Summer Scouts, Week Three:
LetterBoxing and rubber stamping go hand in hand, and I had never done a DIY of either until now. Letterboxing was a concept that I had heard small whisperings of for a while but for some reason had never explored further. I think perhaps I was intimidated by geocaching, and so assumed letterboxing was similar and therefore also difficult. However it seems it’s quite a bit easier as long as you start with an easy hunt, and I found all the info I needed to get started at Letterboxing.org. Let’s just say, it’s like a treasure hunt. We were told there was a great one with a fun story at the Metro (Lake St. Clair) Nature Center. Unfortunately this treasure that we had hoped to find was, according to the aforementioned site’s registry, lost. As in truly missing – Not “oooh it’s lost and we have to find it!” - and totally disappointing. At first. Then we realized that it was actually a sign of good fortune, because it gave more purpose to our quest. We wouldn’t just GO letterboxing. We would be the new GUARDIANS of one! Because of this, here you have not just one but 3 quick tutorials on letterboxing:
The premise of letterboxing is to follow clues in a story, using your imagination and landmarking skills to lead you to the letterbox. Inside the box you’ll find a notebook or journal and a pen, and most importantly a custom-made stamp unique to that box with an ink pad. You’ll want to bring your Scout Binder with you everytime you hunt for a letterbox, so that you can use this stamp to mark in your log that you’ve found the box. There is a second part to this, too. You’ll want to bring with you on your hunt your own custom stamp to stamp the journal of the letterbox. Letterboxers are all about carving their own stamps.
Here is my incredibly easy rubber stamp DIY:
First gather the following:
- A cuticle trimmer
- A pink rubber eraser
- An ink pad
- Small toy block
- Embossing Powder
- Heat gun
- Craft glue
Use a pen to draw a simple design on the eraser. They aren’t big so don’t try to do anything too elaborate, and remember that if you do words they need to be carved backward. There are two ways to carve: To get a “positive” image you can remove eraser around what you’ve drawn and your image itself will stamp (see bird to the left). Or for a “negative” you can remove the lines you’ve drawn themselves, and your image will be white surrounded in ink (see “SOAR”). Negative are easier, but since erasers are so darn inexpensive you may want to just give each kid a few and have them practice on the front and back of them until they get the concept. Also, I recommend the cuticle trimmer over an exacto knife because they are safer in that they carve so easily. Note that you are gliding the trimmer across the surface to create grooves; you’re not digging or stabbing at the eraser like with a knife. As long as they go slow and do not push hard, the kids won’t slip and cut themselves. AV, who is going on six, was able to do this craft well but younger kids will likely need this explained several times. The lines the trimmer creates are clean and the process is so quick and easy, be ready to make a pile of fun stamps in minutes! Even the most abstract scribbles look great in ink. Have the kids pick their favorite to be their LetterBoxing Stamp. If you choose, you can get a bit fancy after this step and mount them on their own blocks – I raided AV’s wooden blocks for this and it really makes stamping easier! The embossing really adds a cool touch, too, see:
Now as I said, the one we had hoped to search for had been missing for some time. Plus from what I’ve read, the owners (that is, the people who plant the box to begin with) maintain the box by checking on it and keeping an ink pad available. I emailed the person through LBN and received no response, but I really disliked the idea that such a great story and location would be retired. So I decided to have our scouts be the new guardians of this letterbox location. We brought one with us on our trek and followed the clues already mapped out to find where we were to plant it.
I wrote a passage in the journal, explaining a bit about who we are and how we were replacing the missing letterbox and adopting the site. When we planted it, I had the kids stamp the journal, being the first to make the quest. We left trinkets, a pen, an ink pad, and a special stamp inside the box for all who dare to search for it. Will it be you?