Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Carving Department Chip off the Old Block By Judi Kauffman

There it was, tucked among the Halloween stamps: A block I’d carved about a decade ago! It had always been kept in the drawer with the rest of my flower stamps, but it had somehow decided to move. I took it as an omen that the block wanted to come out and play and I decided it must have asked a ghost to carry it to the spot where I would find it. 

Originally, I had used the stamp as an accent at the top of writing paper and note cards. But this time I decide to whip up a batch of envelopes, the perfect project for experimenting with a small hand-carved image measuring a mere .75” x 2.75”. The black ink pad was already handy from Halloween cardmaking; I picked out three inks in fall colors, envelopes in two sizes, and added my go-to Winsor & Newton ProMarkers to the mix of supplies on my work table. 
If you have never carved a stamp before, now’s the time to give it a try! Feel free to print out my flower if you want to make your own version of it, and size it up if you want a larger stamp. There are many online stamp carving tutorials so I won’t go into detail about the technique here, but I’d like to offer some tips:

*Buy an inexpensive bench hook to ensure that you will never cut your hand! 

This simple tool will hold the block in place while you carve, allowing you to use your non-dominant hand to hold the block so it is positioned against the back of the bench hook, and your dominant hand to carve in a forward motion (away from your body and away from the other hand).

*Allow the stamp to retain evidence of the human hand at work.

Unlike commercial rubber stamps with perfect lines hand-carved blocks are imperfect; therein the beauty of them is revealed.
*Tools needed for carving rubber blocks or erasers don’t have to be pricey. 

It is only when you get into carving wood blocks instead of rubber that you’ll want finer quality tools and a stone for sharpening them.

1. Use the photos for inspiration. Stamp a small hand-carved flower repeatedly to create frames and borders on a series of envelopes. Choose black or another dark color for the stamping. 

2. Use an artist’s sponge to smudge inks on, around, and between the stamped flowers.

3. Use markers to color in and/or around the stamped flowers. Don’t worry about being precise. Hand-carved stamps and free-wheeling random coloring are a good combination. 


If you don’t want to carve a stamp, substitute a commercial stamp with a similar shape and size – small enough to repeat on an envelope to create frames and borders. 

If you’re careful, stamps carved from soft blocks last a very long time – mine is evidence of that fact – but for an even more durable stamp, carve wood or linoleum instead of a soft carving block.

Whip up some matching writing paper or note cards to use with the envelopes. A set makes a great holiday gift.

If possible, buy postage stamps that coordinate with your color palette. Or create custom postage stamps to match! They cost more than standard postage, but it can be worth the splurge.


  • Carving block
  • ProMarkers (Winsor & Newton) or markers of choice
  • Envelopes in assorted sizes
  • Carving tools and block, bench hook
  • Black plus three or more other dye-based inks


  1. I love to carve stamps and love this one you did!! It reminds me to get out my carving tools and make some more!!

  2. These are very beautiful. My hands can no longer attempt carving but I do love what you have done