If you are looking to try carving your own stamps for making prints or crafting, there are several different mediums you can use to do your carving on. Now, I am going back to my art school days to tell you some things I have learned along with some of my current experiences with print making.
Eraser Stamps, above
Cutters: I prefer to use a Lino Cutter . Mine is made by Speedball, I've had it for years, and it still works great. The scooped blade makes it really easy to control the carving position around the design. The one I have, has several different blade sizes that you can attach. The smaller one is obviously for more intricate details, whereas the larger one is good for the larger areas of space. I also have a set of woodcarving tools, all with different blade sizes. This works well for carving any of the surfaces we will discuss as well. You could also use an X-Acto Knife for stamp carving, but it is much easier and quicker with a lino cutter.
Applying the Ink/Paint: For printing, applying the paint or inks is a lot easier if you use a Brayer . Especially when it comes to lino block printing. You can also apply your medium with a brush, but you will find that brushstrokes will show on your print.
Erasers – This is a cheap material to use for carving your own stamps! I found the pink erasers work better than the white ones. Not sure of the material compositions on them, but I just picked mine up from the dollar store. The pink erasers carved much easier than the white ones did. The white erasers that I have are a bit crumbly when carved into and it just isn't as easy to get a precise line. Overall, using erasers are great for quick results.
Eraser stamps below (and in first photo, above):
Here are some of the eraser stamps used on paper, with paint. They work with ink too!:
Here is that eraser tree stamp (from the first photo), shown printed on fabric, with paint:
Commercial Rubber – You can get rubber Carving Block specifically made for carving rubber stamps. These work really well, and are available in a variety of sizes. Below is a photo showing some that I made using this type of rubber i.e. the Polaroid frame, the heart, the word bubble, and the lines.
Cork – The cork stoppers from wine bottles can be used to carve rubber stamps as well. Although the completed stamps are nice to look at, they are quite difficult to carve and aren't as durable as other materials. I found most of the corks to be crumbly in nature. Now, some of them had a different composition than others – more dense. These were difficult to carve as well. I found that using a cork to carve a stamp did not have a good result for a design with fine detailing. For example, in the letters I was carving, pieces tended to come apart with use.
Linoleum – Lino block cutting. I love the effect that a Linoleum Block print gives off. There is kind of an old-world type of look to the print. There is not as much cushion in the stamp as there is by using another material and perhaps that is why. The printing is all in the amount of pressure you can put onto the stamp. Lino is easy to cut, but better when you warm it up a bit. All you have to do to warm up a lino block is to sit it underneath a lamp that is turned on. The heat from the lightbulb is enough to warm it up and make it even easier to cut. You can also mount your finished lino cutting onto a wooden block so that you have more support if using a manual method for printing. If you have access to a press, then you will find it much easier to get a good imprint. Lino block carvings below.
In progress Lino carving:
Completed lino carving:
Printed on paper, with paint:
Wood Block – Wood block carving can be a little trickier to do, depending on the type of wood you are using. Soft woods are easier to carve, but there is more potential for error in the small details as pieces may give away that you didn't intend to cut. Hard woods are more difficult to carve, but with patience you will get a good result. The print of a wood block is also dependent on the amount of pressure you can put into it when pressing it down. Take a look at some of the wood block prints that survive in old books – they are so beautiful and are a real testament to the talents of our ancestors!
There are other mediums you can use to carve stamps as well: potato or apple stamps or other root vegetables work well too, kid's fun foam, etc.
If you are just starting out, you might find it easier to just get a printing kit. Speedball has a block printing kit available here that has everything you would need to begin a project.
So there's a little run-down of stamp carving and print making if you'd like to give it a go! I would love to see any photos if you've tried any of this yourself!