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Because of course I want another hobby to neglect

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I can no longer remember how it started.  I may have been asked.  I may have been foolish enough to volunteer.  In any case, I’m leading a few little craft projects at a get-together of families with adopted Thai children next weekend.  (I’m making Courtney help me because it’s easy to talk her into crafty things.)  One minor problem was that, while I love looking at Thai handicrafts, I do not know how to make any of them.  Another minor problem was that the projects had to be suitable for kids of all ages (2-teen) and be easy to do in a hotel conference room with minimal supplies. So I searched a bit and found pictures of some beautiful Thai temple flags that had all 12 animals of the Thai zodiac on them.  I thought it’d be fun to do some projects that involved stamping with the Thai zodiac animals. The next minor problem was that I couldn’t find those stamps for sale (if there are some available, please don’t tell me now).

So I did more research and figured out how to carve some myself.  It was ridiculously fun and easy.  Here’s how, in case you’d like to carve your own designs.

Tutorial disclaimer:  I’m self-taught and don’t actually know what I’m doing.  If you have tips, please share them!

Supplies:  Speedball speedy carve (a flat sheet of rubber), Staedtler #1V gouge (used to carve very thin, intricate parts of the design), Speedball lino cutters #1-5 (for removing larger pieces of rubber) I got my supplies here.  It was the only store I found that carried the Staedtler gouge by itself instead of in a kit.

  1. Find an image you want to carve a stamp of.  I found a great series of postage stamps with the animals I needed.
  2. Use photo editing software to convert the image to a 2-color image you can easily carve.  Take out extra detail and background.  In Photoshop, the “artistic” filters “cutout” and “poster edges” both gave my image nice edges for carving.  Resize it to be the size of your desired stamp.  Print it out.
  3. Trace over the outline of the image and all interior details with a sharp pencil.
  4. Place the paper, image-down, onto the carving surface.  Hold it in place and rub the paper with a smooth, hard object (I used the handle of one of the gouges) to transfer the pencil lines to the rubber.  Use an x-acto knife to cut around the image.
  5. With the smallest (or sometimes larger, depending on the section) gouge, cut away all of the interior details.  Remember- whatever you carve away will not pick up ink.  Your image is actually whatever you leave as-is. (Try not to touch the pencil lines with your fingers or it can smudge away.)  Push the gouge away from you to cut the rubber (and keep your fingers away – it’s razor sharp!)
  6. Cut away the outline of the image with the smallest gouge.  Go back around the outline with larger gouges, moving further away from the image.  Eventually you can use the really big gouges to cut away the rubber from the large open spaces.
  7. The finished stamp looks like this:
  8. Apply ink and make a test image.  From this image you can see if there are areas that need to be carved a bit deeper to avoid placing ink on the page where there shouldn’t be any.
  9. To work optimally, the stamp should be mounted onto a layer of foam and wood.  I took a shortcut and skipped the foam.  I used Gorilla Glue to glue the rubber to 3″ squares of oak.
The stamps turned out well.  My favorite to carve was the naga (which is the dragon in the Chinese zodiac).  The coverage by the washable ink  is a little disappointing.  I’ve tried the Michael’s store brand and Melissa and Doug.  Michael’s “Craft Smart Washable” seems spotty.  Melissa and Doug’s Washable ink covers a bit more evenly but is much lighter.  For this project we really need washable ink, but I’m looking forward to trying the stamps with some better inks in the future.
If all goes well, we’ll have cute finished craft pictures to share after the reunion.
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9 responses »

  1. I am in awe right now! So incredible, and all the kids will love it. Excited to hear fun stories from the reunion!

    Reply
  2. Wow, that turned out really well. Now do you have to carve the other 11? ahahah. I may have to special order a tiger stamp from you. Or maybe you could stamp a little t-shirt for Mr. T. Your stamps turned out beautiful!!!

    Reply
    • I, The Great Procrastinator, actually finished all 12 stamps more than one week before I need them!! (This is not like me at all.) I’d be honored to stamp a shirt for Mr. T. Pick a size and color. =)

      Reply
  3. Tea's and Pea's Grandad

    Well maybe fun, but it certainly doesn’t look easy or fast. Great job though- I am sure they will have fun with them.

    Reply
  4. oh. my. god. you are insane. all this talk of the stamps and i had no idea they were so intricate. no wonder you are down to nine fingers 🙂 i am beyond impressed.

    Reply
  5. They were a huge hit; SId wore his banner to church today (not ninja style, though he tried that first-his hair was wet so I put the brakes on :)! We CAN’T WAIT for the t-shirts, pillowcases etc etc…let me know when you are ready, cause I will be placing a family order! I promise to but the tshirts and occupy all the children while you craft. Merry Christmas family, Thai zodiac tshirts by the artist formerly known as Robin for all!!!

    Reply
    • I stand corrected: that’s supposed to be “buy” the shirts!

      Reply
    • Glad Sid liked his banner so much. =) I’ll do some ink research and I can bring the stamps to your house when we get together. Anyone who wants to stamp something can bring it along.

      Reply
  6. Pingback: Thai Family Reunion 2011 « Domestic Wormhole

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