Sunday, December 16, 2012

Designing, cutting and mounting - Making stamps from rubber scraps: Part 1

How to reuse and upcycle the leftover rubber scraps from trimming a sheet of rubber stamps? Make your own unique handmade homemade scrap rubber stamps. It's easier and cheaper than carving stamps and doesn't require as much patience. You don't need to pay for carving rubber or carving tools. Also, you get better value for your money when buying stamp sheets as you can make the scraps into yet more stamps. These stamps are great for kids too as using them they'll get to put all that fabulous imagination into use. The photos in this post are links to the same pic in Flickr where you'll find bigger pics for better viewing.

What you'll need: rubber scraps, scissors, cling foam for mounting
(Optional: plier punches, Sizzix paddle punches, a die cutting machine, double sided foam tape and rectangular beads for mounting)
Cut out your shapes with the punches or dies and mount them on acrylic blocks with EZ foam or on permanent handles with double sided foam tape. Making stamps with the paddle punches is very noisy business so cover your ears and avoid disturbing neighbors. It’s best to choose thin scraps for the paddle punches, for with thicker scraps you’d have to hammer like crazy to cut through. Die cutting machines are presumably sturdy enough to cut through even the thicker bits provided you have dies with small enough designs.
First design your shapes:
- Paper tag shapes, letters, numbers, punctuation marks and curlicues to use for journaling or scrapbooking
- Leaves, hearts, abstracts, blocks, geometric shapes, fruit, animal shapes, bottles, jars, flowers, Christmas tree ornament shapes, mittens, Christmas stockings, other clothes, flowerpots, house shapes, lightning bolts, droplets, tiles, paisley shapes.
- From long scraps: snakes, pencils, crayons, long, thin leaves, arrows, exclamation marks, tree trunks, lizard/crocodile/newt bodies, grass blocks cut with pinking shears, wave blocks, long, thin triangle Christmas trees

Above are ideas and some designs I've copied to my stamps. Opening the links you'll find bigger versions of the pics. The gourd and the snowman were the basis to my most versatile stamps, the general animal bodies. To begin with and to practice, pick shapes you can cut out with long, clean cuts. If you snip snip snip with short cuts, you may end up with uneven edges of your stamp. While nicks are not a cause to discard a stamp, smooth edges are preferred.

For further inspiration or ready patterns you can browse stock photo websites for illustrations or online craft stores for rubber stamp designs. Think of ways to simplify the images you like into shapes that you can cut from your rubber. You can add the removed details back on later with markers. Stock photo sites are especially good for studying what kind of charasteristics can be used to create animals from one and same basic shape, just make a search for animal illustrations.

A friend of abstract images and the style of cave paintings can arrange the scraps on a table, look at them from different directions and search for shapes. For example, could these bits in the picture below be trimmed and imagined into being a peacock, an ibex or an ox?
Tracing and cutting:
Match your designs with rubber scraps that are slightly bigger than your image. It’s easier to cut the stamps out if you have some leverage around the edges. Trace your shape design on translucent paper (sewing pattern paper, baking paper, whatever you have available) with a soft pencil. Turn the paper over, and rub with the pencil over the outline of your stamp to transfer the design onto the rubber. Make sure you transfer the image on the up- and not the underside of the rubber scrap. Upside is the side on which your bought stamps protruded from. The underside is usually a little glossy compared to the upside and not as good a surface for stamping.
Place the start of the cut to a sharp point on the shape, to a corner or on the bottom of the shape as seen in pictures above. Don’t worry about the end result as you start experimenting. Just go with the flow and play with your material – it’s not like you’re wasting material you’ve paid a lot for. The shapes may come out wonky, nicked, uneven or asymmetrical, but it’s part of the style, part of the allure. Don’t discard even “badly ruined” specimens before a test stamping for by drawing an outline for a stamped shape it’s possible to hide even crude imperfections. Also outlining gives your finished project, be it a greeting card or something else, a modern sort of look.

You’ll need sharp scissors to get even edges but don’t use your for-fabric-only sewing scissors or other favorite scissors for cutting rubber will dull scissors. Before long (after 20-30 stamps) the scissors you are using will stop cutting clean through the rubber and then it’s time to move on to the next pair to avoid nicks. The scissors I used still cut paper just fine but don’t cut through fabric so well. One possibility to fix the scissors back to their past glory is to take them afterwards to be sharpened or sharpen them yourself.

The thickness of the scraps often varies between 1 and 2 millimetres (0,04 and 0,08 in). Save the thin scraps for more intricate designs you can experiment with after you’ve mastered the basics with thick rubber and simpler shapes. The thinner the scrap the sharper curves and detailed shapes you’ll be able to cut.
↑ Mounting:
Stamps that are 1 cm (0,5 in) in diameter or larger can be mounted on cling foam. Stamps smaller than that it’s best to mount on tiny wood cubes with double sided foam tape. I’ve ordered my tiny mounts from an online store selling board game pieces. Because I use wood mounts only for the stamps too small to EZ mount, that shop was the only place to sell cubes tiny enough. You could also use cube shaped beads as they come in handy sizes.

You can make even a small amount of scraps to go a long way by thinking up basic shapes that can be varied by drawing on them with a fine marker to portray a great number of different things. For example many animals can be simplified to a basic shape with changing additions. This shape can be as simple as a circle, an oval, an egg shape or a rectangle with rounded edges, on which you add legs, tails, heads, ears, noses, peaks, whiskers, spots, stripes, wings, fins, tufts of hair and such with a pen afterwards. (For more examples see Part 2: Versatile use of simple home made stamps)

All the shapes you cut out can be used to build backgrounds like a tile wall or a paisley pattern.

When you buy stamps they’re usually described as deeply etched. That makes the stamping surface rise above the background and prevent staining from unwanted areas. The con side of these homemade stamps is their thinness and when inking your stamp you’re bound to get ink on your mount too. Still, rather surprisingly, in the course of all my tests I only got staining from the mount once. The risk of this happening might be further reduced by using the thicker EZ mount cling foam (if there still is two thicknesses available as there used to be) or when mounting on wood by using two layers of double sided foam tape between the stamp and the mount instead of just one.

As I went through a lot of material in a matter of days and still the ideas kept on coming I started wondering if it would be possible to harvest more material for homemade rubber stamps from punctured inner tubes of bicycle tires. Such wide strips of rubber would allow bigger and, the material being thin to cut, more detailed designs. (I’m thinking of human and animal silhouettes big enough to use on greeting cards.)  The problem is that with rubber that thin the background staining might factor in quite strongly.

I wish you many happy moments crafting with scrap rubber! Please leave me a comment if you enjoyed the post. To finish with here are some links to other people’s blog posts and inspiring images on the same topic:

Make your own petal and leaf stamps and learn how to do this flower image with distress inks, water and a marker

Large compilation flower


Die cutting machine stamps

Surprisingly detailed Egyptian style foam stamps

Make your own banner stamp

Triangle, square, mosaic, tile wall and other backgrounds

Some carved stamp motifs can be made from srap rubber as well

More foam stamps. (If you can cut it from foam, you can cut it from rubber scraps.)

1 comment:

Bricolente said...

Bonjour !

Thank you for all your ideas. J'aime beaucoup.