The wonderful thing about boxing, is boxing's a wonderful thing!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

A Carving Fool. . .

So, now that i have some time (since i'm sitting here in an airport for the next 90 minutes), and people have already started finding the actual stamp, i thought i would post about how i actually carve. THIS IS A SPOILER POST, IT CONTAINS ACTUAL IMAGES OF A STAMP IN THE WILD. IF YOU DON'T WANT TO SEE IT BEFORE YOU FIND IT, DON'T LOOK!!!

Ok, everybody else still with us? Onward and forward. . .
When i first started in this hobby, i was petrified to carve. i thought it took massive amounts of skill and artistic talent, neither of which i possess. Really. i am a grade A, class #1, klutz. Those of you who have boxed with me can attest to this fact. i fall over - a lot. Untiring, yes. Enthusiatic -absolutely. Graceful - no. Not even on a good day. i drop stuff. i break things. i'm cute, but not elegant. These must be things you need to carve, yes? These are necessary attributes to produce works of art, no?

NO. And if i can do it, so can you. Here's what you do need to carve: 

-SHARP tools. REALLY sharp. Get yourself a whetstone and a ceramic knife to sharpen those gouges and exacto knives. And then teach yourself how to use them. Trying to carve with dull tools is a lot like trying to empty the ocean with a teaspoon. Doesn't work, very frustrating and you make a lot of mistakes.

-Google images or another search engine. Photoshop. Somewhere to get images in black and white that you want to carve. Kirbert has a lot of good suggestions on how to do that. . . although truth be told, i have no idea what Arfan/Irfan/scan mode/draft mode/whatever it is, is. i just take 'em off the computer as they come. . .

- a good transfer method that works FOR YOU. This is - as far as i can tell - completely individual. i love the smell of wintergreen, so wintergreen oil and a toner printer work really well for me. i just bought a brand-new Brother laser printer/scanner/copier and it does a great job. Other methods also work: inkjet and parchment paper (gotta be careful that doesn't smear -did i mention i'm a klutz?); acetone and toner image;  ball point pen and an iron in a pinch.

- a REALLY GOOD light source and possibly a magnification source. At least one of these, if not both. i have an Ott light, which i adore. i do not use the other, because i'm stubborn i guess. Lots of people swear by both. Me, i'm just going blind slowly. 

After you gather all of these, here are the other rules of carving i have discovered over time. 

START WITH A GOOD IMPRESSION. in the pictures i'm going to share, you are seeing take #2. The first try, i didn't get a good transfer and i thought i could fudge it - "fix it" while i was carving. No, no, no, no, no. Especially if it's a complicated carve, just start over. Usually, wintergreen oil or acetone will take off the faulty image (HINT). Don't be afraid to throw out an attempt/turn it over and start again. 

SEAL THE IMAGE TO THE MEDIUM WITH SOLVENT INK. it does not help your carving attempt if your details blur halfway through. i used to use Stazon Mustard Yellow. Frankly, i needed something lighter for the white OZ. So now it's Sunny Yellow. It also helps show you where you've carved and where you need to go. Also, you can use it while you're carving to check your work, since it doesn't blur out the details, to do test impressions.

GO SLOWLY IF YOU NEED TO. Some people can carve all in one go; i am not them. Some are slow, some are fast. Find your speed. It also depends on the size of the stamp.

KEEP A PICTURE OF WHAT YOU'RE CARVING IN FRONT OF YOU. You need the reference. It will help to see it. Some people have a copy that is backwards; frankly, i don't do that.  

STRETCH YOURSELF. Try something harder than you think you can do. You will be surprised at what's possible. Study other people's stamps. Look at what they leave "light" and what they leave "dark." Learn to look at the world in a different way. That's really what it takes. WATCH other people carve. ASK QUESTIONS. 

And now, onto the Show and Tell

This is the picture i worked from for my stamp for "Ship of Fools: The Original". It's a woodcut by Albrecht Duerer, from the 1500's. It's approximately 3.5 by 4.5"

This is the stamp about 2/3rds done. You can see the yellow parts i haven't carved, and i haven't cut the stamp out of the sheet, yet. Medium is PZ mystery grade, by the way.

This is me, carving - the actual process. i used both exacto knife and a miniaturized #1 gouge on this one. i hold the stamp in my hands, under the standing Ott light, reference picture on the desk in front of me.  i am probably going to go blind. . . 

 Finished stamp. This is two impressions. Total carving time: about 8 hours over 3 nights after work. 


  1. I was so thrilled to find this stamp yesterday. It's really, really awesome. Thank you so much!!!!

  2. YAYYYY!!! I'm so glad you posted, my cohort-in-crimes!! And good thing too, cuz YIKES! Its been almost a month since the last post! And you put in something informative! Even better! Thanks tigster, and safe travels for the next umpteen days - remember, pics, pics, pics!!! ;)

  3. A very awesome carve. I missed you at the Grateful Event this year. Hope to see you soon. Thanks for the carving tips.

  4. It was an awesome carve, no matter what Bubs told us about it.... :D

  5. Hey!! I didn't say nuthin'! I may pick on tigs left, right, forward and back, but I wouldn't pick on her stamps! Or anyone else's for that matter! Pbbbbbbt!!! ;)