Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Carving Stamps for the Trail

I'm carving some letterboxing stamps to leave along the trail for others to find. My theme will be 'Towns along the mainline NET' and I imagine it will take years to get them all planted.   The first town is Guilford, and I came up with a design after a bit of research on where the trail was in relation to the town boundaries.   I wanted to show the trail going all the way to the shoreline, but the route hasn't been completed, so I took an educated guess and will just cross my fingers. A graphics program was helpful.

Although store-bought stamps are sometimes used in letterboxes, most boxers much prefer to find hand-carved stamps.  Wouldn't you rather find something unique out along the trail? I especially like stamps that are somehow related to the location where you find them.

Now that I have my design, I need to transfer the image onto some carving block.   Usually I pencil in the image, which is tedious, then rub the image onto the rubber so that the pencil leaves traces. Today I made a photocopy using an old copy machine, then used nail polish remover and rubbed the image onto the carving block.  

Notice everything is a mirror image. This technique will not work with modern inkjet copiers, although some people have had luck transferring inkjet printouts using oil of wintergreen instead of nail polish remover. 

Let the carving begin!  I use some micro gouges to slowly remove rubber in all the places that aren't covered in black. Pretty simple.  The Staedler 1v gouge is the most commonly used tool by letterboxers, but I prefer to use micro woodcarvers.  

After carving, I test out the image and leave an impression in my planter logbook. The stamps are rarely as good as I hope, as is the case here, but such is folk art. Nobody expects to find a stamp carved by a fine artist.  

Then it's time to assemble the letterbox.  I have a logbook, some felt to wrap the inky stamp in, and a high quality freezer bag, pint size. No pen or ink pad, which could just muck up the box if it gets wet. The contents goes into a solid, rigid, snap-lock style tupperware, spray painted for camouflage, to be hidden out along the trail.

For more information about stamp carving, see Carving 101. A popular place for letterboxers to purchase carving supplies is Stampeaz, run by a fellow letterboxer.

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