Sunday, September 21, 2008

To Unmount or Not Unmount...That is the Question.

I spent a good part of this summer unmounting my collection of wood mounted stamps and thought I might share some of that journey with you. Why did I do it? Well, I will say it wasn't an easy journey for me. I have toyed with the idea of unmounting my stamps for quite a while now but I have always loved the feel of a wood mounted stamp so I've resisted. Reality set in though as my scraproom began to be over run by wood mounted rubber stamps. Frankly, I just got tired of having my stamps in multiple places. I had my wood mounts in one set of drawers, my Stampin' Up! sets on another shelf, my clear acrylic stamps in CD cases on yet another shelf and my purchased unmounts (such as Stampin' Bellas) in binders. Not too mention the odds and sods such as Gel 'a tins and Paper Salon sets in metal tins and my Technique Tuesday clear sets in binders. It just became too much to look all over the room to find stamps - particularly if I was mixing and matching from different sets and companies.

So why unmount? I can give you a few good reasons:

  1. Unmounted stamps take up considerably less room allowing you more room for more stamps! (or whatever else you want to fill the space with).

  2. Unmounted stamps can be stored the same way that clear acrylics are allowing you to consolidate all your stamps in one place (in binders, CD cases or however else you might want to store them).

  3. Purchasing stamps unmounted can save you a considerable amount of money over wood mounted stamps and more and more companies are offering this option now.

  4. Unmounted stamps are easier to place accurately using a see-through acrylic block.

There are several systems you can use to store and use unmounted rubber stamps.

  1. You can remove the cusion completely and use double sided adhesive or a tacky glue like Aleene's Tack It Over and Over (available at many craft stores) to adhere them to an acrylic mounting block. I'm not a big fan of not having a cushion so this option wasn't one I opted for but I know many people have had great success with this method. The advantage is that it they take up even less space then cushion mounted stamps and the overall cost is much less expensive then using a cling mount system.
  2. A second option is to use a tradional cushion mount (with adhesive on both sides) and a vinyl cling film like the type used to make window clings. You can purchase vinyl cling film at some office supply stores and specialty art supply stores. The cling film will adhere to an acrylic block
  3. Option three is to use a loop and hook tape system such as the Halo system. This system uses Velcro strips to mount the rubber stamps to an acrylic block.
  4. Option four, and my choice, is to use a cling mount such as EZ Mount. This is a foam cushion which is sticky on one side and matte on the other. The matte side will "cling" to an acrylic block for stamping.

I get my stamps from a variety of companies but I want to give you a couple of examples of how I went about unmounting my stamps. Here is a typical sheet of stamps from Stampin' Up! This is a new set so fortunately it came already die cut, eliminating the need to cut out the stamps from the rubber sheet.

Just pop out the stamp and you're ready to "unmount"

Pull back the rubber from the cushion mount. You can usually get it started by inserting your fingernail between the rubber and the foam cushion. I find that the Stampin' Up! stamps peel back from the mount quite easily. You may get a bit of sticky residue left on the rubber. Just rub it with your thumb or finger and it will come right off.

After removing the cushion you will have a thin piece of etched rubber ready to be put on EZ Mount.

The process is similar for a purchased wood mounted stamp. This stamp is from Whipper Snapper Designs (which now offers a cling mount version of their stamps).

Pull back the rubber from the cushion mount. If you find the rubber is particularly stubborn in coming off the cushion, try putting it in the microwave for 5 second intervals. The heat of the microwave will loosen the glue and make it easier to remove. Some brands of stamps are particularly stubborn and may leave significant residue or even pieces of the foam still clinging to the rubber. If this happens, use a product like Goo Gone to get loosen the adhesive and rub the residue away.

Here is the stamp after being removed from the wooden block. Every manufacturer is slightly different in how they make their stamps. Sometimes the rubber is quite thick and other times it is very thin. This doesn't make any difference when unmounting your stamps.

This is EZ mount. It comes in 8.5 x 11 sheets and has protective sheets on both sides. One side is sticky - very sticky. This is where you put the backside of your rubber stamps. The other side is the cling side which will adhere to your acrylic block. Peel away the cover from the sticky side.

Start putting your unmounted rubber onto the sticky side of your sheet of EZ Mount. Put them as close together as possible but leave some room between them. You can fit a larger number of stamps onto one sheet of EZ Mount. Here I have put two Stampin' Up! sets and four Whipper Snapper stamps and I haven't even used the whole sheet yet. If you can't fill the whole sheet, don't worry - you can save it for later. The adhesive is very, very sticky so be careful when handling it.

After you have adhered all your stamps remove the other protective cover to reveal the "clingy" side. You will now need to cut out around each stamp, staying very close to the edge of the rubber. You can use a pair of scissors such as Kai scissors, but my preferred method is to use a hot knife which cuts through the foam cushion as if it were butter. Because EZ Mount is so sticky it can be a bit of a pain to cut with regular scissors. A couple of options if you don't have a hot knife/tool are to put a little Neat washing up liquid on your scissor blades or to sprinkle some talc onto the space between the stamps to "de-stickify" the rest of the sheet. Make sure you cut off your excess before you do this or you won't be able to use it again.

After you have cut out your stamps they will look like this.

EZ Mount comes in two formats - regular (grey, thick cushion) and thin (black, thin cushion). I mount the majority of my stamps on the regular, grey sheets but for very tiny stamps and sentiment stamps I prefer to use the thin mount type. Here's an example of the thin mount used with a sentiment stamp.

After you have attached your cling mount cushion to your stamps, the next step is to store them. There are several ways to store cling mounted stamps but probably the most popular are in CD cases or in binders on laminated or special purpose cards. I use a combination of both types of storage depending on the stamps. For CD storage be sure and purchase the regular style CD cases - not the thin ones. You will need to remove the black liner from inside the case.

After removing the liner, put your stamps inside. The cling foam will stick to the CD case. Check to make sure that your stamps are not being squished by any part of the case when you close the lid. You will need to start them about 3/4 inch from the inside edge to avoid the lip of the front cover. There are also four little tabs at the top and bottom which hold the CD case cover. Make sure that your stamp is not directly under these. Pressure on the stamp can damage the image.

With few exceptions I have found I can usually fit an entire Stampin' Up! set in one CD case.

Next, you will want to make an index card to put inside your front cover which shows you which stamps are in the case. Cut a piece of cardstock 4.75" x 4.75". Stamp all the stamps in the case and slip under the tabs of the front cover.

Close your case and you have nice storage for your newly unmounted stamps. The CD case takes up considerably less room than a traditional Stampin' Up! case and can be kept in any storage solution designed for CDs.

As a final step, I make a label on my label maker with the stamp company and name of set. This is a 6mm label size which fits perfectly on a CD case.

Here is how the majority of my stamps are stored. This shelf, which is about 24" by 48", contains more than 1000 unmounted stamps. The remainder of my stamp collection is in two three-ring binders. I hold large collections in the binders because it just didn't make a lot of sense to store those in CD cases.

Here is a close up of the CD cases. All the stamps are stored alphabetically by company and the clear and rubber unmounteds are stored together in the cases. This makes it really easy to locate a particular stamp.

Here's an example of a binder storage. These sheets are made by Sunday International. They are essential a heavy, laminated sheet which is three-hole punched to fit in a binder. You can also make your own sheets but laminating cardstock. I've even seen people make sheets by covering a piece of cardstock in packing tape. I use binders to store large collections or to store extra large stamps that don't readily fit in CD cases.

To maximize the CD storage, I will store multiple single stamps in one case. In order to keep track of the stamps I number them when I stamp them on the index card and on the back of the index card I list each stamp in the case. The CD is labelled with the stamp company's name (in this case Amuse Artstamps) and then each case is given a number (such as Amust Artstamps: CD 1). Its easy to add to your collection and when you fill up one case you can start another.

In addition to unmounting your wood mounted stamps, there are a lot of companies that offer unmounted stamps either exclusively or as an option. More and more companies seem to be offering this option every day. You will find that these stamps come in a variety of different formats. The stamp here is from Sunshine Designs and comes diecut and already mounted on cling film so you simply have to put it into your CD case, stamp the index card and you're ready to go! Other companies that do this include Lizzie Anne, Magnolia Stamps and Magenta. Some companies offer stamps on sheets already mounted onto a cling cushion. Cornish Heritage Farms offers many of their sets like this. You simply cut out the stamps using a sharp pair of scissors and you're ready to go.

Other companies offer "raw" rubber stamps without any cushion, cling or foam mount. This example is from Stamping Bella. The stamps come cut out without any cushion. Other companies offer full sheets of rubber stamps without any foam or cushion. This is a very economical way to purchase stamps. Many companies are beginning to offer the option of wood mounted or unmounted (either raw rubber or cling cushion mounted) which is a really great trend to see. Whipper Snapper Designs has begun offering unmounted stamps. Cornish Heritage Farms and Magnolia frequently offer the option or wood mounted or not. I'm sure we will see many more companies go this route in the future.

To use your new EZ Mount mounted stamps, simply peel them off the CD or binder sheet and mount them onto a clear acrylic block. I keep a variety of sizes of blocks on my desk in a basket, ready to use when I need them. My favourite blocks have lines etched into them so that you can line your stamp up straight - especially important with word and sentiment stamps. This block is made by Inkadinkado but there a number of different companies that make blocks. Have a variety of sizes on hand and make sure to use the smallest block possible for the size of your stamp. Tap on the ink and away you go!

Unmounting stamps isn't for everyone but its worth thinking about, especially if your stamp collection is rapidly outgrowing the space you have available. If you have a very small collection, frequently sell your stamp sets or just really, really love the feel of wood, unmounting may not be your best option. If you're unsure, try it on for size with a set or two. You just might fall in love with your stamp collection all over again...


Karen said...

This blog entry of yours is JAM-PACKED with fabulous tips. I've started unmounting my stamps and you've given me great technique ideas with which to continue.


Jennie C. said...

As you know, I'm not a stamper - but I like to peruse your blog 'cause it's so pretty. And for some reason, this one's title made me laugh.

Sarah said...

Wow Lisa! This was a great post... I am so impressed with how many stamps you can fit into your space. And they do take up so much less room... I wonder if SU! will ever offer just the rubber?? A good question for me to ask them, eh?!

Anonymous said...

What a great topic! I'm mostly unmounted but now need to find more storage - more binders and cd cases -LOL...

oh and - you've been tagged. Head over to my blog and pick up your tinkerbelle tag

Julie said...

Thank you for your post. I have been buying unmounted, or plain sheets for several years and am having a hard time convincing my friends it is the way to go. I can now refer them to this post and rest assured they have the information they need--complete with visual aides! Thanx! Julie said...

I am SO excited to have found your blgo! talk about crafty goodness and inspiration! Ill be linking to your paper pine cone project in my next Halloween Roundup and adding you immediately so I don't miss a thing!

sarah24sza said...

Have you had any problems with the ez mount in the cd cases? I just moved alot of my stamps but have seen a few people say it is not a good idea that the foam can deteriorate or stay stuck to the case?