For awhile I’ve been disappointed with the stamps the craft stores have to offer. I keep going to look at them every time I visit a craft store, hoping they’ll have something new, something more like I want. Not that the stores don’t have a large variety of nice stamps; they just don’t have what I want. And ordering custom stamps is just too expensive for me. So I was delighted when I discovered I could carve my own stamps! As I said last week (okay, week before last…), I ordered a stamp carving kit and book. To be more specific, I got Making an Impression: Designing & Creating Artful Stamps and Speedball Speedy Carve Stamp Making Kit. Now that I’ve had a chance to read the book cover to cover several times, and go crazy on the kit (and use up all the included rubber already), I’ll tell you guys what I think of both. The two aren’t at all connected company-wise, but as they kind of go hand-in-hand crafting-wise, this will be a double review. (♪Double review all the way across the site♫)
With Amazon Prime, the two together only cost me $22.37. That’s about the same as you’ll pay in stores (yeah, I’ve already been to craft stores looking for more rubber), so if you can’t find them near you or want to save time and/or gas money, ordering them from Amazon is a smart idea.
The kit includes a 6×4″ sheet of pink speedy carve rubber, one wooden handle, one Number 2 v-shaped line cutter tip, one Number 4 u-shaped gouge tip, tracing paper, and of course instructions. Buying each of these items separately could yield you more tips (at least, the wooden handles I saw sold separately came with more tips), but it will cost you a little more, and you don’t really need more tips to start. I think the kit is a great way to get a feel for the whole thing, and figure out if you actually like it; if you do, you can invest more money on separate tips, more rubber and more handles later. More handles are not necessary, as the tips are interchangeable; but I’m worried I’m going to cut myself changing them (and don’t want to go through the trouble/time of changing them in the middle of a project) so I’ll likely just buy a handle for each tip.
When the kit and book arrived, the first thing I did was read the book cover to cover. I’m normally a “start messing with it first” kind of girl, but something compelled me to read the book first, and I’m glad I did. While the instructions that came with the kit did include a few templates (and basic instructions, of course), I would highly recommend reading Making An Impression before you break open your carving materials. This book has in depth instructions and tips, as well as a ton of inspiration. It has 20 projects and 50 motifs to get you started; it’s easy to mix and match those, so even if you just follow the book, there’s hundreds of possibilities! And the inspirational tones of the book will likely have you creating something completely your own in no time.
To best review this book, I think I need to have you guys “follow along” as I make one of the stamps from the book. Although this was actually the third stamp I carved (the first being Hello Kitty after tracing a sticker, and the second being “craftotaku.com” using a stencil), I think it would be a great first project. If you aren’t comfortable carving the tiny lines on the underside of the mushroom, you simply don’t have to! As you’ll see I carved fewer of those lines than the template suggested, and I also omitted some of the detail on the top and stalk of the mushroom. One of the great things about this is that even when you’re following a template, you can do a million different things to make it unique and your own.
(I apologize for the dark/shadowy pictures – it’s raining today and there’s no sun. I really need to get a lamp for my desk!)
So, first I traced a template from the book.
Since I don’t have a bone folder and I don’t keep a metal spoon at my desk, I just use whatever is handy; in this case, my scissors…
Then I started carving. Something that the book doesn’t mention, but that I highly recommend, is a piece of paper and a self-healing cutting mat under you when you’re carving! The paper makes it easy to throw the rubber shavings away, and keeps tiny bits of rubber from healing into your mat. The mat keeps you from cutting your desk/table, and keeps you from blunting your carving tips by having them hit the desk/table. I may have learned that the hard way the first time…
Once I have a large and/or straight part I want to cut off, I like to use an X-Acto knife. I have one that is now dedicated to stamp carving; you probably don’t want to use your paper X-Accto knife for this, due to blunting and the possibility of tiny bits of pink ending up on your paper.
And more carving… you don’t have to cut out the shape completely like this; in fact, if you’re using the thin rubber like I am, doing this will make it impossible to apply even pressure if you don’t mount the stamp. So choose wisely; cut it out like this and mount it, or leave it a square/rectangle, shave down the entire outside, and don’t mount it.
More big pieces come off with the handy X-Acto knife… ()No, this post is not sponsored by X-Acto. I just happen to love their products. But if you’re reading, X-Acto, I’d totally be willing to be sponsored by you ^^)
I’ve made a special book for testing the stamps I carve. (And by made it I mean with my Cinch!) Here’s the cover, which is made from a cereal box.
So I tested my new stamp. As I said, it’s impossible to get even pressure without it being mounted.
But it looks good, so now to mount it! Since I am a cheapass, I am not going to spend money on pretty blocks and such if it’s just for myself. Instead I cut a piece from the box that came with my latest Amazon shipment (which wasn’t this stuff… yes, I’ve ordered more stuff since then >.<). But, keep in mind that mounting them on cardboard means you can never rinse them! (I didn't think about that until after I had mounted one.) So if you're one to clean by rinsing, you're probably going to need to buy some of those nice blocks (or do it frugally, go to the hardware store and get a 2x4 cut down). So that the picture is on the back, like one of those fancy professional stamps, I tape the tracing onto the back of the cardboard.
Then I spread a thin, flat layer of glue on the back of the stamp.
Then I put it on the blank side of the cardboard. It’s okay if a bit of glue squeezes out the side; if there’s enough on there that a big enough glop comes out to the size of the stamping surface, then, well, I’ve used way way too much glue.
And it’s done! Here’s the other stamps I’ve made; though they werent made from templates in the book, the instructions and tips from the book helped and inspired them.
And here’s how they stamp. With the Hello Kitty one, you can see I actually tested it as I went along, as I should be doing with all of them…
My only gripe with this book is that the author assumes you will use rubber that is thick enough to not need a handle. No tips are given for mounting nor for using an unmounted, thinner stamp. This was a bit of a problem for me as all that is available at my local stores is the same Speedball rubber included in the kit (well, there are some longer sheets available, but it’s all the same thickness). I couldn’t even find the book’s suggested alternative, erasers that don’t crumble (all the erasers I can find crumble), and that would limit me to small stamps anyway.
Veteran stamp carvers may find a bit of inspiration here, but it’s primarily for beginners. However, it does a wonderful job of taking you from beginner (or aspiring) to experienced!
My rating for these products:
Making an Impression: Designing & Creating Artful Stamps: 5 stars. If you’re new to rubber stamp carving or thinking about starting, you need this book!
Speedball Speedy Carve Stamp Making Kit: 4 stars. Would have been 5 if there was a kit option for thicker rubber, but it’s a great way to get started.
Bottom line: Highly recommended!