Sunday, August 3, 2008

Different types of stamps, their care and storage.


To begin here are a few links I found on the history of stamping that you might find interesting:
Stamping History 1
History of stamping 2
Another version of events
Tying them together and reasons for buying rubber stamps
Japanese signature stamps or Hanko stamps

Now this is what I know about stamps and I hope it is useful to you. If anyone has anything to add, or other useful links please post a comment. (Please bear in mind I haven't finished yet, the other types of stamps are to follow. I would like to know if you think it is useful so far though.)

I am going to post in more detail later on different types of ink which are mentioned briefly below. I hope to put together a useful table to tie this information up also.

Overview of what is out there:

There are many types of stamps available to buy, or you can make your own. Remember carving potato stamps and stamping paint onto paper at school? Do schools still do this? I remember having to supply a half potato for my children to make potato stamps and proudly bring their creations home.

These days you can buy stamps made of rubber either mounted (on wood, thick foam, sticky foam cushion, cling back cushion, magnetic rubber sheet) or unmounted.

Stamps can be bought unmounted, and in kit form where you get the blocks and rubber stamps and you need to mount them yourself.

You can buy clear or tinted stamps made from polymer or acrylic materials that cling to plastic or acrylic surfaces for stamping, some come with a clear block to use.

Foam stamps can be mounted on acrylic sheets or on blocks of foam.

There are kits to make your own stamps, either from packs of polymer that you cure, or from special foam blocks you heat and press onto a surface then heat and reuse. Or you can pay to have your stamps made up for you, either to stamp the back of your cards with an "Cazzy made this" type of message and email or phone number, or your own drawn designs.

There are lots of budding new designers out there, and lots of new on-line ventures to make and sell their stamps.

If stamping really isn't for you then there are downloadable images you can buy and print, you use them just like images you would stamp yourself and cut, colour, layer and embellish as you wish. You can even try and heat emboss the images as soon as they are printed (I will talk about heat embossing in a later session).

Now about the stamps.

1. Wood backed rubber stamps.


These are very attractive and usually have an image of the stamp on the back, this is often coloured to give you an idea of how to colour your stamped image later or how the stamp will look completed.

The best wood mounts are made of thick wood which is shaped at the sides to provide a good easy grip, this is especially important if you have any kind of stiffness with your hands and fingers.
The thicker the wood mount the less likely you are to plant your inky fingerprints on your newly stamped image I find too!

You can use rubber stamps with all types of inks, pigment, dye, alcohol based permanent ink. (I will cover inks and their use later and complete an easy reference table of what I have said).

You can use coloured pens instead of ink pads with these stamps to get a multi coloured image to begin with, but you can't colour the spaces between the raised edges until after stamping.

Wood backed stamps can be cleaned with a number of different cleaning solutions for different types of inks, and different scrubbing pads, but the cleaning method that was recommended to me over and over again and which I use above all other methods (unless I have a particularly tricky permanent ink situation) is alcohol free, perfume free baby wipes. These last a long time, and you can usually get them on buy one get one free, if you have babies it is a bonus - you have them already!

I was explaining this to my 8 year old niece a few months ago, I told her I may buy her some proper rubber stamps if she learned how to use them and care for them, when I told her about the baby wipes she said rather sadly "we don't have them in our house". Ahhh!

The main point is that you should clean your stamps as soon as you finish stamping before putting them away, although I have heard that Tim Holtz doesn't clean his stamps!

Wood backed stamps should ideally be stored on their backs with the rubber facing up, or they could be stored on their sides as long as there is no pressure on the rubber.

These stamps also take up the most room, I store mine in A4+ Tuff Boxes which are around £4 each now, and have handles that you can label. The beauty of these is that you can store the stamps rubber side up, with the label right side up, then turn over to see what you have. You can buy the ones without handles for about £1 less.

I have so many stamps now there are over 20 Tuff Boxes and I have photographed each full box of stamp backs with a view to printing off a book so I can see what I have and where when I need a special stamp for a card. I have tried to organise them into themes, sentiments, trees, flowers, oriental, animals, fish etc.

2. Un-Mounted stamps, and un-mounting mounted stamps.

Some people prefer to un-mount mounted rubber stamps (by microwaving for a short time or heating with a hair dryer) then store and use them as unmounted stamps to take up less room, I feel that if I ever wanted to sell mine this will take some of the value away especially for the well known brands of stamps and I love the wood mounts. I am lucky to have my own craft room though, so I can see why others do this.

You can also buy unmounted rubber stamps either singly or in sheets and they are usually quite a bit cheaper than the mounted versions. Unmounted usually means the naked rubber, nothing on the back, but sometimes stamps are called unmounted but have double sided sticky foam on the back for permanently mounting onto your own wood or acrylic blocks. You can get this off as mentioned above for mounted stamps. Sometimes it will just peel off easily.

You can used the naked unmounted rubber stamps just as they are, by using some sticky washable glue to adhere them to your acrylic block or ink pad lid, then removing them and washing it off afterwards. Crafter's Companion sell spray on adhesive specially for this.

Stamps can be bought ready mounted on sticky back cushion to permanently mount onto your own blocks, or with cling back foam cushion which clings to acrylic blocks or even ink pad lids and these have to be stored on a shiny backing sheet so it stays sticky.

You need to trim the rubber close to the image so that you don't get unwanted marks from the edges.

If the stamps you want are on sticky foam for sticking to a block you can un-mount them and add cling mount instead or leave them plain.

You can buy the sheets to store the cling mounted stamps on but you can also make them yourself either with sheets of acetate used for printing, or if you have a laminator - laminate some card, stamp it before laminating if you like so you know where each stamp sits when you put them back. Then punch holes in the sheets or attach mounting strips with holes in them then store in a binder.
It is best to use an A4 lever arch binder as they are strong and if you can punch 4 holes and get the 4 ring version that is even better.

Rubbadubbadoo make magnetic backed stamps and sets (as well as unmounted and foam mounted, or cling back stamps), and special magnetic blocks in different sizes to use with them. I haven't come across any other maker of these types of stamps (and oh dear I found they are having a sale as I popped over to get the link!).













3. Clear stamps

Clear stamps are made of polymer or acrylic. They are clear or tinted. They normally come in sheets or singles on a sheet of acetate type material. They are easy to store as you only have a thin sheet of material normally but some come mounted on acrylic blocks permanently. (for more about mounting the stamps see the next section).

They work out cheaper than wood mounted stamps, you can get a whole sheet of images for a little more or the same price as one or two wood mounted stamps of a well know brand, and some sets come with an acrylic mounting block. They are easy to clean with water or soapy water, and if they lose their stickyness warm soapy water is supposed to restore it, or you can use glue stick to give them a bit more stick on an acrylic block.

If you are washing your stamps under the tap or in the sink be careful not to lose any small stamps down the plug hole! You could wash them in a bowl then drain into a sieve or colander to prevent this. Baby wipes can also be used to clean the stamps if you want to.

Clear stamps should be stored in a cool dark place ideally to keep them from discolouring and hardening. These stamps don't last as long as rubber, but it is possible to get a lot of use from them if you do take good care of them.

There are a number of storage solutions on the market but I recently bought an A5 expanding file from Tesco which I customised and it is perfect, keeps out the light and was only £3.50.

I have paid a lot more for specialist storage for clear stamps. You could also keep them in a folder on sheets of acetate, or in the slim Tuff Boxes, I have some stored on the insides of the boxes.

Warning: It is not recommended to use alcohol ink such as Stazon with clear stamps because if you use the alcohol ink cleaner it will damage the stamps. I used Stazon on one of my sets and it melted them, though I know there are people who do use it!



4. Different mounting blocks for clear or UM stamps.
You can buy acrylic blocks which you place the back of the stamp on and it clings to the block, you can also improvise using your ink pad lid or similar. Acrylic blocks come in different qualities, there are plenty of home made efforts out there for sale on Ebay, but they tend to be quite thin, as do the ones you get with your set of stamps generally I have found. The better ones are thicker with finger grooves in the sides, and the best ones I have seen, and I have one of these, have a grid faintly showing so you can line up your letters or images in a straight line. You can also get a new system of mounting blocks called Rock a Blocks, which come for about £15 a set and are supposed to be specially designed so you get a perfect even image every time, I have a very small one of these I got free but I can't really tell if this is true until I try the larger size maybe at a show. Shows are expensive to attend, you pay to go in after you get there, and then you buy stuff but there are opportunities to try things before you buy, there may even be workshops using the products.

I just bought a set of Rock a Blocks and the first attempt gave me a perfect result, so they look good.

SeeD or See Clear stamps by DoCrafts come into the unmounted rubber but mounted on cling mount category. They are used with clear blocks and you can see the printed image through the block, as it is printed on the mount material so you can see where you are placing the image and what it will look like.

They come in CD cases so are easy to store and you get a lot of stamps in the set.



4. Foam stamps

Foam stamps have made a come back. You can get foam mounted on foam, foam mounted on acrylic sheets or rubber mounted on foam blocks. You often get these as free gifts on craft magazines but can buy the acrylic sheet mounted ones which are very inexpensive from the craft shop. Also look in DIY stores in the decorating section, there are plenty there for walls that you could use on cards. Foam stamps can be used with paint or ink and washed off under the tap.



Here is a photo of foam stamps on foam, on acrylic sheet, and rubber stamps on foam blocks.










5. Making your own stamps

Foam stamps are easy to make at home by either cutting foam sheets into shapes by hand, and you can draw on them first, or if you have a die cutter you can easily cut shapes which you can stick to acrylic blocks with a glue stick, or stick to a couple of squares of funky foam.

Clear stamp making kits are available too, I have one made by Imagepac but haven't used it yet. There are the cheap versions where you get gel sachets and a design you printed on acetate which are clamped together under a light for a set period of time, after which you wash them in a solution and cure them under the light again.
You can pay more for a machine to do all the curing.
You can by kits that have rubber you can carve into your own designs.

There are blocks of foam that you heat and press on a textured surface of any kind and then use the blocks to stamp, and you can reheat them and use over and over with different patterns.

If you are talented at drawing you can have your designs made up into stamps and there are a number of companies that do this. In addition there are a couple of companies who make stamps and sell them from new designers such as Tanda Stamps and Spiral Whispers.

Getting started in card making - how I became a convert

Confession of a convert.

I confess I could never see the point of making cards, but I am a convert and I love making and receiving hand made cards now.

For a start it is very satisfying that you can start and complete a project in as little as 30 minutes, to maybe a couple of weeks of working on it in the evenings and you get the satisfaction of a great reaction from the recipient or purchaser of your work if you can bear to part with it.

How I got converted: It was a mixture of things, being invited to a wedding with simple hand made stationery, trying to find an appropriate RSPV card to reply, the matching stationery on the day and thank you cards, trying to find an appropriately themed card for the wedding from us. Then a second wedding where they did the same but different colours, and finally I was working in London staying in hotels for a few months with nothing to do and I came across a shop called Blade Rubber Stamps with wall to ceiling stamps all the way round and much more.

In the window were some toppers, and I thought that it would be a quick and easy way to make hand made cards so bought a few toppers, some sheets of peel off stickers and a magazine - no card blanks at this stage!
That was it, I became hooked, I wasn't going to stamp (ha ha, the rubber smell must be addictive and I bought my first few stamps in Blade Rubber), I wasn't ever going to use die cuts (now have two machines and a Craft Robo, more on these later), now I have more stash than the average shop in my own craft room that we built on!

Advice for beginners - or what do I need as a basic kit for card making?


To start with you can get many convenience items, just as you can get convenience food. For example you can buy ready to fold, or even ready folded card blanks with matching envelopes.

I would advise all beginners to start with a pack of card blanks and matching envelopes and just a small pack until you know you like making cards. You can get them in packs of 6, or packs of 50. It is more expensive to buy 6, but there are many different designs out there now, embossed, printed, with apertures cut in them, fancy folds etc.

Start with a plain and simple pack of cards.

You might want to buy peel off stickers which are very convenient and quick and easy to use, great for a beginner or for quick cards at any time. You can get greetings in sheets, or images.

You can also buy a variety of 3d stickers from dome stickers to paper and cloth e.g. bunches of flowers, greetings, butterflies, princess outfits, and unlimited other stickers.

You might decide to buy a rubber stamp, if you are using lots of Happy Birthday stickers it would make sense to buy a Happy Birthday stamp, and then you need the appropriate ink - dye ink is best to start. You can practice on some scrap card before ruining your expensive card blanks.

Glue of some sort is always useful, you can get glue dots which are nice and clean to use, the card maker's favourite double sided tape of which there are many varieties, glue sticks, very tacky PVA glue which can have a tendency to make the card mishappen but is good for sticking small awkward items on and double sided foam pads or tape.

Toppers, you can get all sorts of ready made toppers that usually have double sided foam pads on them ready to peel and stick.

You will eventually want to move to making your own toppers or stamping images and using embellishments.

You might have things around the home that you could use, buttons, ribbons (even cut from clothes), interesting papers or card from packaging that you could re-use, I have recycled tea bag boxes from herbal tea.

Something to cut with is useful, basic scissors will do to start but you may wish to move onto trimmers, fancy scissors, and punches.

Whatever you buy you need to make sure that if you have limited funds it is something you will be able to use for many cards, for example a stamp of flowers can be used for birthday cards, thank you cards, sympathy cards, and many more for a range of people but a stamp of a barbeque might be more limited in use. I have a stamp of an ageing fairy sprinkling embossing powder, I have only used it once!

You can use stamps to create your own backing papers, or print papers yourself from CDs you can purchase or sites that have free papers to print or you can buy many pretty and clever papers but this is the most expensive option.

If you go to a Do Craft Demo you can purchase a goodie bag which has a range of sample items in it, and enough to get started on card making.

Storage is something to think about, and you can use cheap everyday storage solutions or you can spend a lot on specialised storage, there are totes with wheels which you might be able to store your entire collection of stash in - at least to begin with! But you don't need to go to that sort of expense.

Shoe boxes, and other boxes - clean pizza boxes for 12" x 12" papers are good.

Forums and web sites and on line help.


There are a lot of card making forums "out there" and if you are reading this you are online so will be able to join the forums.
There are lots of new people and experienced people who will help you out with queries, you can show off your creations and get praise, and there are many sites with video tutorials or instructions on how to make particular projects.

What you need to bear in mind is that if you see a card in a magazine or on a demo that you want to make you don't have to buy all the things used, you may have something similar you could substitute such as a similar rubber stamp.

There are lots of magazines out there too and it is tempting to buy them all. Some now come with complete kits to make up a number of cards and these are expensive compared to the other magazines but are good value for money for beginners.

I have started collecting links to tutorials that I find and they are at the side of this blog. I hope they are useful.

I have also added links to forums, which I will also add more to.