Thursday, 24 September 2015

Stamp with Watercolour Pencils and More!

Having watched some videos on using watercolours to paint stamped images, it made me wonder why no one seemed to use them to do actual stamping, instead of ink pads.

As someone who has more paints, markers and felt tips than I care to admit to, having recently started to make my own polymer stamps, I saw no reason not to use them to stamp with! I noticed that people are actually buying special watercolour markers to use - probably at inflated prices.

Baah humbug!
No need to do that! Anyone with kids around most likely has washable markers. IE WATER COLOUR MARKERS! So you can use those. If, like me you also have watercolour paint of various types, you can easily use that too.

Take a thin kitchen sponge - the type that has a very dense construction, that goes like a piece of cardboard when dry, or a scrap of craft foam and put your watercolour on that. If using watercolour pencils, on the craft foam you need to damp it first, then scribble; on the kitchen sponge you need to scribble dry and spritz with water after to get the best amount of colour. You can create ombre stripes if you want!

Take it easy adding the water, you can also add some glycerine to make it thicker if you have it - it's used to make embossing pads damp.

Press your stamp into the ink and use as normal!


Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Silver Bullet Support Table - Free Template

As you may realise by now, I love my Silver Bullet. However, I don't have a support table for it (the sort that supports the mat as it goes through).

Now let me say first, that Thyme Graphics in the UK (and the American and Australian distributors)  sell perfectly good acrylic support tables and if you can afford them, I recommend that you buy some, because cutting without support tables is not making the best of your machine. However, if like me, you live somewhere else and postage is going to push the price over the edge, then I have a simple solution, as long as you have someone who can do some simple MDF or wood cutting for you.

I have made a template in SCAL, a neater version of my own cut outs and a video explaining the set up.  THERE ARE NOTES IN THE FILE. The template is for you to print to use.  THE TEMPLATE IS FOR A 15 INCH SILVER BULLET.

This is the finished item. The dowel I had wasn't long enough, so I joined two pieces. I'll replace it later when I get some more!

The reason I made the templates is that this was the most difficult part of the entire thing. Basically it is two supports with a table over, the supports having a cut out that goes around the base of the SB. I used wood glue to join things. If you have someone willing to counter sink screw holes etc, then feel free!

Add either brackets in the corners for support, or a piece of dowel.  I deliberately chose not to 'fix' it in place using the screw holes as I figured I'd want to remove it for cleaning, so I made it slightly narrower and put some foam pads on either side, forcing it to grip in the opening. It works very well and can be removed when necessary - without using a screwdriver.

I painted the sides of mine silver and added a metal effect vinyl to the top. Hey, you could go nuts with patterned vinyls!

Monday, 21 September 2015

Vinyl and Acetate Card Panel

I love to use acetate. It has many uses and being able to cut it easily with the Silver Bullet means I'm not restricted to simple shapes. I also love cutting vinyl. There is something about weeding, I find very satisfying. I also like the clear, crisp lines and clean, sharp design, so combining the two is a winner.

There are a couple of things to bear in mind for this. The design element that you use for the 'frame' bit needs to be chosen with care, not all will fit well, most can be made to fit with a bit of juggling. The one in the video is not quite right but gives you an idea of how it's done.

The vinyl you use must have a strong enough adhesive to adhere to the acetate, not all do this well. It should ideally, be strong enough to weed accurately, you need to 'kiss cut' so that the vinyl is cut but the acetate under it is not.

This one is done on purple acetate.

Peeling away the vinyl
It is important not to get air bubbles or bumps under the vinyl, so make sure your acetate is free from dust and bits that may be present in the room. For this reason, I tend to keep a mat JUST for  cutting vinyls and wipe over my work area beforehand.

If using text, be sure to weld it together to avoid unwanted cut lines and use WYSIWYG  to ensure that your outer cut line for the acetate only, is cut in the correct place.

I cheated a bit, the dot under the exclamation point was so tiny

And when it is added to the card base, with double sided foam tape under the frame. I used black craft foam for this one, and just cut it really thin, so it would not show.

I added a few sparkles to finish it off.

And here is another one, this time with a silver metallic vinyl.

Wednesday, 16 September 2015

How I Make Polymer Stamps For Crafters Only!

This is not meant for industrial stamp producers, only us crafters.

If you read my previous blog, you will have noted that while it is possible to make polymer stamps at home, it isn't perhaps quite as easy as some quarters lead you to believe.

However, if you are determined to have a go, then let me share my hints and tips so that you may at least stand a chance of success before you rip out your hair and sear your eyeballs.

I have made a video showing the equipment I have assembled and the basic how to put it together.  Due to the nature of video, I can't put everything in, it isn't scripted and that means I also forget to mention things!

Anyway, watch the video and then come back here to get the low down. I'll go have a cuppa while I wait for you to catch up. I suggest you get one to have while reading this little lot.

Back now? Sitting comfortably? Then I'll begin.

Get your design ready.  Mine were printed (twice) on Vegetable paper/ parchment on a Canon MG3550 using fine print, best quality. If you can do it on OHP film your times may well be different.

Start small so as to test the timing without wasting too much polymer. Make sure to have your TIMER READY - and know how to use it. You don't have time to mess around when it's in use. BTW, it needs to be accurate (digital) or you will be very frustrated!

Get everything ready in advance. If you are not next to a bathroom like me, then also have a bowl of hot water with detergent in it ready.
The stack is made by taping the negative (double layer don't forget) right side up, to the base plate.  This seems to work and there is then no need to reverse words (which you must do if you place it ink side down.) Cover it with a piece of acetate that is a bit bigger. This is to protect your negative for future use and stop mess. Tape it down flat. You don't want wrinkles, which is why I use acetate not thinner cellophane.
Make the dam for your design, leaving (if sensible) about half an inch around the lines you want exposed. If you put it too close, there is a risk that the edges of your design will not be as deep and that will cause bad stamping.  Ensure that the dam is on the dark part of your negative ( to block incoming light.)

Gently pour in the polymer, filling about 3/4 full. Use a pin to get rid of any bubbles on the base - a few minute ones on the top won't matter. While that is being done, warm up the UV lamp for  a short time, but keep it away from your resin! It only takes about a minute but if you don't do that, your times can vary too much.

Make sure to close the lid on the polymer. Mine came from here, so if you are having a go, at least you know which brand I used. It is clear, colourless, a bit of a smell to it but not too bad. Timings on different brands may vary, so I can only give times for what I have tried. Make sure to have changed the top on it before you start. I'm warning you, you'll regret it if you don't.

Put a layer of acetate just bigger than your dam, on top. Press gently in the centre of the design to make sure all the edges get filled and that it is flat on top.

Add the glass and clamp together, you do need to clamp. Alternatively you could glue magnets on the inside but I was unable to find the right size - two must not be deeper than your dam!

Keeping your stack up the same way you made it, put it in for 8 seconds to make the 'floor'. Your stamp has no material on the back to hold it together unless this is done correctly.

Take it out and turn it over, you are now going to set the front, the bit that will contact the paper when you stamp.

Put it in for exactly 60 seconds.

Separate the glass and remove the package from inside. Peel apart and you should just see a vague design in there on one side. It feels like Christmas!

Take it to the hot soapy water and gently scrub in a circular motion, to remove the excess goo. By now, if all is well, you should be able to feel the raised bits under your fingers.

Take it to the small container of cool water and put it under the lamp for a couple of minutes. If it is still sticky, you can give it longer - a minute or so, until it is firmed up nicely. Rinse and dry. Trim off unwanted bits.  If the acetate is still on the back, either leave it there to store or remove it, up to you. If you store it like that, you simply peel it off to use it on your acrylic block, like any other stamp.

You should now be able to give yourself a pat on the back. If not, start again!

NOTE - I did try to use picture glass but it was too thin and could not easily be used without fear of breaking it. I also tried some hard plastic but it still had too much flex in the middle and that led to inconsistency of results.

From my experimentation, for me a total dry cure of 68 seconds works. If making lettering you don't have enough 'floor' to hold it, but the top seems ok, increase the floor time. If letters are losing detail, (letters filling in) decrease the second cure by a couple of seconds. Basically, I know the total time and adjust either layer up or down if there is a problem, but the total stays the same.

For basic images, I have used 6 seconds and 56 seconds. I've not done photo images, since that is not what I want to do, but for that you will need a longer base time and shorter top time.

You can choose to make a thicker stamp - increase the thickness of the foam dam and spacers. However, if you do, you may need to increase times to compensate. I'm only making stamps for fun, they don't have to stand up to a lot of abuse.

So there you have it, I've done all the hard work. This is as basic as it gets regards kit. I've tried every other way of making negatives imaginable and nothing else worked. The thick glass works really well, the thin glass or perspex, did not.

That is a two inch stamp block.

Tuesday, 15 September 2015

Considering Making Polymer Stamps at Home?

If you had wondered why there was a lack of posts recently it is down to a couple of things. Firstly, practically everyone was on holiday and there was little site traffic, so I thought it was foolish to keep to a schedule that no one was bothered about.

Secondly, I have been VERY busy the last few days having a go at making polymer stamps. Yes, you heard right, polymer stamps. The clear ones like you can buy in the shops.

Now I'm not going to give a tutorial on this, it is only to give my views on the process, so you can decide if it is for you or not. Before I started I read all the stuff I could find, watched all the videos.

Firstly, if your intent is to save money, forget it. Not going to happen.
If you think you'll make a business out of making them, the same goes - unless you go into major industrial production.
If you lack patience, don't do it.
If you want to make your own and I mean REALLY want to make your own designer stamps, then you should consider it.

The process sounds simple but it isn't quite as straight forward as sellers of kits would have you believe.  Basically you have a gel that reacts to light. You add a negative of the design, put UV light through it  and low and behold, bits set and other bits don't, leaving you with a design in the resin.

The kits will not last long before you are crying out for more supplies, either because you love doing it or because you have wrecked all those you have.  One alternative is to get a bottle of liquid polymer. Now before you rush out, if you do that you have to do something to contain it while making your stamp. It isn't rocket science, you have a glass or perspex base, your negative and then, a piece of acetate or cellophane. Then you build a dam to hold the liquid, another piece of acetate and the last lid.  'Easy!' you say.

Well hold your horses, not QUITE as easy as that. This liquid is very thick, very gloopy and even stickier. If you don't pay attention you could end up in a very hot and sticky puddle. (You being hot, the polymer providing the sticky puddle).

IF you buy any, I advise doing what I did (but only after not doing it at the start) and changing the bottle top for one with a pointy nozzle. I found a squeezy sauce bottle bought from a cheap shop had just the right size lid! It was about 2 inches across.  Take my word for it, do this before you pour a single drop. You'll thank me, honestly.  Before I found that, I decanted some into an old cleaned out shampoo bottle. That was better but not brilliant as it had one of those press/flip tops.  I then replaced the lid of that with a top from a large washing up liquid bottle. Keep your supplies in a dark place.

The relief of being able to pour accurately is wonderful.

Back to the basics.

To develop stamps if you don't have the kit, you will need:

A UV lamp like for nail techs
A way of making negatives  -  you need to make good negatives. Black paper or vinyl or other stuff won't work well and it will make it hard for you to get good results.  Believe me when I tell you that, I have spent days trying to get images dark enough. There are many tutorials on it.

Two glass or perspex sheets that will fit in your lamp
Some acetate to put under and over the gel
Damming tape to hold it
Sticky tape
Hot and cold water, detergent and a soft brush
A digital timer -  YOU CAN'T do this without VERY accurate timing. It isn't the sort of thing you leave to make yourself coffee. Suddenly need the bathroom? Suck it up. Not going to happen.

So, you make your polymer sandwich, stick it in under the lamp for a few seconds, turn it over and cook the other side, scrub off the excess polymer, put it in a water bath and return it under the lamp for another couple of minutes.

Not hard on the face of it but the timing is crucial. Too long on the first go and the whole lot will set with no image at all. Too short and any details might be still floating without attachment to the stamp floor. Too little on the second and your image could be incomplete, too long and oops you have nothing again.

See what I mean?  There is a lot of trial and error in here. Even  with the kit, results can change according to the temperature, age of your lamp, how dark you get your negatives ( once you start making your own). We are talking about a difference of SECONDS between success and failure.

The liquid polymer is not cheap but it is cheaper than sachets. However you need determination, time and luck to get it right and even then, sometimes it will go wrong.

When it goes right, it is a wondrous thing and when it goes wrong it is exasperating and makes you want to through it all out the window. So far, my windows are still intact....

Saturday, 5 September 2015

Reversible Card for Christmas

As the first days of September appear, crafters all over the world start thinking of prepping for Christmas. If you buy your cards you can afford to leave it to the last minute but not if you make them. We take pride in our work and don't want to send out shoddy cards!

This one was born, as a lot of my things are, of a play session on SCAL.  The basic concept is simple enough and the card is not hard to make, it just requires a little planning because the card is completely reversible. The back looks just as good as the front.

This is the back.

 I have not put a greeting on the back - but I could, so this is the front.

The trick to this is using two lots of card. Although you could use a double sided card for the top, I didn't. I printed both sides of a piece of card just larger than I needed. Originally, I was just going to do the top bit! The silver parts of the trees are cut out separately and glued on back and front, they are suspended in the cut outs.

The sliver foil card base was glued on and then I added some sparkly tape to finish it off.

I did come a cropper on the sentiment, I didn't check the size well enough and it is a fraction too big. However, considering the trouble it had given me, I wasn't about to do it again. I had tried to cut it several times in blue foil card but it kept falling to pieces on me!

Reversible card

Alternative folds

Friday, 4 September 2015

Make A Score Board

No, not one for games, one for scoring cards etc.

It isn't something I often want and I certainly didn't want to buy one and have it sit unused, so this is why I decided to make my own.

Now I know that if you are handy at woodwork or know someone who is, you could do this in a more solid form - but it is not really Hubby's strength, nor is he inclined that way really, so I didn't even ask him.

I bought an A3 board, the sort that is used for backing art for hanging. Marked it up on two sides and can now use a piece of corrugated card for the scores! OK, so you need to be a bit gentle, but it's good enough for what I want to do. I guess that if you wanted, you could embed the card in rolled out polymer clay to give it more support. I'm just using temporary adhesive, so I can turn it  if I want.
Use an embossing tool, not anything too sharp to follow the lines.

Job done!