Friday, April 30, 2010

Let's Make Stamps

Hi again, Inky friends! Recently I mentioned that Tim Holtz toured our shop in Cleveland earlier this week after the Akron convention. He got to see firsthand how rubber stamps are made. I thought you might be interested in finding out about this process, as well.

It all starts with the artwork. After cleaning up and sizing the designs in Photoshop, we lay them out on an 8" x 10" digital canvas in high resolution. This file is sent to our engraver, who makes a magnesium plate. (This is the only step we don't do in-house, although sometimes our graphics guy Zach creates a jet plate instead. I haven't even seen this myself, so I'll have to check it out the next time I get a chance.)

Once we get the magnesium plate (or "mag," as we call it) back from the engraver, we press a matrix board from it. This is a reverse mold of the stamp designs. The raw rubber comes in huge 50-pound rolls, which we cut down to the size we need so it fits the matrix board.

After placing a sheet of raw rubber on top of the matrix board, we cure the rubber with heat and pressure in one of our huge vulcanizers:


The cured rubber sheet is removed from the mold and allowed to cool for a few minutes, and then it gets stuck onto a piece of adhesive-backed foam cushion. (See the big gray roll behind Doug?) Usually we use a scroll saw fitted with a special blade to cut out the images:


This takes a while, so we sometimes rest in between steps:


(Just kidding! That's Tom, a rescued cat who lives at the shop. I guess you can say he's become the unofficial AGW & Friends mascot.)

For certain stamps that we make in greater quantities, such as Tim Holtz's Cling Mount Sets from Stampers Anonymous, we use the clicker press. It's a big machine outfitted with a custom die that cuts out all the stamps on a plate at once, as Jimmy is doing here:


I guess it's sort of like a Cuttlebug on steroids, LOL! You can see the die beneath the cushioned rubber sheet that he's pulling up:


In just a few quick steps, this whole sheet...


is transformed into this die-cut sheet:


Mark shows how we print the back of each cling mount stamp with our company information using a pad press:


The pad press is also used to print the "index," or picture, of the stamps onto the blank wood mounts.

Then Betty marks the side of each stamp with the item number and company name:


Finally, all the pieces are ready for assembly. Jen and the rest of our crew peel off the release paper from each sticky-back cushioned rubber die and place it onto its respective wood mount:


The cling mounted stamps from Darcie's and Stampers Anonymous are put onto plastic carrier sheets and then packaged up:


Tom carefully supervises every step:


Oops, I guess not. ;-) All right, you caught me joking again. That job belongs to Dave, our shop foreman:


And there you have it, Stamp Making 101. As you can see, it actually requires several steps and quite a bit of work to produce. Each Inky Antics (and Art Gone Wild!, Stampers Anonymous, and Darcie's) stamp or set is meticulously handcrafted with care in the good ol' USA...from us to you!

4 comments:

~Michelle~ said...

so, so cool Jackie! Thanks for sharing!!

Ayana Posadas said...

What a fun post! So interesting!
I love the pics of the cat sleeping! haha...

foolforstamping said...

That looks like alot of fun must be nice to get to sleep on the job. Talking about the cat LOL. Thanks for the look into how it is done :)

Chelsea said...

that's sooo cool! Thanks for the tour!