I make a lot of ceramics, and like all of my art I like to put a signature on my things. Except it can be a little tiring to make the same signature over and over again, especially if you got a lot of 20 something items you all need signatures on. So I made a stamp! I figure it will also be good as a wax seal on letters and that sort of thing.
Its really easy to make if you got a kiln. I fired mine as stoneware at 1250°, but some people suggested pottery (some 1000°) as it will soak more moisture from the fresh clay when you stamp, preventing the clay to stick to the stamp as you pull it back.
However, it has worked well for me despite that, and I choose to fire it higher to make it stronger. As long as the clay isn't too wet, it works just fine.
You will need:
- Soft wax for carving (I used beeswax. Don't use anything harder than that)
- Ceramics clay
- Access to a kiln that can fire at least 900°
Step 1: Carve Your Stamp Design
Make a little tile of your wax, big enough to hold your stamp design. But don't be too fuzzy about exact size, as ceramic clay shrink a bit during firing. We're talking maybe 10-20%, depending on the type of clay.
Heat up a piece of metal like a nail (hold it with another tool like tongs, or use heat resistant gloves) and carve your design exactly as you want the imprint the stamp leaves to look.
Carve it deep! The deeper, the better. Probably deeper than you think. And make the grooves as wide as your design allows it. If you don't make it deep or wide enough, the design will be very fragile and might break before it even got the chance to get fired.
Step 2: Make a Handle
Of the clay of your choice, form a nice ergonomic handle like form. It can look however you want it though.
Push, or even rub some clay into the carved wax. The more moist the clay is, the better. Make sure it really gets into the grooves of the design.
With a sharp object, make some scratches on both the surfaces (the clay on the wax design and the stamp end of your handle) that need to stick together, and make some 'clay glue' by soaking a little piece of clay into water, making it really mud like. Stick the wax design and the handle together. You might want to rub it a bit together.
Now let it dry almost completely. It needs to dry until hard, but still feel cold.
Step 3: Melt It Off
Once hard enough (but not entirely dried out), use a hairdryer or heat gun to melt away the wax. Do not try to remove it without softening it with heat first, or your design might break off.
When its soft enough you can gently (be very careful!) remove the wax. Alternatively you could just fire the stamp with the wax, but I wouldn't recommend it, for the sake of the kiln.
As you can see there was some minor breakage on my stamp after removal, but it was easy to fix. By soaking a little clay into water, making a nice mud like substance, it was possible for me to gently repair it and build up the groove.
Step 4: Polish Up Your Details
After the fix I smoothed the surface around the design, leaving a cleaner look for the stamp. With a bit of water and small modelling tools, it easy to even it out.
Fire it in your kiln at your chosen temperature, and you're done! If you like, you can glaze the handle, but don't glaze the design if you want to keep the details.