My children love making cards, scrapbook pages, note paper and even homemade wrapping paper using rubber stamps but it would cost me a small fortune to purchase all of the great ones that we see when visiting the local craft store. So I thought — why not try making some myself? A quick visit to an art supply store provided me with a large block of rubber that truly carves like butter and a carving tool that I could reuse over and over to create dozens of stamps, all for the cost of only a handful of new ones.
Carving your own stamps is really simple and you can find inspiration all around you — in nature, your child’s drawings, children’s books, magazines and more. The possibilities are truly endless. Start by making a few simple ones without a lot of details to get the feel for the carving tool and in no time you will be able to recreate anything. Even your children will want to try making some. Plus with the holiday season quickly approaching these are going to make some really great stocking stuffers!
Lino cutting tool
Speedy Carve block
Tree branch rings cut ½ – ¾ inches thick
Using a pencil draw the image that you want to turn into a rubber stamp onto a sheet of tracing paper while keeping in mind the size of your tree branch rings. You want to make sure that your finished stamp will fit easily onto the surface of the ring with some wiggle room to spare.
When you have perfected your drawing go over the lines a few extra times so that they have a good amount of pencil lead on them. Then place your image with the pencil side down on the carving block. While holding the drawing firmly in place trace over the image again. You will be able to see it very easily through the tracing paper and when you lift off the paper it will leave a perfect copy of your original image behind. This will allow you to reuse your drawing many times by repeating this process.
Now the real fun begins! Grab your cutting tool and select a tip to start with. Most cutters come with an assortment of four or five different tips that vary in width and depth. I like to start with the finest tip because you can always go over a line to make it wider or more prominent later, but if you accidentally cut wrong the first time it can be tricky to fix it up. With a steady hand start by cutting around the main parts of your image and any little details that you want to remove. Once you have finished double check your image and start to remove the areas that will create the negative space or voids around your image. A good way to make sure you have removed any unwanted rubber is to ink your stamp and do a test run. Anything you might have left behind will show up and you can quickly go back and take it out.
When you are happy with your finished carving use the knife tip that comes with your cutting tool and cut around the stamp, leaving a bit of a buffer zone along the edges. You can follow around all the curves or leave it in block form. It’s up to you but make sure it will still fit on a tree ring.
Grab your sandpaper now and give the tree rings a quick sanding to take off any rough edges and create a smooth surface that will feel nice on little hands. The side that your stamp will be glued to doesn’t need to be super smooth and a little bit of roughness will actually help the glue to adhere better. Carve in a crosshatched pattern on the backside of a stamp and then apply a generous amount of glue, covering it completely. Firmly press the stamp to a wooden ring and apply pressure for a minute and then allow to dry undisturbed for a day.
I really like to use E-6000 because it glues pretty much everything together, it’s waterproof, and has some flex, but it does have an odour. Be sure to use it in a ventilated area. The smell will go away after about a week so set them aside somewhere out of the way. In no time they will be scentless and ready for a nice coat of beeswax polish to the rest of the exposed wood. This will protect the wood from any water that gets on them during cleaning and prolong their life.
Just sew yourself up a little drawstring bag out of muslin or a pretty print and you now have a fantastic holiday or seasonal stamp set for your family or to give away as a gift.
Rosina Huber lives on Vancouver Island, British Columbia and is an enthusiastic home educator to her three children whose goal is to instill a life-long love of learning in each of them through living books, exploration and imagination. She enjoys sharing her love of homeschooling, creative ways to foster learning, projects, ideas and more on her blog Rosy ~ Posy.
Rhythm of the Home is an online magazine for families that focuses on creating with children, nature explorations, seasonal celebrations, conscious parenting, and mindfulness in all that we do.