Designing your own personal hanko can be quite a challenge. Choosing your design can feel like the hardest part, but turning your idea into a stamp can be daunting as well. This guide can help you turn your design into a reality.

HowTo: Rubber Band / Foam

HowTo: Printing/Carving Block or Eraser

Tips for all types of Hanko:

Remember there is no right or wrong way to design your hanko. The only requirement is that it fits in a 1 inch x 1 inch square. You can try multiple designs and versions until you find one that suits you best. Your design is first and foremost: for you.

Always be careful when handling sharp pointy objects, know where the band-aids are located for quick access in worse case situations. Stamping in blood not very hygienic.

When pulling a blade toward you or your hand, be aware you are doing just that so you slow down and avoid stabbing yourself [very important].

Be prepared to spend time on your hanko. If you are carving the design expect to spend at least a half hour on it. You don’t have to make it all in one sitting either.

Once you’ve made your hanko be sure to practise with it, so you can get a good image every time you use it. Pressing harder is not always better for stamps.

Get a container to carry your hanko in, for example: an Altoids tin. This will help keep it safe from getting damaged and you may be able to fit an ink pad in as well, forming a hanko kit. Lining the bottom of any container with something absorbent, such as a paper towel or craft foam, will catch extra ink that may come off of the stamp.

HowTo: Rubber/Foam Hanko

What you need:

  • rubber bands or craft foam
  • scissors
  • glue
  • cardboard

Recommended items:

  • sharpie marker
  • tape
  • toothpick
  • tweezers
  • inkpad

When making this type of hanko you need to prepare your materials. For rubber bands if you use thick rubber bands you need to cut them into thinner slices. In this case thirds were used. If you have a thinner rubber band you only have to cut them to length which you can do while working with the design.

For foam you need to cut it into slices, because you need an even height for your stamp to work if you cover one side of the foam with sharpie scribble. This ensures you can orient all the pieces the same direction. Give the sharpie a chance to dry or it will end up all over your hands.

You can design your hanko ahead of time or play with the shapes until you have one you like. This is easier to do with rubber bands since breathing on a foam design can shift it around easily.

You have two ways to build the stamp, the first is to apply your design directly to glue on a piece of cardboard, or to a piece of paper with the design on it attached to a piece of cardboard. With this method make sure your design is in reverse or it will not stamp correctly. You can use a toothpick to push the pieces around before the glue dries.

The second method is to loop tape over a piece of paper. This is very useful when working with foam since it is so lightweight. If you have a paper design, or a 1 inch square measurement, loop the tape over that. If you use small pieces of paper the looped tape may cause the paper to arc, this can be fixed by taping the long edges of the tape to the paper.

A trick to making the tape easier to work with is to stick it to a piece of cloth, a t-shirt works great, and then pull it off. This adds a layer of fuzz that makes the tape less sticky while not making it un-sticky. This makes it easier to adjust your work as well as removing the tape once the glue sets.

Once you have the paper prepared you can assemble your design.If using the tape method you can design your hanko just how you want it to appear and the gluing process will reverse it for you.

Tweezers can be helpful to position the pieces.

If using the tape method attaching the cardboard is a simple step of applying glue and flattening your work to it. It is possible to use too much glue of course, but it is also possible to use too little. After the glue sets more glue can be added to specific segments as needed.

You should create a simple press for this type of hanko, the glue may dampen the cardboard and cause it to warp. So a press is optional but recommended. To make a simple press put another piece of cardboard across the top of your sandwich, and place a weight on top, such as a book or stack of CD. If you put the design directly in glue, place a piece of saran wrap over the design before the piece of cardboard.

The glue will take a few hours to set, the inside will dry slowly since it is covered. When removing carefully peel the paper and tape off the materials. If some of the glue is still damp in the center let it dry uncovered, you can also apply glue to any loose pieces at this time.

Optional: Once dried you can remove excess glue on top and between the segments with a toothpick.

Testing your print can be very useful. For example one small segment was not printing. It was lower than the surrounding bands. Replacing that piece completed this hanko.

Below is the foam hanko.

For this type of hanko a 1x1 inch inkpad is ideal, if you apply the ink to the stamp you will end up with less ink on the cardboard. This keeps it from printing the cardboard edge as seen in the pictures, and makes one less part to clean up.

DO NOT wash this hanko, you likely used water soluble glue, and it’s attached to cardboard, it will destroy it. Instead stamp repeatedly on a paper towel until it no longer makes a mark, also rub the cardboard edges to pick up excess ink.

 The finished rubber band hanko.

The finished foam hanko

Here’s examples of other rubber band hanko you can make, using thinner rubber bands you can create straight or curly designs, while thicker can be used for subtraction based designs.

HowTo: Carved Hanko

What you need:

  • carving block or eraser
  • x-acto or linoleum gouge
  • pencil and paper

Recommended items:

  • cutting mat/phonebook/cardboard
  • nickel or popscicle stick
  • inkpad

Print or draw your design. The dimensions should be 1 inch x 1 inch. If you print it in light grey it can be easier to see your pencil marks.

Go over your design multiple times with a pencil.

Transfer image to surface by rubbing backside of image with a tool such as a nickel, or the back of your cutting tool. Flip the edge of the design up to ensure it’s transferred. You can go over the design again with a pen if you want the lines to be stronger.

Carve out the white parts of the design. Start with the smallest parts first and do the border last, this will give it a stronger structure while you work.

If using an X-acto cut at an angle to keep your lines stronger, you can straighten the walls later after the majority of the carving is done. You can remove the white sections as you go or cut the lines first then remove the white sections.

Once the carving is done the stamp should be trimmed down to the size you want. Testing the stamp will help you know what you need to tweak to finish carving the stamp.

Press extra hard to find what spots are too high and carve them out. Repeat until satisfied with the result. Below are hard press versions before and after cleaning this design.

 The finished carved hanko.

Now that you understand how to make a basic hanko you’re all set to leave your mark. However it doesn’t mean you have to be done creating your hanko. Now that you have a stamp you may want to have a handle to make it easier to use, increase durability, or further personalize it. This guide will now cover simple handle making.

Getting a Handle

The choice of handle for your hanko can be a further expression of your style or just something for a better grip. The only real requirements for choosing a base is that it needs a firm flat 1x1 inch surface.

Some ideas for Handles:

  • medicine vial
  • wooden block
  • thread spool
  • poker chip
  • thick dowel
  • carve one

Of course these ideas are only a starting point, the possibilities are vast. Also while ideally the handle is something you can rinse, it doesn’t have to be. If you don’t use more than one ink pad you don’t have to clean your stamp more than blotting the excess ink off.

The first example will be using a medicine vial, super glue, and foam, to create a washable simple hanko.

The design was assembled on packing tape attached to cardboard. Once again the underside of the foam is sharpie marked so they are all of even height. It is optional to remove the tape from the paper backing, but doing so can help you align it to the base as pictured, remember to leave extra as a handle to hold it by.

The glue used for this example was Krazy Glue Craft Gel spread across the surface with a stick. The tape is laid over and left to set. Super glue will “fog” the tape, this is normal. Wait at least 10 minutes before removing the tape, ideally let it sit overnight before stamping with it.

Do not put this in a press, if the glue soaks all the way through the foam it will not hold ink. If you use rubber bands adding a small weight is fine to keep the bands flat.

The second example is a carved hanko to a wooden base with foam tape.

In this case two wooden shapes were combined to make the handle, The disc is 1½” so the hanko which has been cut to an approximate 1” square fits right inside, the other shape being used is called a candle cup, super glue was used to adhere the two together.

Foam tape is a useful adhesive for carved hanko mounting, It holds it as well a glue but offers a relatively cleaner removal if you ever need to remount it. One handy foam tape is Scotch permanent mounting squares, they are pre-cut in 1” squares.

It is also possible to use super glue to adhere the carved hanko, carving some shallow grooves in the back of the stamp will create a stronger bond, however expect the back of the hanko to tear if they get separated.

Once a handle is built, further customization is possible.

If you plan to decorate the handle it can be better decorate first, then apply the hanko to ensure the alignment. After all, if you draw a mark to show which way to point the stamp, you want to be sure it lines up.