Introduction: Make Tiny Stamps!
Do you doodle? I DOodle... :) Recently I decided to dabble in creating tiny stamps from my doodles. I mean who doesn't want to be able to put tiny hams, cauldrons, germs, drumsticks, pirate monsters, cleavers, and aliens on everything? If you want to be able to turn your own doodles into stamps come along with me and I'll walk you through each step of the way.
Step 1: Materials Tools and Whatnot
Below you will find the lists of everything I used to make these tiny awesome stamps.
- Laser cutter (I have a cheap K40 it's not great but it gets the job done)
- Utility knife
- Old toothbrush or other scrubby brush
- Dowel cutting jig (I used a 3d printer and Autodesk fusion to make mine. You could also follow this great instructable by user Jon-A-Tron)
- Cell phone, digital camera, or scanner (we need a way to get our doodles from the meat space to cyber space)
- Laserable Rubber
- 22mm Dowel
- Mounting foam (This was the hardest to find as stampers are moving away from wood to remountable rubber stamps.)
- doodle pad with doodles
Step 2: Digitize Your Doodles
Once your doodles are digitized there are so many things that can be done with them. Tiny stamps are only the start of their wonderful digital existence.(vinyl decals, leather stamps, coasters, the list goes on) The first thing we are going to do is snap a photo of our doodle. If you are like me you have a lot of random doodles crammed in to a tiny sketch book. So once you have a photo use google photos or other photo software to crop out all your other masterpieces and focus only on the doodle you want to digitize.
Armed with our cropped doodle it is time to fire up Inkscape. Once in inkscape we are going to import our doodle. Right now our doodle exists as a bitmap and we need it to be a vector graphic so it can be infinitely scaled without pixelating. This will allow us to shrink or grow our doodle without loss of details.( That is pretty cool in my book.) To do that we are going to use the Inkscape function Trace Bitmap. With our imported doodle selected find the trace bitmap option in the path drop down menu. This pops up a complicated looking window. The parts we care about are down towards the bottom. First thing to do is turn on live preview. After that I select either colors or brightness steps down in the bottom and see which one looks better. For Skullsby here I chose color. From there it is on the scans section. This is the number of scans it is going to make of the bit map. You can play with this number and look at the live preview. I find 8 scans is a pretty safe bet. Once your previews is looking good click okay and let Inkscape work it's magic. After a brief interlude while your computer is working you now have a grouped vector of all your scans. From here right click on your grouped vector and select ungroup. Then spread out your scans to pick the one you like best and delete the rest. Congratulations you have digitized your doodle! With this base file you can do so many things. The next steps are going to be tiny stamp specific.
Step 3: Tweaking, Shrinking, and Stampifying
Using the node tool you can tweak your doodle until it is the perfect embodiment of you subconscious. From there it is time to shrink it down. I am using 22 mm diameter dowels for my stamp backs if you are using a different diameter dowel use that to guide your shrinking. First I make a 22 mm diameter circle so I can see how it will look as a stamp as I shrink the doodle down. We'll need at least a .5 mm space between our doodle and the edge of the doodle for our laser cut line. Once things are looking good select both your doodle and the circle. Now use the Difference command from the Path drop down menu. This will get you a negative of your doodle for etching. If you are using the K40 Whisperer software like I am you will want to make this negative image black for etching. Now it is time to lay in our cutting circle. You want to be cutting out within the etched area of the stamp so you have less material to cut through.(It's easier on your laser.) To do this I made a 21.5 mm diameter circle with no fill and a pure rgb red outline. This is the color K40 Whisperer software looks for when cutting vectors. The last step to make K40 Whisperer happy is to resize the document so it is the same size as our stamp. To do this open the Document Properties found under the File drop down menu and in the window that opens click on the "resize page to drawing or selection" with this done it is time to save our file. I've included my Skullsby stamp svg file so you can look at all the components. Armed with our file it is time to use the power of lasers to bring our doodle stamps into existence as a physical object.
- Side note if you are doing text make sure to mirror your image before etching or your text will stamp out backwards.
Step 4: LASERS!!!!!!
Fire up K40 Whisperer, turn your laser on and get ready to burn rubber!
On the software side of things open K40 Whisperer. Load your design file and jog the laser into position. Then set your raster speed to 30 mm and your vector cut speed to 5 mm. The last setting to tweak is under the drop down menu for settings select "Raster Settings" and check the engrave from the bottom up box. I've found this works the best. One thing you might notice is that unlike other lasers the K40 sets the power at the lasers and doesn't do any of that fancy software controlled laser power nonsense.(by nonsense I mean awesomeness) I found with these speed 35% power on the digital readout. Your mileage might vary with these settings as K40s also also vary. With everything set it is finally time for LASERS! Click on the Raster engrave button and watch that rubber be lasered away.
Step 5: Cleaning, Mounting, Testing, and Trimming
Using your dowel cutting jig and handsaw to cut yourself a small length of dowel to use as your stamp mount. Next using some sandpaper smooth out the ends of your dowels. Using scissors cutout a small square of mounting foam and stick it to your dowel piece. Set the dowel aside and grab your tooth brush. The laserable rubber makes a bunch of powder when the laser etches it. We need to scrub it clean so using your brush and a little water scrub your stamp. Once the rubber stamp is clean and dry stick it to the dowel and trim the excess mounting foam.
With your stamp mounted it is time to bust out an ink pad and test test it out. If there are spots that bleed on the paper when you test out your stamp it is time to use the utility knife and get to trimming. Look at where the ink is on your stamp. There should be an area around your design that doesn't have any ink and then a pretty clear line where ink starts to get on parts of the stamp you don't want. Using the utility knife cut off the extraneous parts.
Step 6: Stamp Your Heart Out
That is it you now have a tiny stamp! You can repeat this with new doodles to your hearts content. Your imagination is the only limit on what you can stamp. You can use your stamps for one of a kind bullet journals, cards, announcements, loyalty cards, or just to put tiny hams on everything you touch. Bonus if you have access to a laser cutter you can laser cut yourself a little box to keep you tiny stamps safe and organized. Thanks for taking the time to read this instructable. I hope you found it as enjoyable to read as I did to write it.