I recently got a price quote for a run of printed business cards on nice stock (100# or so). After some research, I realized that I could made a good quality stamp myself at TechShop RDU (www.techshop.ws) on their Epilog Helix Laser Engraver. This is my first attempt at it, so I'd appreciate any constructive advice.
To cut out the imprint on the laser, I'm rastoring the image at 600 DPI. First, I creat the image in CorelDraw. I should also add that there is an actual "stamp program" on the computer that I wasn't aware of before, so If I learn it I'll update this Instructable as necessary. I'm using the standard business card size: 2" tall x 3.5" wide. In order to get the laser to rastor everything butthe lettering so that it is raised, as opposed to simply engraving the lettering into the rubber, I background fill the card black and make the lettering white. Then, flip the image horizontally, so that your writing is backwards. This is to ensure that it will read the right way when you press it into your paper.
You can see the rastor and vector settings (vector just to cut out the card blank after engraving), as well as some pictures of the Epilog Helix in action. I actually did three passes in all to increase the depth of the surrounding rubber in relation to the pad and avoid accidental imprints.
Next, I cleaned off the pad with a brush to sweep off any remaining particles of free floating and powdered rubber. The vector cut didn't go through all the way, even with a few passes. Instead or risking burning and warping the rubber, I traced the cut with a razor to get a good, clean line all the way through.
Next, I took a scrap board (part of an Ikea bookshelf or something) and cut it to size, the same as the card. I would suggest using something other than what I did, because washing the pad wets the particle board inside and can warp and disfigure it with continued use. A small piece of hardwood like oak should work perfect.
I was initially going to router a curve into the edge, similar to how commercial stamping pads are, but decided against it both because I didn't know how the board would hold up structuraly, and because it was high enough as it is to give me ample control and grip.
Next, I glued the back of the rubber stamp to my wood block, but only on the areas with lettering. After putting some pressure on it and waiting about 15 minutes, I took an exacto knife and cut out everything but the written areas. This helps to minimize accidental ink exposure on the paper when you're stamping.
Ultimately, you end up with mostly background wood and small segments of rubber that have your embossed images. After some research, I decided on pigment ink boh because it apparently applies well, and it remains moist for a few seconds. This gives me enough time to cover the paper with embossing powder. After that, I remove all the extra powder, tap on the paper to get the last bits off of everything but the ink, and head over to the heat gun.
Embossing powder is heat activated, meaning that the crystals attached to the paper by way of the ink melt into one glossy unit when the gun is placed over it. This has the interesting effect of raising the lettering, so that what you end up with is a clean business card with shiny, black, and textured letting.
The picture here is of the stamp after a few uses. I wanted to wait to show the actual stamping process until I've had some practice and can produce something I'd be comfortable handing to someone.
Thanks to TechShop RDU for the space, tools, and know how. Their website is www.techshop.rdu.
My new Etsy page is: http://www.etsy.com/shop/LeadfootPressings
Good luck, and leave a comment with any advice if you have some.