Carving Images in Rubber

When approaching the carving of your design, remember that every design has a positive area and a negative area. The positive area is the area that will remain "raised". It is the part of the design that will receive the ink and will transfer that ink to the surface. The negative area is the area that is cut away.

Take this design as an example. You could approach the carving of this stamp in two ways. In the example of the left, you would carve out the shaded areas so that the scroll design, itself, would be stamped on the surface. In the example on the right, you would carve out the scroll design, so that the background area would be stamped onto the surface, leaving the original surface to show through in the scroll design.

While there are many tools that you can use to carve, the two that are most handy are V-shaped and U-shaped carving tools. Before carving on the surface with your design, practice with a scrap of the material you will be using.

Let's walk through practicing using a V-shaped blade:

  1. Hold the tool's handle so that the V is upright.
  2. Carve by pushing the handle forward, away from yourself. You'll see the blade fill with small "strings" of the block as you carve.
  3. Now work to perfect the angle with which you hold the tool. Aim to hold the carving tool at an angle, as parallel as possible to the design (right). This will allow you to make horizontal, shallow cuts.
Hold the carving tool as parallel as possible to the design, and carve by pushing the handle forward, away from your body.

Keep in mind that your goal is to "peel" the block, rather than "gouge" it. If you hold the tool at too steep an angle, you will probably end up digging deeper than you need to. (Hint: If you don't see the upper edges of the blade above the rubber, you are digging too deep.)

On the other hand, if you don't carve the block deep enough, your edges will be ragged. Spend a bit of time practicing the angle that gives you the best results. Practice carving in long, continuous lines as much as possible.

ยป lf holding the handle horizontally is ^ffic^t you can level your handle by simply pulling your arm toward your body until your wrist drops off your work surface, which automatically positions the handle and blade correctly.

Now let's move to your design...

  1. Start by carving the perimeter of your design with the V-blade (right). Carve right up next to the marking on the surface. Use light pressure for carving thin lines and heavier pressure for carving thick lines.
  2. After carving the perimeter, move on to other lines in the design. Whenever possible, carve away from your image. When following the curves of your design, rotate the block itself, rather than rotating the carving tool.
Carve the perimeter of your design with a V-blade.

To make rotating the carving block easier, try placing a small piece of paper between the image and the work surface. Use your non-carving hand to turn the block as you following the curves of your design.

3. Use carving blades to your advantage. A V-blade makes a different cut than a U-blade. Select which one is most appropriate for the work you are doing.

For example, if you are carving a solid star image, place the V-blade at the inside corners and carve away from the center, out beyond each point in the star.

As a general rule, V-blades are great for carving the outline of designs, and the wider U-blades are handy for carving out larger areas within the design (right).

To see your carving process better, you can ink the surface of the block with a brown or dark blue dye ink pad. This allows you to see the contrast between the surface left behind and the portions you have carved away, and you'll still be able to see your pencil or transfer design through the ink.

4. After you have finished carving the stamp, you must determine if you want to mount it on wood. Small, simple stamps carved into Speedy Stamp blocks or erasers can be used on their own as stamps. More intricate stamps, or any stamps on sheet rubber, should be attached to wood blocks using a strong glue (such as a 5-minute epoxy glue). Place craft foam or another foam material between the rubber and the wood to act as a cushion (see our previous instructions for mounting stamps.)

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