Chris Schwarz's Blog

Cheap Christmas Idea: Woodblock Stamp

At the risk of enraging the powerful pen-turning cabal, I gotta say that I’ve never been enthralled by making pens or bottle stoppers on my lathe.

Life would be easier if I did embrace my mini-lathe, especially at Christmas. Instead I end up building furniture for the people I love. One year I made cutting boards with a Spirograph-like router design. Other years I’ve built Shaker boxes (too many to count).

This year I’m enlisting the whole family to make woodblock stamps and custom stationery. I think it’s a stroke of genius , sort of like the washcloth dispenser cabinet I invented. (I’m still waiting to make a million off that one.)

So this weekend, my daughter Katy and I headed down to the shop for a couple hours to putz around with my idea. I printed out a sample design on the laser writer , I chose dividers from Joseph Moxon’s “Mechanick Exercises.” Then I stuck it down to the face grain of some scrap cherry and started carving away at the waste using my grandfather’s small-scale carving tools and a couple knives. Katy worked on one, too.

Within 20 minutes I had the stamp shown above. Then we went to Staples and bought 100 blank invitations for about $20 (look for these in the “Shotgun Wedding” department). And a pad of gel ink for $5 that was good for 100,000 impression (yeah, right).

After some experiments, we found we got the best results working with a piece of leather (we used a tool roll) underneath the paper. In about 10 minutes we stamped 20 cards and matching envelopes.

Here’s our plan: For each deserving person, I’m going to carve the initial of their last name into a 2″ x 2″ stamp. The kids will stamp their hearts out and we’ll all bundle up the stationery in a ribbon and put them in a box with their wooden stamp and a stamp pad.

Total cost per person: about $12 plus a couple hours of work.

That sounds a lot better than building a few bookcases, a gross of Shaker boxes or eleventy-billion pens.

– Christopher Schwarz

8 thoughts on “Cheap Christmas Idea: Woodblock Stamp

  1. Bob Hillhouse

    Sit down. Grab your favorite Barley-pop. Breathe. Don’t be angry.

    I have just purchased a Carvewright Machine – not for carving Victorian Houses – but to take images of those old Japanese block prints and creating "plates" using the machine.

    Printer’s ink and a roller works best for me. Hadn’t thought of the leather and that seems like a better surface.

    Finish your pop. Curse me for cheating. Let it out. My carving skills aren’t up to the test – yet. If Katsushika Hokusai had access to the Carvewright Machine, I bet he would have used it.

  2. Ric Washburn

    Mitchell, To use up those old alligator clips, shine them up nice and glue some thick leather in the jaws to pad them. Then take a 6" to 8" dowell that you carve or turn as desired. Once you have it finished, drill a hole in one end to fit the round "handle" of the clip. You now have a "helping hand" to give your wife/girlfriend or other female friends and relatives to assist them in putting on a bracelet.

    Ric :{)

  3. Gregory Peel

    Tim, Lol! I’ll still make a few pens vertically in my drill press. Chris, I may even try your idea as well.
    Thank you,

  4. Jon

    Face grain? How can a true purist sleep at night without carving each and every stamp in hard maple end grain?

  5. Mitchell

    Wow, Chris, it is like a 60’s flashback. You have taken the tie-dyed t-shirt, that we old hippies used to pass out at Christmas way back when, one step further. Now if you could figure out a gift project that requires a number of old electrical alligator clips, I’d be forever indebted.

    Great stuff,


  6. Jonas H. Jensen

    Neat idea, I think I’ll give it a try with my children.
    Our standard Christmas gift (for the children to make) is a small Christmas tree to put in the window.
    Brgds Jonas

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