Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Wednesday 101- Rubber Stamping- The Basics

Today I thought I would talk about the basics. For those who are just getting into rubber stamping this will hopefully be informative and for the experienced stamper I hope you will be able to learn something and find it interesting also.

This will be a series and today I will talk about stamps since that is the main item in rubber stamping.

 Originally stamps were made up of 4 different parts: 1. the rubber die, 2. the cushion, 3. the mount, and 4. the index label.

This is an example of this type of stamp.
This is a Stampin' Up! stamp set and the stamps are not fully assembled. The rubber dies can be seen at the top center of the photo. The cushion (gray) is already attached to the dies. Then the mount, in this case it is wood, is in the lower right corner and the index labels are in the lower left corner.
This photo shows a rubber die with cushion attached. The depth of the etch is important on any type of stamp because it is one of the factors in getting a good quality stamped image. The depth of etch should be deep enough that all the details of the stamp will stamp clearly. If the etch is too shallow some parts of the stamp may not stamp properly.
For example, this stamp has an open area in the center that should not show up when stamped. But if a stamp with a large open area in the center has too shallow of an etch (the distance between the top of the image and its base) the center will also tend to get inked up when ink is applied to the stamp and then there will be a big smudge in the center when stamped.

One of the things that stamp companies used to advertise and brag about was the depth of the etch on their stamps. You don't hear too much about the depth of the etch any more because most companies that sell rubber stamps have had to make their etch shallower and shallower as the price of production and distribution has gone up. The price of production and distribution has led to substantial price increases for wood mounted rubber stamps which has led to an increasing popularity of other types of stamps. Go into most craft stores today and you will no longer see the huge displays of rubber stamps, now you will see mostly cling mount and polymer stamps.

Before we go on, let's talk about the cushion. Stamps used to be cushioned with rubber cushioning. Now most rubber stamps have foam cushions. The cushion is there to help spread out the pressure that is applied to the stamp so that the image is the best possible image. Inexpensive stamps are often made with a foam cushion that has large air pockets. It may spread out the pressure more than not having any cushion, but it doesn't do a lot of good. Also the cushion with large air pockets does not last. It tends to break down in a few years. Look for a dense foam cushion. These cushions do the best job and last the longest. Below you can see that this die has a dense foam cushion attached. It's a beautiful thing. ☺

This set is a cling mount set:
It has the rubber die that has the cushion attached, but it does not come with wood handles to mount the stamps on. The index labels go directly on the back of the gray cushion and then attaches to an acrylic block. The stamps cling to the acrylic block until you remove them. This type of stamp set takes up less space, is less expensive and is a very popular way to own stamps right now. These come in a storage case, as do the wood mounts by Stampin' Up!, but not all companies include storage cases.

The final category of stamps that Stampin' Up! sells are what they call photopolymer. Generally this type of stamps is simply referred to as polymer or clear stamps but Stampin' Up! uses this designation to try to keep confusion at a minimum because their unmounted stamps are refered to as "clear mount".
This is an example of a photopolymer stamp set. The ones that Stampin' Up! sell come in their own storage cases. They are clear. There is an advantage to clear stamps in that you do not need a stamp-a-ma-jig in order to stamp the image in the place that you want it to be stamped; since it is clear, you can see through it, and that is a real time saver! These stamps also cling to a clear acrylic block. Acrylic blocks are sold separately, but you do not need many acrylic blocks because you can use them with both the clear mount and photopolymer stamps so just a few different sizes will work for everything.

One of the most important things about all of these styles of stamps is to store them properly. Stampin' Up! has provided nice cases with photos of the contents on the front and the name of the set on the spine. If you have stamps from other companies you will probably have to figure out a storage method that works for you. There are companies that sell organizers and binders for stamp storage. When you have figured out how to contain you stamp collection the next very important thing is to figure out a good storage place. The place you store your stamp collection should be away from all heat sources and away from all types of light sources. A closet works very well. I know from personal experience that this is a very important thing to think about because I had some stamps stored in an Iris drawer unit that was sitting over a heat vent  and after a few years the rubber was dry and cracked and I had to throw them away. It was a very expensive lesson.

Just because polymer stamps aren't rubber and won't dry out like the tires on an RV that has sat out in the sun for years, don't think that you need to be less careful where you store them. They will tend to warp and get mishapened if stored close to a heat source and they will get yellow and start to loose their flexibility if exposed to light sources. I have seen yellowed sets at craft stores because of too much exposure to the lights and I will not purchase those sets. I did one time, and have already had to throw that set away.

I hope you have enjoyed this chat today. Come by next week to learn a little more about the next most important item in the art of rubber stamping, ink pads. 

Please leave a comment, I would love to hear if this was helpful and if you learned anything.

Have a blessed day,

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