When I was a little girl there were very few things that frustrated me more than the racks of little license plates with names on them that are found in the gift shops of touristy destinations. I wanted an awesome license plate fastened to the back of my bike that told the world my name was Wendy more than just about anything. Were there any to be had?
No. No there were not.
Wendy was not a terribly weird name for a little girl in the 70’s, but apparently it was just strange enough that it usually didn’t make the cut for personalized items. The harder it was to come by customized mugs, pencils and magnets, the more I wanted them. It became something of a family quest to find them but they were rare as hen’s teeth. My anguish was real.
So what did I do when I became a mother? I gave my children even rarer names than my own. While I sometimes came across a Wendy item at a truck stop in Georgia or Nebraska, my poor children — Wyatt and Augie — will likely never be able to buy something with their own name on it off the rack.
To assuage my guilt, I decided to make them their very own name stamps. They’re not terribly fancy, but they’re fun and the kids love them. Here’s how I did it:
I started by gathering my materials:
- a piece of paper
- a pencil — mine was sparkly!
- a small block o Speedy-Carve carving block— mine was about 1 x 1.5 inches
- Speedball linoleum cutter assortment — this comes with a knife and carving blades in five different sizes. The blades store in the handle.
Begin by cutting a piece of paper just slightly smaller than the width of your carving block.
Write the word you want to you on your piece of paper, centering it as well as you can. Go over the text with your pencil a couple times so that there’s a relatively thick layer of graphite on the paper.
Turn the paper over and put the word you’ve drawn face down on the carving block. You will probably be able to see your word through the back of the paper so you can put the image where you want it on the block. Rub your fingernail across the back of the paper a few times to transfer the image to the block.
When you pull up the paper you’ll be able to see your word written in reverse. This will be your carving guide.
Insert the smallest carving blade (pictured at the top) into the handle.
Use the blade to carve out the word you’ve drawn on the block. If you’ve never used a carving tool before, it’s crazy simple. Don’t be intimidated to try it at all. Basically, you put the pointed tip down parallel to the carving block and then gently push it away from you. The blades are sharp so you can use a light hand. They’ll easily glide through the block. Carve out the entire area covered by the pencil. I found it was sized perfectly so I only needed to do one pass with the small blade.
After you’ve carved your work, draw an oval around it. This will be the edge of the stamp.
Fit the deep V-shaped blade into the handle.
Carve a groove around your word following the line you just drew. As you go around the curves go slowly and turn the block so the tool follows the curve rather than rotating the carving tool itself. You’ll have a lot more control that way and your tool will move more smoothly.
Next, fit the wide square blade into the handle.
Use this tool to remove some of the extra block around the outside of the oval. This will give you a little breathing room when you cut the edges off the block in the next step.
Now cut all of the block that isn’t part of your image off. Be careful to cut straight down. Don’t cut any of the block under the image away or your stamp will be unstable.
Finally, ink up your stamp and test it out on a piece of paper. Often you’ll be able to see little imperfections that weren’t apparent just by looking at the block. Clean up your stamp by carving away any extra bits with the small blade. Be careful not to get too carried away though. I’ve ruined a few stamps by getting a little overzealous “cleaning” them.
If you look at the image above, you can see a few subtle corrections. The bottom stamp was my first test. I wasn’t happy with the “M” so I decided to clean it up a little. You can see in the middle stamp that I introduced a little line on the bottom left side of the letter. The top was my final version after I fixed that.
Have you ever carved your own stamps? Do you think you’d like to give it a try?