Posted on July 10, 2020

The History of Stamping Ink

Papercrafting/ Stamping

OK, I'll admit it. I am a history geek. I love learning about past generations, especially as it relates to the papercrafting industry. I thought I'd let you go off on this little rabbit trail with me today and learn a little bit about the history of that all important part of rubber stamping…the ink!

Along with the invention of the block, for printing, an important sister-invention made the evolution of stamping as we know it today possible – and that's ink, specifically intended for printing and stamping. 

When the Gutenberg press was invented (1450), books were printed with an oil-based ink spread – which was tricky, slippery, and did not dry quickly. These original inks were created with linseed oil and stuck easily to the metal surfaces of the press in order to create a clean print. Creating these inks was a lengthy process due to the nature of the oil. Once created, the ink had to sit for at least a year so that any sticky substances within it could settle and not be floating around in the oily ink. 

Because of oil's debilitating dry time, it's possible that litharge (lead monoxide, often used in ceramic glazing) was added to help speed that process up. Over time, other vegetable oils were used, in trial and error. By using heat and vegetable oils rich in fatty acids, the dry time was also shortened. 

In the 19th century, the addition of petroleum distillate (a solvent) shortened the dry time even more. This discovery was very important in the invention of color printing inks. Because of petroleum distillate's excessive use in ink making, a new way to create inks was sought after during a petroleum shortage in the 1970s, which led to the eventual creation of water and pigment based inks.

ink mixing

An antique commercial pricing kit from the 20th century – including a bottle of violet ink, an ink solvent, and a pricing stamp gun

Ink pads, which came in tins with pre-inked pads that soaked up and held ink, not unlike ink pads today, could be purchased earlier than the turn of the 20th century. Another option, popularly used in commercial stamping, was mixing the ink oneself, with a concentrated bottle of the pigment and a separate bottle of the solvent. 

Today's craft stamping version of these mixing bottles would be reinkers – though the pre-mixing is already done for you!

If you'd like to read the entire article, here is the link and credit goes to scrapbook.com: https://www.scrapbook.com/articles/the-history-of-stamping

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