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How to: Hand carve rubber stamps

Thank you for all the well wishes about my plague. My fever broke last night (so no more weird posts like yesterdays, I'm afraid. Did I really say I wanted to force mate Amy Butler and Joel Dewberry?!), and I can walk across the room without needing to stop to blow my nose, so I think I'm definitely on the mend now.

I even went out and about today, poked around a few shops (my favourite find of the day - a pair of PJs in an asian dollar store with a warning label that said "when wear on child never direct contact with ovens or fire"!) and mailed off many packages full of stamps going across the world, and or stamp-carving how-to's!

So since I've just written up a stamp carving tutorial for two lovely ladies over at swap-bot.com I thought I would share it with the rest of my lovelies over here!

*   *   * 

You will need:

1. Regular kitchen paper for transfers.
2. Ink pad.
3. Pencil (a regular one will work better for this than a mechanical pencil)
4. Erasers.
5. 6. 7. Carving tools.


Here's a closer look at the tools I use. There are of course a lot of other shapes and sizes, but these are the ones I prefer. I will be using the v-gouge for practically every step.

5. V-shaped gouge tool.
6: 5mm chisel tool.
7. 1 inch chisel tool. BIG DADDY!

A note on the carving tools:
These are very sharp! Even the v-shaped ones are sharp. They may not look like it but you should treat them the same as a knife blade or chisel.
The v-shaped ones are used like a gouge, and the chisel-shaped ones can be used something like an exacto knife (which, if you have an exacto at home, you might like to try it out too! My favourite tool is the gouge but a lot of people like a blade better so see which kind you like the best).


Here's a closer look at the erasers (for any of you Aussies who want to know where to get some cheap, quality carving material).
These babies were ONE DOLLAR at the Reject Shop! They carve like butter <3

So get yourself somewhere comfy. Unwrap an eraser and check it for bumps – you want your printing surface to be smooooth. If you find any, you can use the other side or use a little acetone (like nail polish remover) on a tissue to gently rub across the surface and that should smooth things out.


Pick a design! This is the fun part!

If this is your first time, pick something simple like a solid shape, letters are more complex and fiddly. Feel free to use the cupcake - depending on what size you make it, it's around beginner-intermediate level.

The best thing about stamp carving is even if you’re not a great artist, everything automatically looks cute when made into a stamp!

Something to remember is negative vs positive imaging. Do you want the cupcake to print as a solid image or as an outline? Do you want the cupcake to print (no background) or do you want a cupcake-shaped void in the middle of a printed background?


This is my cupcake at actual size, in case anyone was interested. It's a really wee Wee Stamp!


Using tracing paper (my transfers are drawn onto regular kitchen paper), draw your design then transfer it onto your eraser. Remember to transfer it on backwards if you’re doing text! You want the eraser to have mirror-writing so when you stamp it will come out the correct way.

If you are confident you could just draw straight onto the eraser!

Now you will have an eraser that looks like this:


( This is about all I use Big Daddy for - cutting up erasers so I can get multiple stamps out of them. That's one huge carving tool! )


Now to carve. Another great thing about this craft is erasers are so cheap! So don’t worry if you mess up or decide you don’t like it!

The MOST IMPORTANT thing to remember when carving is you want to a) carve away from yourself (no slips! Don’t want your carving tools cutting into your hand!) and b) to not under-cut your image.

This is undercutting:

You want to cut on an outward slope from your design like this:

This particular brand of eraser is nice to carve – carves like butter. You will see what I mean when you first try, so you don’t need to use a lot of pressure! It’s more like drawing into the rubber with a sharp ‘pen’.

Carve gently – you can always carve more but you can’t un-carve!


Carve all around your stamp as well, right to the edges of your eraser so that your image is raised up from the rest of the eraser, like this:


When you think you have your design the way you want it (don’t stress too much about this. Like I said, part of the charm in hand-carved stamps is the handmade nature of them!), do a test stamp. If there are places you need to carve down more, you’ll find them once you do a test stamp.


And that’s all! Now you can stamp away to your heart’s content!

I've stamped mine onto sticker dots to use on packaging and letters and the fridge and my organiser and....

Yeah, stamping can be addictive. Don't say I didn't warn you!

Caring for your stamps:

After each use remember to clean your stamp as soon as you can.

Run them under the tap (faucet) under warm water, then blot them on a serviette (napkin – now you can learn Aussie terms too!). If ink prints off, wash them again and stamp on the serviette some more, repeat until no more ink comes off.


If you use a strong colour like black or red, sometimes the ink will stain your stamp. Don’t worry – if you clean it properly it won’t transfer the next time you use it, just the rubber will be stained. It’s the sign of a well-used stamp! :)

Leave on a clean dry serviette to dry, then store your stamps in an air-tight container with the carving facing up.

If you follow these steps your stamps should last a long time!

*   *   *

I hope you enjoyed learning about how I carve my stamps! I’d love to see pictures of any stamps you make, or answer any questions you have about my tute or stamp-carving in general, so please don't be shy!


( 48 comments — Leave a comment )
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Jul. 15th, 2008 05:33 pm (UTC)
glad you feeling better!
that is so cool! thats for the tutorial! :D
Jul. 16th, 2008 12:08 am (UTC)
thank you! :D
(no subject) - (Anonymous) - Dec. 25th, 2008 11:33 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jul. 15th, 2008 09:23 pm (UTC)
Awesome, that is very cool and do-able!
Jul. 16th, 2008 12:06 am (UTC)
Thank you!

Since I'm not really an expert crafter (evident if we look at my last tutorial on drafting a pattern.. ew), I want to pass on fun things to do that don't cost a million bucks and honestly, if I can do it you can do it too.
Jul. 15th, 2008 11:52 pm (UTC)
What a GREAT tutorial! Very easy to understand - and now I want to make stamps!!! : )

Thanks for sharing your stamping know-how!

Hope you're feeling much better soon.

Jenn Maruska : )

(Deleted comment)
Jul. 16th, 2008 12:02 am (UTC)
Something I'd love to try would be to make rudey ones to stamp on bills I post in.

But I'm a chicken :(
(Deleted comment)
Growing Hemp Not Smoking It - (Anonymous) - Dec. 20th, 2009 04:08 pm (UTC) - Expand
umm... - (Anonymous) - Jan. 19th, 2010 02:48 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jul. 23rd, 2008 01:56 am (UTC)
Stupid question... how do you do the actual transfer of the image from the paper to the eraser? Thanks!
Jul. 23rd, 2008 06:21 am (UTC)
If you use proper tracing paper, or even just regular kitchen wrap paper (which is what I use!), then you draw on it with a graphite pencil of any kind (HB is the most common kind). Flip it over so that the image is lying against the eraser, and rub on the back of the paper with your thumbnail and it should transfer right across :)
(no subject) - noricum - Jul. 23rd, 2008 02:51 pm (UTC) - Expand
(Deleted comment)
(no subject) - twocheeseplease - Sep. 5th, 2008 11:20 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jul. 23rd, 2008 01:58 am (UTC)
Oh... and one more stupid question: How do you sharpen your tools? I bought one of those lino-cutter tools with a bunch of tips, and they're *dull* as can be. :(
Jul. 23rd, 2008 06:26 am (UTC)
You know, I actually have no idea how you'd go about sharpening them - I guess you could do a search for how to sharpen chisels / knives? I'm sorry I couldn't be more help with this one :(
(no subject) - noricum - Jul. 23rd, 2008 02:51 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jul. 24th, 2008 09:56 pm (UTC)
What a great tutorial!. Thanks. Wendy

P.S I found you via Whip Up

Jul. 25th, 2008 01:19 pm (UTC)
Thanks for sharing that! It's got a lot of great information! Now if I can only think of something worthy to stamp out!
Jul. 27th, 2008 02:59 am (UTC)
Thank you very much
I haven't had a LiveJournal since my psycho ex ran me off so I was VERY lucky to find this page through StumbleUpon.

Thank you very much for the great idea.
All the best wishes for your endeavors,
- AkashaAurora
Jul. 28th, 2008 09:09 pm (UTC)
way cute!
Jul. 31st, 2008 02:33 am (UTC)
Very helpful!
Thanks, this is very helpful for getting started and the pictures make things really clear. I want to take up letterboxing and first I need to make a personal stamp for myself. I have already sketched out my design. It has lots of curves. Can you suggest any special tools or techniques for carving out curves, loops, and circles? - Samsy
Jul. 31st, 2008 02:55 am (UTC)
Re: Very helpful!
I don't know about special tools - my v-gouge works fine for curves and loops, but the KEY is to go very slowly, and smoothly. I suspect maybe an x-acto type knife might work better in this case but I'm not sure, since I've never used one for stamp carving.

Another tip is to carve out the middle of your loop first - like if you were carving an "O", carve out the bit in the middle, and then carve around it. That way you're guaranteed to have enough rubber for the outline of the O.

If you do it from outside then carve away the middle last, sometimes you're left with too skinny an outline and it's not stable.

Hope this helped!
Re: Very helpful! - (Anonymous) - Aug. 1st, 2008 03:49 am (UTC) - Expand
Aug. 1st, 2008 06:22 pm (UTC)
Hand Carving Tutorial
Well done on an excellent hand carving tutorial. I can see that there are many ways od carving rubber stamps. Check out my attempt at www.letterboxstamper.co.uk


Devon, UK
Aug. 21st, 2008 11:04 am (UTC)
your tutorial is so inspiring..
i can't wait to start carving my own stamps!
thank you :)
Aug. 22nd, 2008 04:13 pm (UTC)
These stamps are adorable! I'd like to try making some; I've never thought of using erasers before. Thanks for the tutorial! :D
Aug. 27th, 2008 12:40 pm (UTC)
Yesss, thank you so much! This was very helpful, and a lot cheaper than I had ever dreamed of! Now I just have to find something worthy of creating a stamp.
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( 48 comments — Leave a comment )

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