Recently, I was at the Dick Blick store in my area and they had a make and take using hand carved stamps. There was a little demo about how to carve and then they let you print using some stamps they made. I was curious because I saw three different easy cut blocks. There was a pink, a grey, and the standard cream block that I've used in the past. When I first started block printing, there were only the linoleum or wood blocks available. You had to heat up the linoleum in order to make it a little softer and safer for cutting. But it cooled quickly and the smell of the heated linoleum was a little overwhelming. So when the EZ cut blocks came on the scene I began using those. They weren't as hard to work with as the linoleum and I loved how I could cut the block to any size. However, it has it's limitations. For instance, when you carve with it it gets all crumbly and it's almost impossible to get much detail because of this tendency to crumble. It also deteriorates with frequent handling. I've thought of trying to coat the backs of the blocks with a stiffener after carving, or mounting them on a block, but I'm lazy and usually just stuff them into a drawer once I've cut them and used them. Also, unlike the linoleum which was dangerous because it was SO hard to carve, it's maybe too easy to carve for safety's sake.
So I grabbed one of each type of easy cut block available and went home to give them a try. The grey was very rubbery and I wasn't a huge fan. It was down to the pink vs. the cream and here's the comparisons I made....
1) To begin a stamp I'll frequently sketch out my design on paper with a pencil and then press the paper on top of the block to transfer the design. I tried this technique with both blocks and didn't really see much of a difference. So far so good!
2) Next, on to the carving. I used the same basic design on each block. The pink block required more pressure when carving but I actually liked that. It was less likely to crumble and I was able to cut a lot more detail. You can see in the pic that the cream seems much more crumbly and the lines aren't nearly as good. When done carving the blocks I decided to use a scissors to cut away the excess block around the image on each block. They each cut just fine with the scissors.
3) On to printing! I used the same dye ink pad for each and stamped them side by side. They both seemed to print the same. The image on the right is much crisper but that's because of the carving and not the application or transfer of ink. They both rinsed off fine, although the cream did retain a bit of the ink color.
4) Durability testing came next. To do this I bent each stamp gently in half. Here's where I saw another big difference. The cream block split and cracked immediately, the pink was just fine. This would be especially important to me if I was carving an over sized image. In the past I've had a real problem with those larger stamps cracking after just a few uses.
The cream block was the E-Z-Cut by Dick Blick, the pink is the Speedy-Carve by Speedball. Both are available from Dick Blick. The Speedy Carve was priced at about $20 for a 9" x 12", the E-Z-Cut is about $17 for the same size. Each block was also available in store in a variety of sizes.
Hope you found this interesting! Happy Carving!!!
p.s: I do have tutorials for carving stamps available- just check under the tutorials tab at the top of the page- Thanks!!!