I really like stamps, have bought or been given some, but I'd like to cut then myself as well.
Eraser stamping looks a good chance to me, I'll try.
I also tried some thing with rubber, but in fact I do not know where to buy the good stuff (how thick should it be) and I wondered: should it be sticked on top of a wood block?
I did make some linoleum cuttings already and sticked them on top of woodblocks; this works well. But they're quite rough and work best with linoleum inks (which take a day to dry).
I think people who cut their own fonts or really small stamps must be specialists? or do you order them from a factory?
And anybody uses potato stamps or such like?

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I didn't realize no one had responded to your questions! Sorry... I meant to post some links. There used to be a lot more available on the net than there is now but one resource that still exists is Ruthann Zaroff's Soft Block Carving How-To site:

http://www.ruthannzaroff.com/carving/index.htm

Ruud's Eraser Carving Page
http://www.iuoma.org/eraser.html

Check those out; most things are explained there. :)
Now, for the answers to your specific questions (well, my answers - people don't all carve the same way or have the same experiences with carving)...

Rubber is not usually the best thing to start with. It's not really good for carving by hand because it's so tough and resilient - that's why rubber stamps are etched rather than carved.

The best materials to use for learning to carve are erasers, because they are cheap and plentiful and you don't usually fear making mistakes with a material like that. The more mistakes you make, the more quickly you learn. :) I like to go to toy stores and dollar stores to get erasers because that's where the most variety and cheapest erasers can be found. The best ones are firm but not hard.

Unlike linoleum (I learned to carve originally with linoleum and woodblock carving, Japanese style - ukiyo-e - stuff), erasers and other softblock materials are resilient when stamping and can take a variety of inks well. The materials used by most carvers include: PZ Cut, MasterCarve, and Nasco carving material. You will find carvers who swear by a certain material over all others and I'm no exception. I've used those three and of the three MasterCarve is my favorite because of its thickness (I like to carve two stamps out of one piece of the stuff). Its other advantage is its softness (easy to carve) but that's also its major weakness because, after a while, stamps carved using MasterCarve can wear out. PZ Cut is a little firmer and a lot thinner, and only a quarter to a third of the price of MasterCarve. Nasco's carving material is way too grainy for me. It sort of crumbles while you're cutting it and those crumbs give me an asthma attack. If you don't have any allergies, it could be an option for you since it's cheap and thick. You can even get it with patterns (like woodgrain) molded into the material.

My absolute favorite carving material, though, is Dick Blick's SoftKut (the gray stuff - the white stuff they make is not something I would recommend). It's inexpensive, comes in a large range of sizes (up to 12 x 18 inches or larger but also as small as 3 x 4 inches), and cuts like butter while lasting like rubber. It takes inks really well also. I'm in love with it. One thing I still get from MasterCarve, though, is their student starter kit - something like 25 or 50 2" x 2" squares, precut, and at a good price through Dick Blick.

I've carved potatoes and lots of other things but, in the long run, it's erasers and softblock materials which last the longest. With them, you don't need (or even want) woodblock backing on the stamps because it would limit their flexibility.

I cut my own fonts and small stamps and for those I use xacto or nasco knives with single razor sharp blades, holding the blade's handle like a sumi-e brush. I also use harder materials for tiny lines or lettering because they will hold up to use better. So, either PZ cut or, even better, drafting erasers (the smooth, firm, waxy kind). I have some things I cut over 30 years ago using drafting erasers which are printing as well now as the day I carved them.

Some people sand their blocks a little before carving (thanks for the tip, Julie Hagan Bloch!) and that is said to help you get solid prints from blocks with large areas taking the ink. Some people use small presses to accomplish good prints (flower presses, if you're desperate; a speedball manual press if you have the space and the strength for one; or even a small printing press if using thin enough materials to print with. Mostly I use a manual press, a brayer, or my hand strength to print with.

For regular carving, I use Speedball linoleum carving tools, especially the small V and the shallow U. I have also got Staedtler Cutting Tools (which don't have replaceable blades like the Speedball, which is a disadvantage), and Mountain Carving Tools (veiners for very small, fine work), and of course the Japanese wood carving tools (like Lancillotto Bellini showed a picture of in the rubber stamp group thread, albeit a more extensive set). Some people use Dremel (or Craftsman) Rotary Tools to carve but I've never tried it.

Hope this helps a little. Feel free to ask other questions - you can send me a message or leave them here for everyone to answer. Have fun! :)
thanks Carla...i'm studying. i will enter eraser 101 soon !
Oooh, cool! I think you'll enjoy it. :)
Thank you Carla, for the links and the extensive answers.
I shall try some types of erasers. I just never thought of them as a replacement for linoleum.
For the small stamps linoleum is not the best, but erasers might to well.
Thanks again,
regards, Jan-Willem
I know, I never thought of it either until I saw some eraser stamps and felt them. They are a great medium for this kind of thing. Back in the day, c. 1971, people were carving Artgum erasers a lot - they are really soft and crumbly, therefore easy to carve. But they gave me allergies so I had to branch out and find other options. There's such a variety! :)
Patato Stamps I made 45 years ago as a child. In mail-art I used several kinds of rubber. Even experimenten with Silicon Rubber to make instand stamps (that workes!) The Archive (look for TAM Rubberstamp Archive and you'll find lots of information) is now 26 years old.

Suggestion: In the Netherlands stores like Hema and V&D sell 'gummen' that are soft and can easily be carved. Those work quite well. Any sharp cutter does the trick. A siggestion for special tools can be found in an aticle I wrote in 1996 about eraser-carving (just google and you'll find the article or go to www.iuoma.org and look through publications).

Good Luck!
Thanks Ruud! I knew you had more on this than just what I posted above. :)

What kind of silicon rubber did you use - the kind that is liquid and then you cure it yourself or...? I have done liquid silicon stamps using molds I made. I have been thinking of transferring my favorite carved eraser stamps into silicon but, although I have the materials, I never get around to doing it. (!)

Also, can you post a picture of what you're calling 'gummen'? I'm wondering if it's the same as what we call gum erasers here.

The interesting exchange of possibilities is going on. Thanks Ruud and Carla.
Here's a picture of two 'gummen'. Nowadays they're not only white, but also in bright colours. The pink one comes from the HEMA, the shop Ruud advised. I bought it a few days ago to try carving in it, but the children claimed it to use for what it is meant for (I should buy a few).
The softer they are, the better. Sometime the coloured ones are too hard. At V&D they sell the real large erasers for lovely large eraser carved stamps.

Yes, there are special producers of erasers that are very good. The german Steadler is one of them, my favorite. Buy them in germany, but they are also available in most office stores (when there is still one arround)
Staedtler was always my favorite, too, until they changed the formula for their carving material - they make MasterCarve. Their erasers are still great, though! Now, their carving material crumbles too much.

My favorite now is from Dick Blick and it is called SoftKut. Comes in small or large sheets, is very inexpensive, cuts like butter but holds an edge like the Staedtler erasers or PZ Cut or Speedy Stamp. I love Speedy Stamp but it is so expensive that I avoid buying it. :)

Cheap erasers at Dollar Stores and in children's stores were always the most fun and least expensive. I would use the shapes they came in as a jumping off point for what to make of them. Not as simple as a butterfly carved from an eraser carved as a butterfly, no - but what else is that shape? So many things if you let your mind visualize it.

One of my current favorites are black erasers. I like to work in negative space instead of positive so they are fun for me. I draw on them with white or silver markers and they are beautiful even before I carve them.
Even if you don't want to buy from them (since you're not in the States), you should take a look at the Stampeaz website. They have pictures and descriptions of most of the best carving materials and carving tools/knives on their site as well as all kinds of advice about carving. Their product, PZ Cut is a cross between speedy stamp (the best of the Speedball offerings) and a firmer version of MasterCarve (though much thinner). It's inexpensive and buying it supports a small owner/producer instead of the big chain stores or manufacturers as a side benefit.

Here's there web address: http://www.stampeaz.com/

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