Tuesday, September 1, 2009

A Numbers Game

Mrs. Hughes and I have been fascinated with old printer's block stamps for some time now. We picked up a handful at the State Fair Flea Market a while back and used them as decoration in the house. There are several on the book shelves in the library just sitting pretty, but with no real purpose.

While on yet another trip out to Miss Linda's and her array of antiques {and wasps} we dug up a bin or two full of these old printer's blocks. Originally used to typeset ads, newspapers, and such by hand. I would guess these were carved by hand as well. Mrs. Hughes was looking to spell out a specific phrase on this outing "All you need is love, love is all you need" the Beatles of course.

I spent a good 30 minutes digging through the letters to find the ones we needed, my hands covered in 80+ year old newsprint ink after the fact. Once we got them home I got the idea to attach them to some old wooden hand stamps I purchased a while back at another shop. I figured it would be easier for her to use them if I grouped each word together onto one stamp. Those came out very well and she will be using them on items for a forthcoming Etsy shop.

Which brings us to this numbers set. After putting together the All You Need Is Love set I got the idea to do an all numbers set complete with a period and dollar sign. My thought was price tags. I can just see these on those big toe tags hanging off of vintage furniture. So, back out to Linda's. I was already headed out that way to pick up some items we had on hold. Miss Linda only takes cash you see, and anytime we show up with $50 we find $100 worth of good stuff.

So back through the letters I dug until I found 0-9. I can use the 9 as a 6 as well, so that saved me having to make 1 stamp. After finding my numbers I was rummaging through a booth and came across a Ziploc bag full of old wooden thread bobbins. BING, it's funny how simple things can escape you, It never occurred to me before then that a bobbin makes a good handle, although I am sure someone has cut them in half and used them as furniture knobs.

What a long post for such a simple thing! I attached the wood printer blocks to the bobbins with some 2 tonne epoxy mix. I will give you a hint. The kind that takes longer to set and cure doesn't have any odor at all, at least not the brand I bought. On the other hand the fast curing stuff, like under 5 minutes, stinks, stinks, stinks. I used the slow setting stuff. First I scrapped the remaining paper labels off of the bobbins, and then sanded off the glue that held them on. I mixed my epoxy and gooped it on heavily, making sure to get some on the edges of the blocks, I think this will keep them from rocking loose off of the bobbin back and forth as they are kind of high.

Most hand stamps have a piece of rubber between the stamp and the handle. I didn't bother with this because the epoxy dries so hard that it would have killed any give in the rubber. Instead when using these you can just put an old towel or some paper napkins under what you are applying the block to. Since these are wood faced and very hard they work best on smooth surfaced paper, card stock and fabric with a high thread count. They don't work well on hard surfaces with no give I've discovered, you need a little bit of give and wiggle for the paint or ink to transfer properly.

For the sample letters on the photos I used an old, small paintbrush to apply the paint to the surface of the letters. That is where the lines came from in the final product. And since the paint won't be brushed on the same way twice, they will always look a little different.

Cleaning is easy as long as you are using water soluble paint or ink. Just a run under the sink does it. I would keep the water off of the bobbin end though or seal them because they are pretty porous while the print blocks themselves are very dense and pretty much waterproof.

Well have fun making your own bobbin/printer block hand stamps. I think I will head out to Miss Linda's this weekend and see if I can't find the whole alphabet.

More soon,
The Upcycler.


  1. love these stamps
    ciao from Italia

  2. Thanks! They were fun to make, and useful. I made a Birthday card with them for my wife in December.


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