Monday, May 30, 2016

Carving Material Review: Oz Kut by Stampeaz

Transfer using hot iron on OZ Kut
 I considered not actually doing a review of this material since this blog is essentially an endless series of posts of carving with it.  But, I decided to include it out of fairness and out of my compulsive need to have things be symmetrical.

If somehow you don't know, OZ Kut is the current reincarnation of the long passed PZ Kut, on offer from a fellow letterboxer at the US-based Stampeaz. Not affiliated with her or Stampeaz in any way, but I'm not aware of any other places dedicated to stamp-making like her shop is and she is lovely to order from, with excellent service (given all my quirky asks to try to get the carving material to Canada as cheaply as possible).

The cost for the material is relatively inexpensive - before shipping, of course.  For anyone reading from the US of A - you are very lucky and privileged to have such an inexpensive postal system.  And no risk of customs/duties at the border. Sigh. You are truly living the dream.

Anyway, there is massive benefit in having a fellow letterboxer be involved in the carving material creation process, this stuff is all-around great...
Step 1 in the carving process: remove cat from lap.

Appearance:

Classic and opaque-white.  Both of the surfaces are smooth and even... Diana suggests that the material has a "side" and marks the piece as "OZ" on the backside.  I have inadvertently carved both sides and don't see a difference myself...

Size and Weight:

The material comes in a number of different sizes - I try to order it at the largest size and multiple slabs in order to get the best price-per-sq-inch because I carve so much.

Transfer:

Fantastic and clean - you can see the top photo in this post what it looks like with a hot iron.  However, in my past, I have also used this very successfully with pencil, acetone and xylene - and have observed it used properly with wintergreen (that smell haunts me, Fiddleheads!).  I have never seen or used it this way, but I understand that people are able to successfully do inkjet/parchment transfers as well.

Crumble Factor:

None.  I guess on both ends of the spectrum there is the problem of crumble and the problem of the elastic hold.  It seems to me (not being invovled with any of the chemistry of making any of this stuff) that on this spectrum, as you move farther and farther away from the crumbly end, you move toward the elastic hold end.  The minor criticism I would make of this stuff is that it has a firm elastic hold - you have to be precise in your carving because this stuff doesn't break when you're taking pieces off of it.

However, ignoring the minor irritation of trying to pull those pieces out, the benefit is that if you gift these stamps or have a really detailed stamp that you're worried about pieces breaking/tearing, this stuff holds up like a champ. 

Carving:


Finished carving of OZ Kut.  Note that "of Piza" is missing...
Although I've seen others disagree, I think this stuff is great for both gouge and knife carving.  In the formulations leading up to this one (so, Firm Cut, MZ Kut and NZ Kut), the materials seemed to work great with a gouge but were literally hard to knife cut.

With a sharp blade, this material is great to carve with a knife.  However, it still is quite hard.  You will go through blades and gouges quite quickly with it.

I never really noticed the effect of that until I started carving so frequently (averaging about three stamps a day at the moment).  I started really feeling it in the bones in my carving hand at the pointer finger joint and in the middle of my hand between the bones for the middle and ring finger.  Ow.  So both consciously and subconsciously I started leaning to other carving mediums...  To be honest, it was the reason I started aggressively looking at different carving materials in the first place (and hence this series of review posts).

In this carving, you'll notice that the words "of Piza" are missing.  I was finished the basics of the carve and was clearing out the spaces that should be negative. Even with the gouge, the hardness means that I'm using more force than I should and a minor slip of the gouge ruined the letters so I had to essentially take all of those out. :/


Inking:

Inking can be tricky if you have large positive areas because the material allows some inks to bead up a bit so you don't get even impressions.  The easy fix to this is to take some acetone and wipe down the carved surface when you finish carving (others like to take sandpaper to do the same thing, but I can't bring myself to mechanically do the same thing as the acetone, despite my faith in the material).


Conclusions:

This is still one of my favourite materials.  While I do hope for a slightly softer formulation one day, this stuff is a beast that you have to very aggressively try to damage.  This stuff will last forever and is my go-to material when I have a very difficult carve or have something that needs to stand up to a lot of stamping.

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