Carving your own stamps isn’t hard, I promise!
You can purchase lino-carving blocks and tools (which are very reasonable) or you can go even cheaper, using rubber erasers and an xacto knife!
For this simple version, the inexpensive, soft white erasers carve the easiest. The pink ones are sturdier but are harder to cut.
Draw your image direclty on the eraser. What you draw will be the actual stamp…the part that inks up and leaves the image. Make sure the lines are thick enough to carve around.
Now use your x-acto knife and cut out all the stuff that isn’t your drawing. All the white eraser still showing through, about 1/3 of the way down through the rubber. (You can cut deeper, but a slightly more shallow cut allows you to still use the other end for another design!)
You may want to do a practice ink and stamp to make sure you have all the areas you want carved completely cleared away. If any bits you want to stay come loose, they glue back on easily with a dab of strong glue and it won’t break down the rubber or harm the integrity of the design!
Carving your own stamps is really fun for letterboxing, but you can use them for lots of other purposes too. Create a signature look to go at the top of each of your journal pages, or carve several to use as the mood strikes you!
More Stamp Carving Info:
The Carving Consortium
An online group of softblock carves and printers. Lots of great information, links to tutorials, swaps, and a discussion board.
Stamp Carving For Kids
From the Letterboxing site…no knives required!
Foam Pad Rubber Stamps
No cutting at all…use Dr. Scholls adhevsive foam pads to create inkable images!
How To Make A Rubber Stamp
With good information in image transfers and negative lettering.
Want a unique stamp but don’t want to carve your own? Have a sheet of your own stamps made and support charity at the same time! You can use public domain images of any images you create!
Many letterboxes are actually quite small (less likely to be discovered and removed that way), my son and I made ours out of an old medicine bottle!
I folded and cut slips of paper and stapled them together to form the book. Rolled up, the book fits nicely in the bottle. My plan is if the letterbox lasts long enough for the book to be filled, to mount all the stamps inside it in a larger journal for my son later.
Carve your stamp and slip it inside. Small, eraser sized stamps will fit perfectly.
Tape a small label to the front. Cover the whole label in a clear tape for extra water-proofing.
The one I created looked like:
Find a good hidey-hole for it. Public access areas are best (and remember that it is illegal to hide them in National Parks!). After you hide your box, retrace your steps and create directions to post for others. The main site for posting box clues is Letterboxing USA. The box my son and I hid is listed here.
Letterboxing combines rubber art stamping, treasure hunting, collaborative journaling, and nature journaling all in one! Although probably not as well known as geocaching, it’s been around quite a bit longer and is a whole lot of fun!
People all over the world hide small boxes with a small journal and hand carved stamp inside. Clues are passed around (typically through letterboxing websites…see the end of the article for links) and the hunt is on! Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to decipher the clues and find the box!
This is a wonderful family outing (and a great way to get kids interested in maps and directions) and a unique take on the idea of the collaborative art journal.
So what do you need to get started?
Log on to a Letterboxing site and look for boxes hid in your area. Most box owners are really good about checking on their box from time to time so there should be updates if the box has gone missing or been removed.
Carve your own stamp to use for boxes you find. You can use a pre-fab stamp but almost everyone uses stamps they carve themselves. It isn’t hard to do, nor is it very expensive, and it really adds to the uniqueness of the project. Check out the links below for more information on stamp carving.
Pack your journal (you can use your nature or travel journal or create a journal just for letterboxing!), your stamp, an ink pad, and a pen for any notes you would like to leave and set out!
When you find a box, stamp your stamp in the journal that is packed in to the box, and stamp the stamp from the box into your own journal. You may want to leave a little note and date their journal before repackaging and re-hiding it (in the same place you found it!). It’s also fun to date and note the name of the box in your own journal next to the image you stamped in!
My 5 year old had so much fun finding letterboxes, he insisted on making and hiding one of his own! We carved another stamp that spells his name, and hid our letterbox behind our local library. Our box’s name is “Journal-istic Integrity” and the first page says Journals@BellaOnline for all the BellaOnline readers who letterbox!
Letterboxing Links And Information:
The main website for letterboxing information and clues.
A letterbox conceived, created, and hid by my 5 year old!
Letterboxing And Atlas Quest
Another active letterboxing site with lots of information and clues to boxes.
These are letterboxes that are a bit trickier to find. They have a lot more clues and research involved for people who love a good challenge!
They Live And Breath Letterboxing
An article from Smithsonian magazine about the letterboxing phenomenon
Letterboxing Discussion Group
The offical discussion group for Letterboxing USA (through Yahoo).