Tuesday, January 19, 2010

How is your rubber made?

In April, 2007, three of my ABC yahoo group friends and I got together. It was supposed to be a get together to celebrate Theresa coming to Wichita, but it turned into a birthday celebration for me. I was totally surprised and blown away by the surprise.

However, this post is not about a two year old birthday memory, but how rubber stamps are made. Before a stamping company called River City Rubber or RCR (those of you who stamp have probably heard of it) had to move from the place they had occupied for more than a few years, they were located at what was called "The Barn." RCR is owned and operated by sisters Dana, LeAnne, and Mary. At the time, they all even lived in the barn.

I lost all my photos when my hard drive died a couple of months ago, but I was fortunate enough to have stored these photos on a Yahoo group site. These were taken by me and copied from Yahoo. Those of you who don't know about Yahoo, they store photos in a standard thumbnail, large, and larger size. I copied each in the largest size that Yahoo allowed. I'm not sure how much larger they will get if you click on them, but I hope you enjoy the tour as much as I did, hopefully with photos you will be able to enlarge.

From left, are Celia from Great Bend, KS; Kathy from Hutchinson, KS; and Theresa from Clarksville, TN. In the background is the sign pointing the way to The Barn, and the "shop" where the rubber is made.

When we got there, there was nothing but rubber stamps. I mean they were everywhere. There must have been a gazillion or more. OK, a bit of an exaggeration, perhaps, but more stamps than I have ever seen in my entire life. It was overwhelming, inspiring and totally unlike anything I had envisioned. While looking at rubber stamps, we told Dana DeCicco, one of the sisters who run the store, about our venture. She called the "shop" (about 100 yards from the barn) and we were given a tour of where they make the rubber stamps. You can see a tiny bit of the red "shop" in the background of the first photo.

The three stampers (Celia, Kathy, and Theresa) all ordered unmounted rubber stamps (UMs). I had forgotten you could get UMs there, since their main focus at that time was mounted. As a bonus, the rubber was made that day with us watching. Now how cool was that?

Entering the shop was pretty low key. It was a small operation at that time, and I have no idea what it's like now that they have moved. Here Theresa, and Celia behind her, have entered the shop. I stopped to take a photo of the order board, which is the first thing you see when you enter. The cat box on the floor says it all.

Dana showed us the etched plates used to make the rubber. These they buy. Please don't ask me where, I don't remember and didn't write anything down that day. The shelves in the background are filled with wood mounted stamps that are waiting to be shipped or sold in the store. If Dana's name sounds familiar, it's because she has been on HGTV's Carol Duvall show.

While we were waiting for the press (or oven) to heat to the proper temperature, Theresa spotted one of the rescue cats that lived there. She almost took it back to Tennessee with her. Mary, one of the sisters, looks on in the background.

Mary, in back, Dana (in the middle with back to the camera), and Celia, examine the remaining components needed to make a rubber stamp. One side is flat, one side has the image plate, and the unpressed rubber is sandwiched in the middle.

Dana (on right) explains the process that is about to happen and how hot the press needs to be in order to get a good impression, while Celia watches the setup.

In this photo, one of the workers places the rubber on one of the plates now that the temperature of the press has heated sufficiently. The plate is then inserted into the hot press (oven) shown on the right. Note the heavy heat resistant gloves she is wearing. This press gets extremely hot, but I forgot what the final temperature was.

After pressing, the plate is removed from the press and the rubber is removed from the HOT plate. Rubber and plate are very hot and the rubber is quite maleable at this point. The piece had been in the press for several minutes before it was removed.

When the rubber is cool, a worker accurately cuts the rubber using an electric scroll saw.

LeAnne (one of the sisters) is working on the machine that makes labels for the wooden blocks. The disk that LeAnne is using must also be purchased.

Add ImageIn this photo, Dana show and tells us about the machine that LeAnne (not seen in photo) is using to stamp the image onto the wooden blocks. Each plate costs $10,000. I can see why it would be advantageous to sell only UMs. From left is Theresa, Kathy, and Dana.

From there, the blocks go to the same worker who cut the rubber, who carefully adheres the rubber to the block, precisely lining up the stamp to the image.

I hope you enjoyed this little tour through "The Barn," although it no longer exists as a rubber stamper's paradise. I also hope you found learning how rubber stamps are made was as fascinating to you as it was to me.

Today's blog focuses on Mary, a gal who has a ton of rubber stamps, none of which were probably made by River City Rubber. Mary often features handmade cards on her blog that are both lovely and well photographed. She always lists the materials she uses, so if you like Stampin' up stamps, this one is for you. While you're there, check out her craft room from the link on the right side of her blog. It's to die for.

7 thoughtful remarks:

Terri Kahrs said...

Awesome tour! I'm sooo happy that you could 'rescue' some of your pictures. Hugs, Terri xoxo

Diane said...

This was so cool. How can you possibly choose from all that selection?!

Marlynn said...

I love this post and found it so informative and entertaining and makes me want to run out and buy more River City stamps.... I do love them, really love them and how cool it was you had a chance to visit the "Barn." Never guessed they were in Kansas.... don't know why.

Donna: said...

So glad you found and posted your photos. If it was yesterday or last year, I am still "green" with envy that there is no place like that around here. Glad you got to go however... :)

Mary said...

What a wonderful tour you gave us through your photos. I wish you had been in one of them. :)It does cost a lot of money to have stamps mounted onto blocks of wood. I am so glad that unmounted stamps are now very popoular. The price is cheaper for the stamping companies , the consumer and we are saving trees.

Thanks for featuring my blog Elizabeth. It was so very nice of you.


~*~Patty Szymkowicz said...

How cool is that!!!
Great Tour E!!!

The Rustic Victorian said...

I will remember this when I pay the price for a good rubber stamp. It is a process! I am enjoying the heck out of this blog!
Love Cats Too!