All About Getting Into Rubber Stamp Business
Every business and most households use rubber stamps routinely -
they are accepted as a necessary part of life.
Although there are several variations (self-inking, impregnated
rubber), the "old fashioned hit the ink pad" type is still far
and away the most popular -- and is likely to remain so for the
future. Making rubber stamps can be both interesting and
There are at least six different methods for making rubber stamps
and anyone considering this as a business show know about them.
The oldest method is hand carved type, which is still used today
in the orient - Chinese in little stalls on the streets of Taipei
for example will hand carved your "han" (Chinese family name)
into a rubber stamp for a few cents, or into an ivory or bone han
for a little more.
Not long ago, it was possible to have a genuine signature stamp
made this way. It took one of these artist (who speaks Chinese)
about 10 minutes to carve a complete signature (in any language)
from a carbon (backwards) copy -- at a cost of less than a
dollar. A similar art is still practiced in this country - but
more on that later.
The most common method of making rubber stamps is with hand set
"foundry" type. Individual printer's type is hand-set, along with
any borders or illustrations (cuts) into a holder (chase).
The stamp maker inserts the letters, spaces (ems,ens), lines and
line separators (leads) and any fillers into a reverse image of
the desired stamp. All of the letters, etc.,are "type high," a
standard term meaning equal height so they will protrude from the
chase to make a uniform impression.
When assembled, the chase is tightened to hold the "copy" firmly
in place and a trimmed piece of specially treated, plasticized
board (matrix) is placed over the design. The chase and matrix
are then placed in a machine that applies measured heat and
pressure which gently squeezes the layout in the chase into the
matrix and leaves a positive impression of the desired stamp in
the matrix, which is allowed to cool and cure.
Since matrix is a thermosetting plastic, it can be molded only
once; it will not soften when re-heated. Raw rubber is then cut
to size and pressed into the matrix by the same heat and pressure
machine. When the rubber is "cured" ( 2 or 3 minutes), it is
trimmed, glued to a mount, and PRESTO, a rubber stamp! During the
molding process, powder is used to prevent sticking -- and plain
baby talc works great.
The second method is very similar except that NEGATIVE (not
foundry) type is used. This type is the same size (type high) as
the former method, but much more expensive.
With negative type, the finished rubber stamp is formed in a
single molding operation; there is no need for matrix or a second
The disadvantage is cost and the fact that negative type tends to
stretch (due to heat and compression in the chase), which
produces uneven letters on the stamps. This method is recommended
only for single and "rush" jobs.
Third is the use of the really old fashioned linotype molding
machines (e.g., Ludlow) that actually mold a newspaper column
width line of type at a time.
This used to be printing industry standard and works fine for
rubber stamps, but is quite cumbersome.
There are a few around today only because newspapers and other
printers have sold (or given them away) to upgrade to modern
printing equipment) these machines use molten lead, are quite
large, and understandably generate a ot more heat.
When you type a line, molten lead is forced into its internal
molds to produce a standard line of type, in whatever style molds
that have been placed in the machine.. Once the line of type is
cooled, it is placed in a chase and made the same way as foundry
The fourth is the same general idea as the Chinese "han" carver,
and is not used by professional rubber stamp makers in this
country. It is the art of hand-carving designs, logos, etc.,into
a large eraser (especially art-gum) or polymer, then using it as
The official publication for this type of stamping is RUBBER
STAMP MADNESS ( see Business Sources), which contains helpful
hints, ads and subjects of interest to enthusiasts.
The fifth method is seldom used anymore, except by stamp makers
who are also engravers, but it is worth of mention to those who
Using phenolic plastic which will stand up to heat), the operator
engravers the design as deep as possible into the plastic (like a
plastic name tag, or the bank teller's sign). The plastic is
dusted with baby powder, a strip of stamp rubber applied, and the
combination placed in a heated stamp press.
Since the impression is negative (just like negative type), the
finished stamp can be molded direct.
These stamps usually do not have deep letters compared to the
type molded varieties, but can be made fast. They might be nice
when customers want the same logo on a badge and stamp. It only
takes about 10 minutes to cut a name ( for example) into a piece
of phenolic and then mold a rubber stamp into it.
Some have done quite well with this system setting up in shopping
The sixth and newest method involves photo processing and
requires a larger investment, but it represents THE rubber stamp
industry of the coming age.
It is rapidly replacing the other methods because it is cheaper,
faster and much more versatile. These rubber stamps are not
rubber at all -- they are PHOTOPOLYMER. Most look like clear
plastic, although colors can be added to disguise their
In this process, a facsimile (picture) of the desired stamp is
types, printed or even drawn onto a sheet of paper and
photographed (or exposed onto film). The image is then placed in
a machine that exposes a light sensitive plastic gel (polymer) in
sheet or liquid form (the plastic "sets" only where light strikes
it). The entire underside is exposed, and then the top is
exposed, and then the top is exposed through the film with the
desired stamp design.
After a few moments of cure time, the exposed polymer is washed
(most is water soluble) and cut up into individual stamps (most
stamp makers do a full page at a time). In the washing process,
the raw (uncured)plastic simply washes away, leaving a 3-D
impression of each facsimile, which becomes a "rubber" stamp.
Obviously, anything that can be put on paper can be made into a
rubber stamp with this process: regular type, Illustrations, even
Photographs can also be made into rubber stamps with this process
as long as there is sufficient contrast. The foundry type method
is the least expensive way to get into the rubber stamp business.
Heated presses start around $250, and type runs about $25 per set
(font) new. For starters, you will need a set each of 10, 12, and
14 point type, a chase, fillers, leads and spacers, and an
assortment of routine cuts and designs, plus some rubber,matrix
and a selection of holders.
An outfit large enough to start making rubber stamps commercially
should run $500 or so, but very soon you will have perhaps a
thousand dollars in supplies because all of them get cheaper as
you buy more.
You should be able to find plenty of used foundry type -- since
many printers are going to photo offset and computers, and it
would not be impossible to locate a used press as well. If you
want to go "all out," Ludlow sells a plastic processor for around
$2,000 that should take care of a pretty good sized business.
Note that with the photo process you don't need type -- just
polymer and stamp mounts, plus a system to put the impressions
onto paper (copier or newspaper headline marker).
Stamp moldings and handles are purchased in volume. Handles come
in many sizes, but 1/4 and 3/8" (the size of the shaft that is
inserted into the mount) are the most popular.
Also, natural wood seems to be the best choice if you carry only
one type. Here are cheap plastic handles and mounts, but forget
them until you are established. Mounts are sold in 24 to 36 inch
lengths, which you saw to each desired length and finish the
The best mounts to start with are the ones with clear plastic
sides under which you can insert a printed sample of the stamp.
When the stamp rubber is ready, cut a piece of molding to length,
sand ends slightly (on a rotary sander if you have one), install
a handle with a rubber mallet (no glue is necessary unless it is
a bad fit), and glue on the rubber strip.
Print the stamp on the paper that comes with the kit, cut and
insert it, and you have an finished rubber stamp. Note that plain
paper glue is used to hold stamps to their holders.
TIP: When you buy paper glue, also get an equal amount of
thinner. That "rubber" glue dries out easily, but a little
thinner now and then does wonders.
Marketing rubber stamps is almost as varied as the manufacturing
methods. You can retail them through advertisements (local or
mail order), specializing in one size and type style, or
wholesale to local stationery stores.
A typical three line stamp retails in local stores for about
$4.95, but will be offered in mail order magazines for 42.95
because the marker specializes, takes a couple of weeks to get
your stamp to you, and gets a little extra for "postage and
You can produce self-inking stamps simply glue the rubber
impression into a $2 self-inker), notary seals with a special
chase and cut; or contract with large companies to make all of
Wholesaling involves a discount of 25 to 40 percent, but the
retailer does much of the "work" in exchange for his share. The
cost of making a three line rubber stamp is approximately 35
cents, plus 5 or 10 minutes labor.
Once a rubber stamp business is established, there are many
"sidelines" that can make much more profit with little more
investment in either time or money. You could handle embossers
(take orders), specialty advertising, stock signs, and desk
the same people who buy your rubber stamps will also be in the
market for other products that go with starting or running a
small business, and they are already there! Find out what those
other products are and add them to your "line."
TIP: If you have any future plans to include laminating, check
the machines offered by Warner (see Business Sources). Their
laminating machines are not much more expensive than "plain"
models, but have several additional features that are very useful
in stamp making as well as laminating.
They are water cooled, have accurate temperature and pressure
gauges (and controls), and there is heat to both the top and
Something to watch out for in the rubber stamp business is
misspelled words and incorrect copy. When taking an order, be
especially careful to get it exact.
When setting up a stamp, keep a copy of the order in front of
you, and double-check it "religiously." Also, keep a good
dictionary handy and use it whenever there is any doubt.
It is also important that your finished stamps look good. Make
sure the ends of the stamp mount molding are smooth, that the
copy you stamp in the window on the stamp is clear, straight and
These are little things, but they are very important.. They can
make your business successful.
EVATYPE DIVISION OF EVATONE, 4801 Ulmerton Rd.,Clearwater, FL
35520. Negative type (possibly only source left - prices
JACKSON MARKETING PRODUCTS, Brownsville Rd.,Mt Vernon, IL 62864,
800/851-1334. Stamp making supplies and equipment; makes dies
(cuts) for the trade (good place to get a notary die for your
SUPERIOR STAMP MFG. CO., 1800 W. Larchmont Ave.,Chicago, IL
60613. 800/621-1205. (also, office in Dallas).Rubber stamp
supplies and equipment -- also embossers and other possible
sidelines. Large company.
MARTIN RUBBER STAMP SUPPLIES, 1432 Major Dr.,Jefferson City, MO
65101. Rubber stamp supplies; custom and standard cuts at good
GREGORY MFG. CO. INC., Box 1303, Jackson, MS 39205, 800/647-7152.
Wood stamp mounts (handles, strips, inserts, etc.), desk sign
mounts. Reliable company; excellent prices.
THE ENGRAVERS JOURNAL, P.O. Box 318, Brighton, MI 48116.
313/229-5725. Trade journal for engravers, hot stampers, rubber
WARNER ELECTRIC CO.
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