Handmade Stamps

Make inexpensive handmade stamps from recycled materials. Use them to make patterns in polymer clay.


Age: Adult

Difficulty: Easy

Time Scale: 2 out of 5


Supplies:

  • black felt pen (waterproof preferable)
  • pencil
  • lino gouge  (I used a brand called Speedball)
  • wood scraps 1 inch thick or heavy cardboard
  • saw 
  • medium grit sandpaper
  • contact cement (glue)
  • old paint brush
  • scraps of lino with vinyl all the way through and no paper backing
  • may require bandaids

Handmade-stamps-for-polymer-clay
Tree-from-mold

These handmade stamps are also known as lino block prints. This is a technique that has been around for many years. I did block printing in a high school art class. Since it would make me sound really ancient to mention how long ago that was, I'll just say a long time ago. It wasn't so long ago that it was before dinosaurs roamed the earth, but almost. That's all I'm saying on that subject!

These are going to be used to add a pattern to polymer clay. Yes, you can make stamps using polymer clay but this is a lot cheaper, since it uses scraps of recycled materials.

lino-gouge

The initial cost of the lino tool is a bit expensive. Finding one was a bit of a task. Where do you think you would find this tool? Ask at the hardware store? No! That just caused a confused look and the question "Why do you want to gouge lino?" What about at the flooring shop? No. They actually have the Speedball lino tool at Michaels. I used a 50% coupon, which helps get the cost down. The only other downside, is the possible need for bandaids. Don't be scared off by that. Just pay attention to where you are placing your fingers and you will be just fine. (Just be careful, the cutting tool is very sharp!) I survived and I can be a real klutz. It is difficult for me to use sharp objects without injuring myself.

These handmade stamps are easy to carve because you only take away a small amount of material, leaving the background intact. It is actually the opposite of one used as an ink stamp. The negative image, is the part that doesn't get carved. The positive, is the part that gets taken away. This makes things seem all backwards to me, but it all works out in the end. The design will be raised when stamped into the clay, rather than indented. Make sense? Clear as mud, right?

How to Make Handmade Stamps

Start by cutting a 1 inch thick piece of scrap wood into a square or rectangle shape. You don't need to be too fussy with the size, but it is best to start with something that isn't too big. About 2.25 x 3.25 inches is a good size.  If you don't have any wood, you can use a thick piece of cardboard. It won't be as durable if you use cardboard and you won't be able to use water on it, as a release agent. Wood backing really does work best.

Use a pencil to trace around the wood, on to the right (patterned) side of the lino. Cut this out.

Sand the patterned side with medium grit sandpaper, to scuff it up a bit. No need to get really carried away with this, just scratch it up some. This will help it adhere better to the wood block.

Use an old paint brush to apply contact cement to the piece of wood and to the right side of the lino.  Let the contact cement dry about 15 minutes, until it isn't tacky.

Line the lino and the wood pieces up and stick them together. Make sure they are lined up first, before they touch together. Once stuck on there, you won't get any wiggle room. The pieces will be stuck together, for good.

Rub over the lino, with your fingers to make sure there aren't any air bubbles. You can use a roller, if you have one.

tree-pattern-to-carve

Let dry for about an hour, before you begin carving. Okay, so I wanted to get on with this, so I didn't really do that. The contact cement does dry pretty quick. I probably have mentioned a time or two that I lack patience sometimes.

Draw a design on to the lino, using a waterproof black felt pen. I chose to do some trees. They are a good pattern to use as a starter project because trees don't require really precise lines. Yippee! You can go nuts. The more squiggly and wiggly the better. This will produce great looking wood texture.

Check out the pictures of the handmade stamps and you will see three trees, all quite different.

using-lino-gouge

Hold the back of the block of wood with your free hand. Hold the lino tool at a slight angle, in your other hand. Push the lino gouge forward. Don't try to dig in at too sharp of angle. Go quite shallow at first. You can always go back over the lines later, to go deeper.

Make sure to hold the block of wood towards the back. Push the lino tool forward, away from your hands. Always keep your fingers out of the way because once in a while you will have a slip, when the tool doesn't grab. This is one of those "don't do as I do, do as I say" things. (Actually, I really don't like that saying. Lead by example works much better.) There is no record of me doing what I shouldn't do but I tattle on myself every time! SO... I must admit, I had to go find the bandaids, because I didn't listen to my own advice. UGH!! How silly is that!??

Start carving around the outline you drew on to the lino. If the felt pen is smudging, it is a good reminder to keep your fingers off of it. This will also keep you from getting your fingers in harms way.

Carve away the felt lines on the inside, to make the bark on the tree. Leave the outside background intact. This part will not be removed because these handmade stamps are not going to be used with ink, but polymer clay.

tree-pattern-in-felt-pen
carving-pattern

Once you think you have completed the carving, test it out with a piece of polymer clay. Flatten a piece of clay, so it is about a 1/4 inch thick and the size of the stamp.

Use a small amount of water on the stamp to act as a release agent. Put the stamp face up, on the work surface and press the clay into it. This may seem backwards, but it seemed to work better than actually pushing the stamp into the clay. Pull the clay off gently and check to see if the design looks how you want it. 

Clay-tree-from-stamping

This is where I had to go back to the drawing board or should I say carving block and make my lines deeper, so they showed up better in the clay. If you aren't getting the depth you want, try making your handmade stamps with a double layer of lino. Yes, that will mean starting from scratch, but they don't take long to make.

When your test piece looks good, the carving is all done. I hope you didn't receive any injuries! Time to get stamping the design into your polymer clay. Press the clay into the stamp. Don't forget to use water, to keep the clay from sticking.

Pull apart, carefully. Use a sharp blade cutter to square up the edges.

tree-pattern-stamped-in-clay


If you used white polymer clay, you will want to add color, using paints or ink, before baking.

Here is an example of a piece that was colored with alcohol inks. The background color was added a drop at a time, while the piece was baking. This produced an interesting, mottled appearance.

Now you can have fun making your own handmade stamps. Use them to add a picture or design to your polymer clay projects.

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