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Alethiometer – January 2014 Tim Holtz tag

My husband and I recently finished reading the His Dark Materials trilogy. In these fantasy young adult fiction books, a spunky young girl gets into all manner of adventures across many worlds and is helped along by friends and a marvelous “truth-teller” device called an Alethiometer (aka a golden compass, but don’t bother with the movie of that name because they really muffed it).

So when I saw the January 2014 Tim Holtz tag with the “pocket watch” die, my mind traveled to a pocket watch version of the Alethiometer that I made him for the holidays.

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I dissected a pocket watch and attached a printout that I had carefully sized and sealed to the watch face.

It turned out really well, and still works as a watch, even!

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But when I made it, I regretted that I didn’t have time to draw the many symbols myself. I just got the imagery from the internet and combined with some pearl inlays I had created previously in photoshop for a different project.

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So I thought it would be great to use the pocket watch die to make an Alethiometer of a size where I could draw the symbols in for myself. Otherwise, I followed much of Mr. Holtz’ tutorial for the pocket watch and the background.

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Ingredients: Manila tag size 8, Sizzix Frame Pocket Watch die, Sizzix Alterations Circles, Super fine gold embossing powder, Glossy Accents, Sizzix tickets decorative strip die, Tim Holtz clockwork stencil, Holtz Grunge alpha stamp, Distress inks and markers, Martha Stewart lettering stamps, Stampers Anonymous Odds and Ends, Archival ink, Idea-ology game spinners, Micron pen, Darice embossing folder, Grunge board, Tarnished Brass Distress paint, and some words I printed. Whew!!

Learning: I screwed up the count on this. For some reason I thought there were 32 symbols, but by the time I got to drawing to the last few symbols, I realized that there were supposed to be 36! Oops! At the same time, I don’t think 36 would have worked out proportionally. It was hard enough to draw in those tiny spaces as it was!

My other mistake was that I had the foil side facing up when I went to cut the pocket watch. So I had to flip it and reroll it in order to get that impressed inner rim. This made the whole thing a bit more fragile, so I backed it all with a diecut piece of paper.

Loving: Grunge board was really fun to work with, very pliable, fun to cover in foil and cut! I also loved how nicely the ticket stamp matched the ticket die.

The words on the ticket die were a happy accident. I initially tried to spell out my quote with Martha letter stamps but my experiment didn’t fit well. So then I printed out what I wanted in a small font. I was going to just use a fresh ticket diecut, but then I realized that my printed word strips were so small that they fit between the stamped lines for a cool echoed sentiment. I love the way that worked and will file that idea for use again!

I also like the way the embossed word “Alethiometer” looks. I had to cut apart the Grunge alpha stamp which was tedious but so worth it! To make the gold pop a bit more, I blended more black soot ink over the gold embossing.

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Clear stamps: techniques and tips

In a previous post, I was lamenting the difficulty I was having in getting good stamp impressions out of some of my cling stamps.  I did some research across various forums and websites, and here are some tips I ran across.  I haven’t had time to try all of them, but my results are improving, and I am highly optimistic that after some experimentation I will find a method that works consistently for me.

20131208-215358.jpgStamp Quality:

  • Not all clear stamps are the same.
  • Photopolymer process stamps tend to be easier to ink, and work with, but also more expensive (e.g., Flourishes, Simon Says Stamp brand, My Favorite Things).
  • Cheaper silicone or acrylic clear stamps might take more experimenting to get a good impression (e.g., Scrappy Cat, Inkadinkado).  However, not all “acrylic” stamps are equal either.  There are reports that a few brands (e.g., Penny Black, Recollections, Martha Stewart, Fiskars), are acrylic but are less squishable and less prone to image quality problems.
  • Photopolymer stamps often have a weird initial smell, in case that helps identify what you have.
  • Now that I know there is a difference, I realize that I haven’t had a problem so far with the photopolymer clear stamps, just the acrylic ones.  And I’m curious now to try the “better quality acrylic” stamps, like the Martha Stewart ones I have picked up, to see if they less troublesome than other acrylic brands.

Stamping Surface and pressure:

  • Many users recommend using a mousepad, a pad of papers, or some other cushioning under the paper for a good impression.
  • Make a test stamp on scrap paper, and try different paper types as well if image quality is a problem.
  • Be careful not to use too much pressure, as some clear stamps, especially smaller designs, can be squished out of shape causing a blurred impression.  I have seen this problem on some small snowflakes that I have!
  • There are some acrylic blocks that have foam feet that are meant to both give cushion and even pressure, although they seem like they would be annoying to ink to me!

Inks:

  • Of course, everyone has different favorite brands.  But it seems that the acrylic stamps do better with types that are pigment-based, or water-resistant “archival” inks.
  • Dye-based (e.g., Distress inks) tend to bead up on the surface of clear acrylic stamps, giving a poor impression.  I have certainly experienced this, as most of the ink colors that I have are dye-based.  I never realized there was so much variation in ink types!
  • Solvent-based inks (e.g., StazOn) are supposed to lead to deterioration of clear stamps, although I’m not sure if this includes acrylic as well as photo-polymer stamps.  It make sense to my mind that solvents would be bad on photopolymer, as I think it’s more chemically fragile.  I would be surprised if the acrylic stamps were as susceptible to damage from solvent-based inks.
  • A lot of people in forums specifically mentioned having good luck with Colorbox Chalks on clear acrylic stamps.  Although both Colorbox and Colorbox Chalks are pigment-based, the Colorbox Chalks are considered quick-drying while regular Colorbox have glycerin-extended drying times to make them better for embossing.  I suspect the glycerin would cause beading up just like water-based dye pads.

Cleaning the Stamp:

  • The manufacturing process may leave residues on the acrylic stamp.  Supposedly this is not an issue with photopolymer.  Washing clear stamps with mild soap and warm water may help and certainly won’t hurt.
  • After reading this tip, I used a strong light and looked at some of the stamps that I hadn’t used yet (and had never cleaned).  I noticed that the unused acrylic stamps did seem to have a bit of slightly yellowish residue on the surface.  Cleaning the stamps well did seem to help the impressions a bit, but alone did not seem to be enough to get a perfect image.
  • Beware of lint.
  • Avoid using solvent-based cleaners and cleaners meant for removing solvent-based inks, as these may lead to deterioration of clear stamps.

The Stamp’s Surface (*WARNING: none of these tips are universally recommended, use extreme caution because these methods may ruin the stamp):

I am providing these tips, with warnings, because sometimes it’s better to use a potentially tool-destructive method than not be able to use a tool at all.  I am optimistic that these won’t be necessary if some of the other methods are employed first.

  • SEE ABOVE WARNING*: Some users recommend scuffing the surface of the acrylic stamp with a pink or white eraser.  More recommended the pink.
    • UPDATE:  I have discovered that Bo Bunny Stamps recommend on their packaging to rub their stamps with a pink eraser before each use for better inking.  So maybe this is not such a dangerous idea after all.
  • SEE ABOVE WARNING*: Even more scary, some users had success scuffing the surface of the acrylic stamp with very fine sandpaper!  I would say this should be a last resort.
  • SEE ABOVE WARNING*:  Some users had positive results by inking the stamp first in an archival or solvent-based, letting it dry, and then inking in the desired manner.  As an added step, some of these users recommend never cleaning off that initial layer of ink.  Again, not recommended because of the risk of the stamp chemically deteriorating over time.

Stamps Losing their Adhesion to the Acrylic Block:

  • Double stick tape, or Aleene’s Tack it Over & Over will get the job done.

So that’s what I’ve learned over the past few days!  I’ll try some of these methods out over the next several days as I finish up my holiday card-making.  I have to say it’s a little frustrating to find that these acrylic stamps are so fiddly, since I have a few of them around.  Hopefully, I will get a good solution worked out.

Until next time, keep those fingers inky…