Thursday, February 23, 2012

Carving Block Trial Results from ElectricMedic

As many of you already know, one of the most recent set of sample blocks was mailed to ElectricMedic and they did a fabulous job of carving and chronicling the adventure, comparing the sample to a piece of PZ Kut they still had on hand! Electric carves with knife and gouge and was able to test the properties of both methods for me. Medic acted as chronicler so that all impressions were captured as they occurred. This whole blog post really should have been on their blog, but they sent everything back to me so quickly that they didn't get pictures of the carvings or the prints and they told me to go ahead and post about it.

Comments about the carving experience are based in part on a list of questions I sent so that Electric could be thinking about certain properties as carving progressed, and the responses that are italicized in quotation marks are lifted directly from their report to me.

So, without further ado, here are the results.

First, the Transfer - they took the photo before carving began and uploaded it so that I could see (they knew I was on pins and needles!).

Their comments, "Transfer Method: Epson Atrisan 800 ink jet printer, then made a copy on a toner copy machine. Used a blender pen for transfer. No prep to the rubber. The sample material does not seem as porous as PZ but still transferred well. Need to be careful to not get as wet with the transfer liquid. The sample surface is slightly slicker but the level of detail transfer is better (the pic that I sent). Sample also dried faster than PZ and was not as tacky."

On to the carving!

Questions under consideration: How does the material feel under the tool? How smooth does the tool go through the material?

The response: "Knife: If your blade is not a new blade then it takes a bit more effort to go through the material. Movement is smooth once started. Can’t go too deep in the material giving the carver more control. If you have used a new blade, it moves very nicely. You have more control over the blade, it won’t get away from you when cutting a long line.

Gouge: Very close to PZ, slightly stiffer but gouge goes through the material very easy. If I had to guess, the sample needs a smidge more increase in pressure on the tool but I feel that is a good thing. The gouge moves smooth and straight. It’s good, I like it."

I wanted to know about the break away characteristics and here's the response:

"Much like PZ, no rubber band feel. The sample tears cleanly with no ripping. Pieces pop out nicely, does not crumble with small detail like eyes. This is the same for both gouge and knife."

Cleaning up cuts:

"Gouge: Very well. Tool will grab to do a thin shave to clean up the line.
Knife: About the same, gouge is a little bit easier to clean with."

Level of detail held:

How well does it print and which inks did you use? For this, I'll let the wonderful carvings and prints speak for themselves.

The PZ Kut sample carving -- very small and detailed and I'm in awe of the teeny tiny fox that sits on top of a quarter with room to spare.

Black ink print is done with VersaFine and the red ink print is done with Staz-On.

Finally here's the Sample block - size is approximately 1.75 x 1.5 inches.

I asked for both a picture of some sort and letters on the sample so that I could get a feel for how well it did for another carver. Electric got fantastic detail, with tiny letters and lovely, clean lines. Again, black ink is VersaFine and red ink is Staz-On.

Final summary was:

"This new material is a gougers dream come true. I carved this stamp 60% gouge, 40% knife and I am mainly a knife carver. I used the basic X-Acto #11 blade and Steadtler #1 V gouge with no modifications.

Many, many thanks to ElectricMedic for agreeing to help with this test and for doing it so quickly and thoroughly. It really helped me a huge amount. I had carved far too many samples in succession and needed some unbiased and fresh hands and eyes. I couldn't have asked for better.

What's next? I would like to try and make the knife move just a little easier than it seemed to for Electric. I'm working on that and am going to see about getting another lab sample made up with a slight formula adjustment. Depending on the results of that test, I will be ordering a trial batch to make sure that everything works together in production as well as it does in the lab samples. Stay tuned....

Sunday, February 19, 2012

The New Inventory Room...

Here is a peek into the newly reorganized inventory room that my sister helped me get sorted out. (She could definitely make a fortune as a personal organizer!) All of the magnifying accessories, and brayers and barens are along the top shelf. Inks still need a little more work since I have them in more than one place right now, but the linoleum blocks got a total makeover and it's so much easier to find a particular size of mounted or unmounted lino.

Here you can see the wonderful pegboard wall that my sister's husband put up for me - in absolute record time, I might add. He's a genius with tasks like this. You can see the big row of logbooks, inks and ink refills on the shelves, along with mounting stuff and the new shaping scissors hanging in easy reach on the pegboard.

Here's the other side of the rack and pegboard wall -- lots of carving tools, knives and replacement blades of various kinds. Also, if you look closely you will be able to see just a couple sheets of orange PZ Kut on the front right side. Those will have to stick around until that formula gets worked out completely.

However, you may find that there is also something special to order if you go to and get there in time. Red Bird already discovered one before I got this post finished. You guys are quick and clever!! I will request that if you do get to buy one you leave subsequent chances for other people, since these are in very limited supply and I know that there are quite a few carvers who would love to sink a gouge or knife into this stuff. You read between the lines there, right? You know that there will be more than one opportunity today? I'm celebrating the fact that Electric liked the new sample block he was testing for me. That's something big to celebrate! :)

Friday, February 17, 2012

A Sigh of Relief and a Small Celebration!

We can always find reasons to celebrate, right? It's a beautiful, sunny day. Someone got invoice #8888 yesterday (pay attention if it was you!), it's almost the weekend and I survived a buzz saw of a week at work, complete with an application server hardware failure during a major survey administration. Oh, and I'm meeting a friend for a bowl of lentil soup at lunch.

Also, this little guy perched in my back yard was just too cute and made me smile.

If you're looking for something rare and much-coveted, there's an opportunity for you to go find it and celebrate with me - sort of hidden in plain sight over at Really.

On top of that, I just discovered while writing this that it's "Random Acts of Kindness Day". I'll have to see what kind of random celebratory madness I can think of. I simply can't pass that one up - it's definitely worth celebrating!! :)

Saturday, February 11, 2012

The New Stampeaz Packing Room

It is obvious that my wonderful sister has been here to help me get organized again, right? I can't begin to describe what a difference her organizational skills, help and encouragement make in my life!!

Does anyone remember the original Lego Project? Well, a few of those Styrofoam pieces are still around as evidenced by the tidy stacks in the new packing room, but my car now sits where the tower used to be. I use the Lego blocks when all other packing material is gone, since they are compact and stack so nicely. I still have some because all my work colleagues, family and friends save their plastic peanuts, pillows and other packing material for me to recycle. Of course, I have gotten some new Styrofoam Lego pieces along the way, when friends get new computers and printers and things. My goal is to never buy any packing material. That's why you sometimes get creative and colorful packing in your orders. I love reusing all that stuff that would otherwise end up in landfills that much sooner. Even gift wrap! It makes me smile.

The stacks you see on the floor behind the packing table are the last sheets of Firm Kut. I'm going to have to decide pretty soon whether to reorder this material or let it wink out of existence. There are those who love it and those who hate it. I expect that the same could be said for almost any carving material (with the possible exception of PZ Kut - but there were white vs. orange factions even there)! Unfortunately, I can't keep everything in stock, as much as I love choices! So, your thoughts?

Here's the packing space from the other direction:

Lots of Priority Mail boxes and envelopes live along that wall, with tape, miscellaneous bits of packing material and my rolling cart for putting the baskets with invoices on when I go to the inventory room to load all the goodies to pack up. Next post? The inventory room -- the difference there is totally amazing - but the most astounding will be when I get to what my sister calls my 'creative space'! :)

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Of Shoes and Ships and Sample Blocks, Of PZ Kut and Things...

(apologies to Lewis Carroll)

It has been a very long time since I have posted on this blog. I think it's time to try and be better about it! Well, actually, long past time! We'll see how I do! *grin*

Yesterday was the 6th anniversary of the day I reopened Stampeaz!! Amazing! And even more amazing, since I had warned everyone I would be having a celebration and there would be really cool stuff available for those who looked, I was very surprised that I didn't have more people looking for the treats that were hidden in plain sight as well as taking advantage of the promised anniversary coupons. I had six pristine, pre-prepped, grade A blocks of PZ Kut up for sale yesterday -- one for each year of the Stampeaz adventure and not one was found or purchased! I guess I will have to save them for other celebrations and see if anyone notices. Hmmmm.... Other celebrations.... Stay tuned.

In some ways it seems like a lot longer than six years since I purchased Stampeaz to keep my favorite carving material, PZ Kut, on the market, but in other ways, the time has flown by. For example, it seems like forever since the regulation change that knocked PZ Kut off the market! LOL! But the wonderful people who have been supportive and become friends along the way have made the business a joy to run.

As everyone knows, I have been in the process of reformulating our beloved PZ Kut and that has been an adventure of its own! The good news is that several more samples should land in my mailbox from the blending house any time now. I will do test carvings on them over the weekend and see which one I make a trial run of this time. In the meantime, here's a photo of the samples I have already gone through over the last couple years -- at least the ones I could round up quickly for a photo. If I had tried to find them all, it would have been another month before this post went up. I'm not kidding! People said they wanted to see, so here they are!!

I count 22 different sample materials in this photo. Along the way, I have gained a whole new respect for people who do product development for a living - it's a long, hard and occasionally frustrating (not to mention expensive) proposition. And I forgot to put Firm Kut into the mix - although I did remember to grab a little piece of MZ and NZ Kut to add to the pile! LOL!