A dummy’s guide to using a speedball linoleum cutter (to carve rubber stamps)

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While I was making the “house” series fabric block printing tea towels I shared in my last post, I struggled a little, trying to figure out how to use the Speedball Linoleum Cutter I had to carve the rubber stamps. I googled and watched youtube videos and still I was pretty much clueless. The resources I found online seems to only focus on how to carve the rubber stamps and not how to use the cutter itself. Hence, I’m hoping that for all of you who are still trying to figure out the basics like I was, here’s a quick tutorial to show you the ins and outs of the speedball linoleum cutter.

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When you first remove the cutter out of the package, the first thing you’ll probably notice is the metal-on-metal clanking sounds. That’s because the handle of the tool is hollow inside, allowing you to store all the different tips. Unscrew the base of the tool (you’ll see grooves) anti-clockwise and the base will loosen. Carefully pour out all of your tips.

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If you look on the other side, you’ll notice a large metal screw. That is where you’ll attach the tips. When you look right inside, you’ll notice a metal ball in the middle with a U shaped piece of metal, followed by a smaller U shaped piece of metal hugging the metal ball. The tip will slot in between the metal ball and the shorter U shaped metal piece.

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To attach the tip, unscrew anti-clockwise. You don’t have to unscrew all the way, but just enough to slot the tip inside. Facing the side of the tip which says “Speedball Cutter” downwards, push the tip all the way in. Screw it clockwise to tighten. Everything should fit perfectly with the tip tightly secured to the handle.

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If you’ve unscrewed too much and the metal pieces have fallen out, don’t panic! You can easily put them back by aligning the two metal pieces together and screwing it back on.

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To carve on the rubber stamp, hold the speedball cutter such that the cutter resembles a spade and drag it across the carving block. I find that the Speedball Speedy-Carve Block works really well! It is effortless to glide the cutter through, is adequately thick to hold the rubber stamp easily while stamping and the smooth surface allows the fabric paint to stick on easily as well. 

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If you look closely on the back of each tip, there is a number. The larger the number, the larger the tip and the tips are used in combination to carve out different parts of the rubber stamp, depending on how much you want to carve out. The different tips also differ in terms of width and depth. You’ll notice that I don’t have a number 4 tip – honestly, I’m not sure if it was missed out in my package or if I’ve misplaced it but oh wells, these 4 tips are more than sufficient to carve out any rubber stamp.

Tip 1 – for very fine details. So far, I find this tip unnecessary. It doesn’t shave a lot of rubber out and doesn’t cut deeply either.

Tip 2 – I use this tip for the finer details as well as carving the outline of my stamp. It gives a really nice deep cut with a relatively small width.

Tip 3 – I use this tip for carving out larger areas.

Tip 5 – I use this tip most when carving out the larger areas. i.e. areas outside the design of the stamp. It is able to cut deeply but I find myself tilting the cutter and using one side of the cutter instead so that it cuts a lot at once.

Tip 6 – You’ll see tip 6 in the first picture of this post. It resembles a spade-looking cutter. I’ve not used this tip at all but I’m guessing it’ll do the job of an x-acto knife.

If you’re interesting in carving out rubber stamps, I strongly suggest the speedball linoleum cutter. It is easy to use, relatively inexpensive and is durable. The only thing you’ll need to do is to go slow and practice! Start with a relatively easy design followed by more complex ones when you’ve gained confidence :)

Good luck! Stay tuned for my next post on a guide to carve rubber stamps! :) 

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