "silhouette" with any Google Image search (example) or specify Clip Art by clicking on Search Tools, clicking on Type and then clicking on Clip Art:

PNG images are recommended because of their transparent backgrounds. To limit searches to PNGs, append the search term filetype:png (e.g. instead of searching for "kids", search for "kids filetype:png").

  • To save the image, right-click (on a Mac, hold down the control key and click) and choose Save Image As:

  • Type in a name (e.g. "eagle"), choose a location to save to and then click Save.
  • In Illustrator, click File-->Place..., click on the file you downloaded (e.g. "eagle") and click Place. The image will most likely be very large. To reduce the size, click on Object-->Transform-->Scale. Change the Uniform percentage to something small (e.g. 10% or 25%) and then click OK :

  • You may need to resize the image further by using the Selection Tool to click an "anchor point" at the corner of the image and drag to resize. The image should fill about 75% of the white square background:

  • Because vinyl cutters require vector lines, you will need to convert the image to a vector drawing:
    • Select the image with the Selection Tool. Click Window-->Image Trace. Click on the triangle next to Advanced to show more options. Click the checkbox next to Ignore White. Click Trace. Click Object-->Image Trace-->Expand. Click Window-->Pathfinder. Click Merge under Pathfinders and then click Unite under Shape Modes:

3. Use the Type tool to add text:

To change the font and size, click Type-->Font or Type-->Size.

Step 4: Prepare Your Logo for Laser Cutting

[Aside: If you plan to engrave the image onto a wooden stamp block, Select-->Select All and copy and paste everything to a location off of the artboard (background) area so that you can retrieve it later.]

In order to reduce the amount of rubber around your design (and thus reduce accidental ink smears when using your stamp), draw a basic shape around your design:

  • Using the Rectangle Tool, select a rectangle or oval and drag the shape so that it surrounds your design.
  • Set the fill color to white:

Set the stroke width to 0.1 (one tenth) to signify a vector cut:

Click Object-->Arrange-->Send to Back.

Because the laser cutter will be rastering (burning away) anything that is black, you need to invert the colors of your design:

  • Click Select-->All and then click Edit-->Edit Colors-->Invert Colors. This step is necessary because the laser cutter will be rastering (burning away) anything that is black, leaving your image or text behind.

You will also need to create a mirror image of your design:

  • With everything still selected, click Object-->Transform-->Reflect... Under Axis, make sure Vertical is selected and click OK:

Save your file before moving on to the next step:

  • Include your name in the filename if you are participating in the Summer Institute.

Step 5: Transfer Digital File to Laser Cutter Computer

In our Lab, the laser cutter connects to a computer via an ethernet cable. You will need to email the Illustrator file that contains your design to that computer.

Step 6: Engrave and Cut Your Image

Each laser cutter is different in terms of procedure and print settings. Refer to documentation that is provided with your machine. The settings suggested below are those I used with our Epilog Helix 50-watt laser cutter.

Raster engraving

  • 45 speed
  • 100 power
  • 600 dpi (300 dpi is 33% faster and still very good resolution)
  • Note that three separate passes are necessary for adequate stamp depth
  • The rubber material may have high flare ups. Always follow proper safety procedures and do not leave a laser cutter unattended while engraving or cutting.

Vector cutting

  • 18 speed
  • 100 power
  • 600 frequency
  • Note that two separate passes are necessary for adequate cutting (use an exacto knife afterwards to separate the rubber if needed)

Step 7: Cut Wood Block

Using a japanese handsaw, jigsaw, or other saw, cut a piece of wood that is approximately 1.25" x 1.25" or slightly larger. This will be the base of the rubber stamp. Be sure to follow proper safety procedures including wearing safety goggles.

Step 8: (Optional) Engrave Wood Block

If you saved a copy of your original design and would like to engrave it onto the wooden block, move/delete the inverted design from the artboard/background and replace it with the original design. Configure your laser cutter for the type of material you are engraving. I used the following settings:

Raster engraving

  • 70 speed
  • 100 power

Step 9: Assemble

Attach the rubber stamp piece to the bottom of the wooden block using double-stick foam tape.

About This Instructable

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Bio: I am the Design, Tinkering and Technology Integrator at Mark Day School in San Rafael, CA (http://www.markdayschool.org). I teach technology and maker ... More »
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