Cheap Christmas Idea: Woodblock Stamp - Popular Woodworking Magazine

Cheap Christmas Idea: Woodblock Stamp

 In Chris Schwarz Blog, Personal Favorites, Woodworking Blogs

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

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Showing 8 comments

    Very cool! I’ve been doing something similar with rubber:

    I got a kit that comes with hand tools, but I thought about trying out my Dremel. Now that I see this I might try wood!

  • 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.

  • 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 :{)

  • 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,

  • Jon

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

  • 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,


  • Tim

    Cool idea………now if you only had a pen to go with this stationary kit 🙂

  • 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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