So this will be the review I know you've been waiting for - the awesome glass-looking Blüm Clear Printmaking Blocks. I used it for recent block for a wedding invitation commission. I will also mention the more popular Moo Carve towards the end of the post.
* I'm not writing this review for any company; nor did I receive the products from any supplier. If you would like me to review a product, just get in touch! Head to the contact form on the right or email me.
The Blüm printmaking blocks looks just like glass. They are very relatively thin - 1/8" (32mm). It feels like rubber, but is very smooth and completely clear. They come in packs of two and are quite affordable.
This is how it looks after the transfer (I use 2B mechanical pencil on acid paper to trace my digital design). The Blüm block takes the transfer better than most other materials. The smooth texture is a down size though, since it leads to more smudges. When I carve, I put a piece of tracing paper under my carving hand and on the carving block so I don't smudge the design.
* I understand you are not supposed to use the Blüm clear block this way. It's clear for the reason that you can put an image right under it and carve - without tracing. It might work for less intricate designs or when some imprecision is acceptable, but with more detailed designs like this one, the thickness of the material would definitely get in the way.
You can see the tip of the scalpel when you carve! It feels very weird and takes a little getting used to. It is a bit difficult to see where you carve, and it's a good idea to carve the block on a light-colored surface.
The lines in the bottom center of the picture above are not photoshopped - they are little air bubbles that shape between your two carved lines. I found them quite cute :3
The Blüm block is harder to carve than regular carving materials like Speedy Carve, and because it's rather rubbery and very stretchy, you kind have to give each piece a little help when you carve them out. This also makes it quite time-consuming to work with.
The trick part is carving away the extra parts with a gouge. Since gouges are usually thicker than scalpels, it's much hard to carve with them than with scalpels. But it's so pretty, and you can really feel how sturdy and flexible the completed block will be.
Can you believe I cut myself with the gouge twice carving this block? That's how hard the Blüm printmaking block is. I carve at least on three days every week, and usually this happens less than once a month.
Back to the block. Because of its thickness (or thinness, to be more exact), you can easily trim off the edges with scissors.
To test-print my new block, I used Brilliance Graphite Black ink pad and printed on 250 gram cardstock.
You can clean the Blüm block very easily if you use a water-based ink; just wash it with your hands under running water. There will be very little ink residue. Big Plus.
It was a bit hard to carve, but when I ship the block to its new owner I knew they'll have something that'll last for years to come. However, if you make stamps or blocks for other people who are not familiar with printmaking, make sure you explain the printing and registration process to them before they get frustrated trying to use it like a regular rubber stamp.
So, here's my verdict on the Blüm Clear Printmaking Blocks: definitely don't buy them if you are a beginner, but they do make very durable blocks that prints beautifully crisp designs, and they are super easy to clean. Try them out - they won't cost a fortune - and see how it goes!
By the way, you might remember a big piece of Moo Carve I had on my desk in my previous blog post. I did try it out, but I knew I wasn't going to write a full review like this, so here's a few words.
Moo Carve is very, very easy to carve. Hot knife through butter. The slightly grainy texture feels great.
There is just one down side: it breaks.
Moo Carve is extremely soft and you can easily break a smaller part with you finger. That's right, with your finger. I wanted to try it for a custom stamp I'm making, and halfway through it just broke on me. Like so:
I'm not sure if the company just went to far in the development of an easy-to-carve product, or if this is a family-friendly carving product that's supposed be used and thrown away. At about the same price you can get Speedy Carve - which isn't as soft but is nevertheless quite pleasant to carve. And your stamps can last years, instead of minutes.
I'm constantly looking for new carving material! After this week's stamps, I will take a break and make 2 small prints. What do you want me to write about next? :)