Carving block is traditionally used as a printmaking tool to cut images that can be reproduced a number of times. Many stampers, however, use carving block to create their own stamps, a process known as soft block carving. There are many brands and types of carving block available for soft block carving. They range from specially designed and formulated carving block to traditional linoleum (lino cutting). Even rubber erasers can be used to carve custom stamps.
Buying Carving Block
Some craft and rubber stamping stores sell carving block and carving tools. It is also widely available from art stores and print suppliers. Carving block is typically sold by the block or sheet, however, bulk packs are available for prolific carvers.
Carving block is available in a range of sizes, from small blocks not much bigger than an eraser to large sheets which are perfect for more ambitious projects. Buying large blocks and cutting them into smaller pieces is a cost-effective way to make a number of hand-carved stamps on a budget.
Types of Carving Block
There are many different types of carving block suitable for stamp carving. These include:
Erasers are cheap and readily available, making them a great option for first-time stamp carving. Different types of erasers cut in different ways depending on the materials they're made from. Art gum erasers, for example, are soft and are easy to cut, but prone to crumbling. White rubber erasers are slightly harder to cut but give good clean images. Because erasers can be carved with a craft knife, the investment in materials and supplies is minimal when you go with this option.
Speedy-Cut is an all-purpose carving block made by Speedball Art Products that is available in a range of sizes. The white carving block is made from high-density rubber. It is easy to carve, low cost, and ideal for beginners. Sharp carving tools should be used to get the best results.
Another product made by Speedball Art Products, these pink carving blocks are designed specifically for carving. While this may sound clichéd, carving Speedy-Carve is like cutting into butter. If you plan on carving intricate designs, Speedy-Carve works great with sharp carving tools for cutting fine details.
Mastercarve blocks by Staedtler are made from a soft vinyl, making them easy to carve. More expensive than other carving blocks, Mastercarve is described as being the carving block for artists. Mastercarve carving blocks are available in a wide range of sizes.
There is a wide range of generic linoleum (or "linos") used for carving. Soft cutting linos have been developed over recent years to make carving easier. Even soft lino, however, is significantly harder than the soft carving blocks listed above. This means they are more difficult to carve and fine detail is difficult to achieve. Cutting lino is relatively cheap and it is often sold in large sheets which can be cut down as required. Lino is best attached to a stamping block when stamping.