DIY Outdoor Fun

Introduction to Letterboxing – Part II – Making a Personal Logbook

Introduction to Letterboxing – Part II – Making a Personal Logbook

by Carolyn Hasenfratz

*indicates items that are available at Schnarr’s
Text weight plain paper – 12 8.5 x 11 sheets
Decorative scrapbooking paper for end papers and accents
Decorative paper with letters printed on it
Heavy scrapbooking paper with a decorative design on it for the cover – 1 12 x 12 or 8.5 x 11 inch piece
*Thread or twine about the thickness of baker’s twine, kite string, 1mm hemp cord or something similar
Assortment of small beads
Metal eyelets

*X-Acto knife and blades
Needle tool
Large sewing needle
*Old block of scrap wood
Paper trimmer
*Glue stick
Squeegee or bone folder
Scrap paper
*Metal ruler
*Utility knife with new blade
Self healing cutting mat
Eyelet setter
Small hole punch

Part 2: Making the logbook

1. Take your 12 sheets of text weight paper and cut them down to 11 x 5 5/8 inches. Fold them in half.

2. To make interesting endpapers for your book, take a lightweight piece of decorative paper with a map or other design on it and cut it down to 11 x 5 5/8 inches. Fold it in half as in the step above. Nest the text paper inside the endpaper piece.

5. When you push all the nested paper pieces together at the spine, you’ll notice that the inner pages stick out at the fore edge. For a finished look, trim off the paper that sticks out using a metal ruler and a sturdy utility knife. A paper trimmer probably will not cut through all the layers cleanly on the first try and an X-acto knife might be a little too narrow and wobbly to make the cut safely. Something robust and sharp enough to cut through all the layers without having to press too hard will give you the neatest and safest results.

Before and after trimming the fore edge of the handmade journal..
Before and after trimming the fore edge. (In case you are wondering, the green dot on my ruler is there so I don’t get it mixed up with student tools when I’m teaching.)

Tip: If your metal ruler is not sold with a cork backing already on it, add a strip of cork to the back of yours to prevent slippage of your ruler while cutting. This extra bit of effort will pay off by possibly preventing injuries. If you shave off the side of your finger with a utility knife or craft knife you will never neglect to do this again! (Ask me how I know!)

4. Select a piece of decorative paper that is heavier in weight, like light cardstock, to use for the cover. Cut it down to 8 1/2 x 11 inches. From the bottom long edge, make pencil marks 2 3/4 inches up on the inner facing side.

5. Fold up at markings to make built-in pockets for the inside front and back covers. Fold cover in half and nest other papers inside.

The book is starting to come together!
The book is starting to come together!

6. Place a piece of scrap wood on your work surface. Go to the middle of your book and spread it open. Place the book with the inside facing up and with the needle tool poke four holes through all the layers of paper, one near the top, one near the bottom, and two close together in the middle.

7. Cut a piece of heavy thread or cord up to 1 mm thick to a length of 34 inches and thread a sharp, sturdy needle with it. Starting on the outside of your book at the middle hole, bring the thread in, leaving about 7″ trailing on the outside of the book. Bring the thread out again at the bottom, in again at the middle through one of the two holes, out again at the top and in again at the middle, making a figure 8 pattern. If the needle is difficult to pull through the holes pulling with pliers can help you get it through. Tie off your cord at the spine and if there is any excess cord left tie it at the middle also and let the ends trail.

8. String beads onto the ends of your cords as accents and tie double or triple knots as needed at the ends of your cords to hold them on.

9. Cut two 2 inch x 6 inch pieces from another pattern of decorative cardstock. Fold them in half lengthwise. Apply glue from a glue stick to the inside of the folded piece and press in place over the fore edge. Burnish your glue job well between pieces of clean scrap paper.

10. Punch two holes at each pocket with the small hole punch. Use an eyelet setter and hammer to spread the back of the eyelet out to fasten the sides of the pockets securely.

11. Cut two initial letters from letter printed cardstock or paper and mount on pieces of slightly larger decorative paper to give them a border. Glue to the front of the book and burnish.

Look for Letterboxes

Go to either the Atlasquest web site or the Letterboxing North America web site and create a profile for yourself. Search for letterboxes near you. I like to print out the clues and then keep them in a three-ring binder. I also keep in this binder maps and other information about the places I’m interested in searching. I search for a lot more letterboxes than I actually find so it’s not uncommon for me to make multiple attempts on a letterbox.

If you have a smartphone, look for an application called Clue Tracker. You can use this app to search the databases of either Atlas Quest or Letterboxing North America to find boxes near you while you’re on the go.

Have fun out there!

DIY Outdoor Fun

Introduction to Letterboxing – Part I – Carving a Personal Stamp

Introduction to Letterboxing – Part I – Carving a Personal Stamp

by Carolyn Hasenfratz

What is Letterboxing? It’s a fun outdoor hobby that is kind of like a lower-tech version of Geocaching. Letterboxers hide small, weatherproof boxes in publicly accessible places (like parks) and distribute clues to finding the box in printed catalogs, on one of several web sites, or by word of mouth. Individual letterboxes contain a notebook and a rubber stamp, preferably hand carved or custom made. Finders make an imprint of the letterbox’s stamp in their personal notebook, and leave an impression of their personal signature stamp on the letterbox’s “visitors’ book” or “logbook” — as proof of having found the box and letting other letterboxers know who has visited. Many letterboxers keep careful track of their “find count”.

To begin looking for letterboxes, you need a simple toolkit – a personal signature stamp, a stamping ink pad to carry with you, a personal logbook to carry with you and some hunting clues. In this class I will show you how to make the signature stamp and in the next segment you’ll learn how to make the logbook. You can buy the stamping ink pad from a craft supplier. Clues are available on web sites and at least one mobile app.

*indicates items that are available at Schnarr’s
Tracing paper
Rubber carving material
Rubber stamping ink pad
*Ziploc bags

Ball point pen
*X-Acto knife and blades
Carving tool with interchangeable tips with v-gouges and u-gouges in different sizes
Squeegee or bone folder
Scrap paper
*Metal ruler

Part 1: Making the stamp

Letterboxers choose a trail name and typically carve a personal rubber stamp that incorporates their trail name or relates to their trail name. Here is what my personal stamp looks like.

I intended to use the trail name “Jeep Girl” because that was my CB handle in my Route 66 club. I carved my stamp before I checked one of the letterboxing web sites and discovered that “Jeep Girl” was already taken, so I changed my letterboxing trail name to “Jeep Girl 66”. I recommend that when you are considering trail names to check to see if the one you want is already taken. Here are the web sites to perform those searches:
Letterboxing North America

1. Once you know what your trail name is going to be, create a stamp design to complement it. You can draw your design by hand or on a computer if you have access to computer graphics software. My fiance Tom needed a stamp to go along with his trail name “fordboy66” so here is a design I came up with using computer graphics tools inspired by the Ford logo from 1912.

While you are designing your stamp, keep in mind what size your carving is going to be. My stamp is pretty big so that the details were easy to carve. Draw or print out your design at the actual size that you want your stamp to be.

2. Next tape a piece of tracing paper over your design and trace using a relatively soft pencil that’s been sharpened really well. You want to be able to capture detail but use soft graphite if you can so that the design will be easy to transfer to the rubber.

3. Lay your tracing graphite side down onto your rubber carving material and tape in place. Draw over your lines again from the other side with the pencil to transfer your drawing to the rubber. Lift a portion of the tracing paper to see how well the design has transferred before you move it. You can also rub all over the paper with a squeegee or bone folder to make sure you went over all the lines.

4. Remove your tracing and set aside. Go over the pencil lines on the rubber one more time with a ball point pen so that when you are working your design won’t be rubbed off. If possible, choose an ink color that is close to the color you’ll be stamping because for the first few printings a little ball point pen ink is probably going to get into your stamp print. The pen ink will wear off in time.

With so many redrawings needed to get your design transferred, some imperfections will creep in. Part of the charm of Letterboxing is the hand-carved quality of the stamps, so please don’t see this as a defect. Fun and adventure are what is important – high quality carvings are appreciated but not a requirement. People of all skill levels can make a carving that is good enough for the job.

If you have any text in your stamp design, the words should look backwards on the rubber before you start cutting. Double check before you start to make sure your text will print the right way when you use the stamp.

5. Cut away the negative portions of your design (the “white” space) and leave the positive areas, the parts you want to print (or the “black” lines). I find the easiest way to carve is to outline by cutting around the design elements with an X-acto knife, then making another cut a little further out with the knife forming a channel that is shaped like a “V”.

Design elements of the stamp have been outlined with an X-acto knife.
Design elements of the stamp have been outlined with an X-acto knife.

Then I cut away large areas with a v-gouge, one of the tips included in a linoleum cutter tool set.

I’ve written a very detailed tutorial on rubber stamp carving if you need more information.

If your carving material is thin, you might need to mount it on a piece of clear acrylic block to stiffen it and get a good print. You can temporarily attach the rubber to the acrylic block with double-sided tape.

6. Wash and dry your stamp. Test your stamp by pressing it on your ink pad and then onto paper. Once you are satisfied with your carving, you can store it in a Ziploc bag along with your ink pad to keep ink from getting on you when you carry it around.

Here is what the new stamp looks like when printed with blue stamping ink.
Here is what the new stamp looks like when printed with blue stamping ink.

Stay tuned for Part II – Making a Personal Logbook!


Textured Backgrounds For Fall Leaf Greeting Cards

Textured Backgrounds For Fall Leaf Greeting Cards

by Carolyn Hasenfratz

Learn techniques for making interesting backgrounds for paper projects with some items that can be found in a hardware store. Make a Happy Thanksgiving card by embellishing your card further with rubber stamps and paper tape!

Tools and Materials
*indicates items available at Schnarr’s
*Foam paint roller
Water-based block printing ink or rubber stamping ink
Rubber brayer – a brayer is a rubber roller that is used to spread printmaking ink
Palette knife
Fall leaf, foliage and flower rubber stamps
Stamps with sayings, greetings or sentiments (optional)
StazOn Jet Black and Timber Brown stamping ink
*Freezer paper
*Masking tape
*Glue stick
8.5 x 11 cardstock in a light color and a second color
Assorted 12″ x 12″ decorative papers in both light and dark colors
Bone folder
*Scrap piece of thick wood dowel
*Two long nails
Optional – craft stencil with leaf designs
Paper cutter or paper cutting system
Envelope template (download here –
*Double-sided tape
*Rags or paper towels for cleanup
Flat metal ruler
*Gold acrylic paint
Rectangular eraser with flat surfaces
Old cleaned food container lid
Matte medium
Decorative paper edging scissors
Decorative paper tape (also known as washi tape)
Clean scrap paper


Some of these pictures will show parts being made for more than one greeting card. Normally when I’m making cards I make several at a time and I make more parts than I think I’ll need so that I can mix and match to get the best color combinations.

1. First take a foam roller and wrap some string around it in a random fashion. Tie off string to hold it in place.

Foam paint roller wrapped with string to make textures.
Foam paint roller wrapped with string to make textures.

2. Tape some freezer paper down to your work surface shiny side up. This is to protect the table and also so you can use part of the paper covered work surface as a disposable palette. In some of my sample photos I used a large piece of scrap plexiglass as a work surface and palette instead of the freezer paper – that’s why the ceiling lights are reflected in a couple of the pictures.

3. Choose a light earth tone color of ink and spread some on a portion of the freezer paper. Tape a piece of cardstock to the work surface to keep it from moving around. Roll the string covered foam roller in the ink and test on a piece of scrap paper to see if the color is what you want. When satisfied, re-ink and roll the pattern on the cardstock. Let ink dry on cardstock. Rinse out and clean the foam roller.

An example of a rolled pattern.
An example of a rolled out pattern. To make the color darker, press harder or add more ink.

4. Take a segment of thick wood dowel and hammer a nail in each end of the dowel to use as handles. Wrap string around the wood randomly. Select an earth tone ink color that is darker than the first color. Roll some ink out on your palette with the the rubber brayer. Roll the string covered dowel onto the ink palette then onto your cardstock multiple times in different directions until you are satisfied with the results. Let dry.

5. These next few steps (5-7) are optional. If you want to tone down the texture on the cardstock to make it fade more into the background, a very effective way to do that is to roll some semi-translucent stamping ink in a light color over your background. Chalk inks and pigment inks in white and soft pastel colors are very effective for this.

White chalk ink rolled out on the left. On the right is a piece of textured cardstock that I want to tone down to make more subtle.


What a similar piece of cardstock looks like after rolling with off-white chalk ink.

6. Allow the chalk or pigment ink to dry thoroughly. Chalk and pigment inks take longer to dry than dye-based inks. To speed up the drying, you can use a heat tool or iron the sheets of cardstock between two sheets of clean scrap paper.

7. Chalk ink can cause interesting effects when used in conjunction with other inks. Often it causes a blurring effect if you stamp over it, especially if the chalk ink is not completely dry. Sometimes this blurring effect can be exploited in a design to good effect but in this case I don’t want my next layer to be blurred. To prevent this, paint the inked cardstock with a layer of matte medium and allow to dry.

8. Take a piece of 11″ x 8.5″ piece of cardstock that is a different color and cut it in half lengthwise. Fold one of these pieces in half and make the fold crisp with a bone folder. You’ll end up with a card that is 4.25″ x 5.5″ when folded to use as a base.

9. Cut out a piece of 4″ x 5.25″ paper to use as border around your center piece. Center it on the card base and glue down with a glue stick.

10. Cut out a 3.75″ x 5″ section out of your printed cardstock to use as the center front of your greeting card.

Three parts for each card – a folded base piece which is the body of the card, a border piece and a center piece.


These pieces are stacked but not glued yet to see how they look and check if the colors work well together.

11. Squirt some gold paint onto an old food container lid and dip the side of the rectangular eraser in the paint. Use the side of the eraser to stamp a border on three sides of the center 3.75″ x 5″ section. The gold edges will become the top and side edges of the center part of the card.


12. Using StazOn Timber Brown ink, stamp two flower or foliage stamps in the corners of your front piece. Bold stamps without fine detail will be especially effective here because a little bit of the brushed-on texture from the matte medium will find it’s way into the design and enhance the rich textures of the card.

13. Draw some leaf shapes on the backs of different pieces of decorative paper. You can use a stencil to trace the leaf shapes as I did or draw them from your own design. Cut out leaves.

14. Using black ink and rubber stamps with sayings on them, stamp some of the leaves with a word that goes well with “Happy Thanksgiving”. In my samples I stamped “Togetherness”, “Treasure” and “Celebrate”. Underline your stamped word with a piece of plaid patterned paper tape in fall colors or other tape design of your choice. Trim the tape.

15. Stamp “Happy Thanksgiving” or other greeting of your choice onto a strip of light colored paper. Trim the strip with decorative paper edging scissors. Take a piece of 3.75″ x .75″ decorative paper and tape a piece of decorative paper tape down the center lengthwise. I chose a black and white floral design for my samples. With a glue stick, glue the strip that says “Happy Thanksgiving” over the paper tape.

16. Stamp some leaf rubber stamps in black on various pieces of light colored paper. Cut out the stamped leaves.

17. Place a variety of leaf parts on the center of your card and move them around until you get an arrangement that you like. Glue down the leaves with the glue stick. Glue the “Happy Thanksgiving” strip to the bottom center of the card. Center and glue the center section to the front of the card.

18. To make an envelope for your card, print out the envelope template and cut it out. I laminated my template for durability because I use it a lot. Place the template on the back side of a piece of decorative paper. Trace around it with a pencil. Cut out envelope. Fold in tabs, using the ruler and bone folder as aids. Assemble envelope by putting double-sided tape about halfway up the side flaps and pressing tabs together.

You’re done!

DIY Sustainability Upcycling

Stamping and Printing with Found Objects

Stamping and Printing with Found Objects

by Carolyn Hasenfratz

Create a piece of original artwork while learning how to print with found objects. You’ll also learn some basic monoprinting techniques while creating a background for your composition.

Materials and Supplies
Masa printmaking paper
*Scrap plexiglass
*Scrap wood blocks
Scrap chipboard
Scrap mesh
Scrap textured wallpaper
*Acrylic varnish
Used mailing envelopes lined with bubble wrap
Baren (printmaking tool sold at art supply stores)
Printing registration frame (can be built from instructions online)
Small tabletop printing press (sold at art supply stores)
Brayers – hard and soft (sold at art supply stores)
Dye-based rubber stamping ink
*Acrylic paint
Palette knife
Pie plate or other cleaned shallow food container
*Small sponge pieces
*Water container
*Ball point pens
*Rags for cleanup
*Double sided tape
*Painters tape
*Craft/X-acto knife and blades
*Cork pieces
Scrap paper
Recycled plastic file folders
Heat tool (optional)
5 x 7 inch wood blocks

Cut out a piece of scrap paper 8 x 10 inches. In this middle of this page, draw a 5 x 7 inch rectangle. This will be a guide to use while designing and printing.

Cut out a few pieces of scrap chipboard the size of the inner rectangle in your schematic, 5 x 7 inches. Using a white glue or wood glue, glue some scrap materials to the front such as mesh placemats, mesh from food packaging or textured wallpaper scraps. After glue is dry, coat the textured surface with acrylic varnish and let dry. This is for durability and so the ink washes off after printing. Trim around the chipboard if needed.

From Masa printmaking paper or some other printmaking paper of your choice, Cut some 8 x 10 inch sheets and some 5 x 7 inch sheets.

Squirt some light-colored dye-based ink onto a piece of plexiglass. You can use one color or a blend of multiple colors. Roll out an area of color with a brayer that is at least as big as the smaller of your two pieces of paper. If you use plexiglass as a temporary palette and work surface as I did in part of my demo, you can put your schematic drawing under the plexiglass to use as a guide.

Tip: if you use waterproof dye-based ink, you can apply water based media to your design later without smearing or blending the ink.

If you color the image in some way after printing, it is called a hand-colored print. If you have interest, experiment with painting and drawing media, stamping, stenciling or collage to turn your print into a mixed media piece.

Cut out a shape of your choice from a piece of bubble-wrap lined envelope. Place this shape down on your area of color. Roll over the back of it with a brayer. Lift bubble wrap and set aside with ink still on it. Do not clean the bubble wrap yet.

Take one of your  5 x 7 inch pieces of paper and place it face down on the inked area. The rougher side of Masa paper is considered the face but you can try both sides if you want to see which effect you like better.

Take one of the 8 x 10 inch pieces of paper and place it face down over the back of the first piece of paper. Put a piece of scrap paper over all and rub with the baren. Lift up your paper pieces. You should now have one small piece with a monoprinted background design on it and a larger piece with a white space in the middle of a monoprinted frame.

This picture shows a printmaking tool called a baren. It’s used to rub the back of the paper to help the ink transfer to the front of the paper evenly.

The texture of the bubble wrap has been transferred onto the background piece. This is just one way you can make marks in ink that’s been rolled out on a plate. You can draw into it with a rubber stylus, press rubber stamps into it and experiment with a myriad of found objects to see what kinds of marks they make in the ink. A monoprint is a one-off – you don’t have to worry about trying to duplicate it to make an edition.

Tip – you can also use pigment rubber stamping ink or block printing ink for printing. You can get finer details and markings with pigment stamping ink than with dye-based ink. Pigment ink will take longer to dry, however, perhaps several days unless you speed up the drying with a heat tool.

Take another blank piece of paper and place your inked up bubble wrap on it ink side down to the paper. Roll over the back of the bubble wrap piece with a brayer and lift up.

At this stage we have three pieces of paper with different areas printed. Add additional layers of colors and designs. Use increasingly darker colors for subsequent layers to add depth to your piece. To make your design more lively I recommend letting a little bit of white show through in one or more spots as you add layers.

Use a brayer to roll out a slightly darker color of your choice. Choose one of the four blocks of wood with a texture plate taped to the front. Roll some color onto one of the texture plates. To lift ink up, roll fast – to lay ink down, roll slow. Roll in different directions to help get an even application of ink over the whole design.

Tip – do test prints on scrap paper to get a feel for how much ink you need before doing a “good” print.

Cut out a shape of your choice from a piece of recycled plastic folder. Use this piece of plastic as a mask if you want to leave any areas unprinted. Slip the mask between printing block and paper when it’s time to print.

How can you print with an inked design mounted on a wood block? Here are some methods to try.

A. By “stamping” with the block – put a stack of old newspaper or scrap paper on your work surface so it has a little “give” – you’ll get a better print that way. Press your block straight down on the paper and apply as much pressure as you can without moving the block. Take care to apply pressure to the edges and center of the block. Lift straight up.

B. With a tabletop printing press – the model shown was purchased from an art supply company.

C. With a block printing frame – you can made one for yourself with wood and a big clipboard clip – the ruler built into my sample is optional. These frames are terrific for block print registration and keeping your print from moving while rubbing. Look online for plans if you want to build one. Rub the back of your print with a large spoon or a baren to transfer the ink to the paper. Take care to rub all parts and pay special attention to the middle or edges since those areas tend to get missed.

Another way of making a design from a recycled item is to take a piece of scrap foam from a cleaned food tray and cut it to a shape of your choice. Draw into the foam with a ball point pen, keeping in mind that whatever lines you draw will be a negative space that won’t print. Tape this shape to a wood block with double sided tape. Ink the shape and print with the method of your choice.

A very simple way of printing is to take a piece of cork and draw a simple design on it. Cut around it with a craft knife to make a stamp.

Stamp cutting safety tips:

  • Aim knife blade away from yourself while cutting
  • Use sharp blades to decrease chance of blade slipping

To print with a cork stamp, place a small, slightly damp sponge on a pie plate or in an old lid. Mix up a little acrylic paint of your choice and dab some on the sponge with a palette knife. Acrylic paint is usually fairly opaque unless it is diluted. Small stamps applied with opaque paint are a great way to add a finishing touch to a print made with translucent inks. Press your cork stamp into the sponge and to some test prints on scrap paper. Stamp your cork stamp on your prints.

Tip – Rubber erasers and rubber carving material are also good for making your own stamps. Read my tutorial for instructions –

For more printmaking tips, see my Pinterest board. It includes a link to building a block printing registration frame: