I’d like to tell you a little bit about how we make Nature’s Blessings rubber stamps. We take great care in our work, and are proud to offer some of the finest rubber stamps available in the world today! One of the reasons we started making stamps 18 years ago was to reproduce the beautiful drawings we saw in 19th century books so we could use them in our own artwork. These drawings can be incredibly detailed and difficult to reproduce in rubber unless you take several things into consideration in your stamp-making process. There’s a lot that goes into making each stamp, and each step of the process really matters if you want high detail in your finished stamp.
There is a certain style of artwork that reproduces well with our process, and fortunately a lot of great art falls into this category! Here is an example of an original image from a 19th century volume (one of the first we collected 18 years ago) called “The Illustrated Dictionary of Gardening”. This is what it looks like on the page of the book we found it in – look closely and you will see there are some very fine lines in this engraving. We won’t be able to capture them all in the rubber stamp (and you can’t capture grayscale, just black and white) but we will get a lot of them. Each piece of artwork needs to be scanned, and then carefully digitally edited and prepared to make it into the best possible stamp image.
The Rubber Die
The part of a stamp that is the formed and trimmed piece of rubber that is pressed against a page to make an image is called a rubber die. The die is made by a process called vulcanization where through heat and pressure it is formed into the stamp image.
The first step in making a rubber die is creating an etched magnesium plate. The magnesium metal plate is coated with a photoresist material, and exposed to light by a laser. The laser creates a very detailed image the dark areas on the image, hardening the places exposed to the light. When the photoresist is washed, the hardened places remain and the areas not exposed by the laser wash away, leaving a trace of the stamp image.
Next, the magnesium plate is exposed to an acid bath. It isn’t actually immersed in the bath, it is suspended above the bath of nitric acid, and then spinning paddles splash the acid onto the face of the plate where the places not coated by the photo resist are gradually etched away. The paddles can be manipulated to control the exposure of the plate to the acid. This determines the depth of the etch, as well as the angle of the shoulder that supports each of the surface lines on the finished stamp.
For some products, it is best to have the shoulder be nearly vertical, but for rubber stamps you actually want the shoulder to be about a 30% slope. This means that fine lines that can stand on their own and not flop over when you press on them, because they are buttressed on the sides by the shoulder.
In the next step of the process, the positive/raised images of the metal plate are pressed against a polymer “matrix board” which forms a negative mold for shaping the rubber. The rubber is placed against this mold in a vulcanizer, and shaped into the rubber die that contains the stamp images.
Nature’s Blessings uses a high-grade red rubber specially formulated for vulcanizing rubber stamps. It has a uniform consistency and plasticity which means that all parts of the finished stamp will respond similarly when you apply pressure to imprint it. And see? It looks so pretty…
The Foam Cushion
An important, but often overlooked part of a rubber stamp is the cushion that supports the rubber die. Nature’s Blessings uses a 1/8 inch (3.175 millimeter) foam cushion between the rubber die and wooden stamp mount. We use a red cushion to match the color of the stamp.
For a detailed stamp and stamp impression this cushion is very important. It helps distribute the pressure on the rubber die when you press on the mount from above so that there is a more uniform contact between the die and the surface you are stamping on.
There is adhesive on both sides of the foam cushion, and we don’t have much more to say about that except it is very, very sticky! Your stamp should stay in place for many years. The only thing I’ve ever seen happen (and only after nearly two decades!) is that the foam may loosen from the mount. If this should happen, just coat the foam with rubber cement, press it against the mount, and let it dry. It should be as good as new.
Once the rubber is adhered to the foam mount, we trim the die and foam with a scroll saw. No rough scissor-trimmed edges here! We neatly and carefully trim each and every stamp very close to the border of the stamp image. This way, you won’t get any “ghost lines” from the edge of the stamp when you go to make an impression.
For the next step, we prepare the wooden stamp mount. All of our mounts are beautiful and durable maple hardwood mounts from the state of Maine. We sand the entire mount with a 600 grade Ultra Fine sand paper so you will only have fine, smooth edges and surfaces. The entire stamp is then coated with two layers of clear varnish.
Next we use AN ACTUAL STAMP that we have made and ACTUALLY STAMP the image on the mount with permanent indexing ink. It seems like such a simple thing, but most stamp companies don’t do this. They use stickers with the stamp image on the mount. So how do you know what the stamp will really be like when you go to use it? With Nature’s Blessings you know, because we show you, right on the stamp! Plus over time those stickers move around and crack and in general are just no good. It is a symptom of mass production, and we decided against them from the very beginning. When the indexing ink is dry, the top of the stamp is coated with one more layer of clear varnish to protect the image.
When we assemble the stamp, we are careful to align the cushion-mounted rubber die with the index, so you know right where it will be when you go to stamp it, without any guesswork. From this side view, you can see alignment and the hourglass-shaped sides of the wood mount. The curved sides of the mount provide a good grip, and make the stamp very comfortable in your hands when you use it:
Lastly, we stamp our logo on the side. This is the mark of the best quality we could achieve, and our sign that each of our stamps is lovingly made by hand…our hands!…for you. If it doesn’t have the Nature’s Blessings logo, it isn’t our stamp!