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Stamp Carving 101

Transfer: Xylene Blender Pen Method

by Mark B. Profile Contact Logbook Note
Xylene Blender Pen

This method of transfer may be used by other carvers, but I have not seen it anywhere. I was tipped off to the potential uses of the chemical Xylene by a friendly salesperson at a Pearl Art Store in Atlanta. I have used it exclusively ever since to transfer images for carving.

This method of transfer is very simple to use, it keeps details better than any other transfer method (heat transfer, acetone transfer, or tracing paper), it is portable, it allows you to use artwork that you've created on your computer (which can be much more technical), and it is very affordable. Once you use this method of transfer you will see for yourself just how easy and precise transfers can be.

Xylene takes an image and chemically transfers it onto a medium. It might work on other mediums, but I've only tried it on rubber carving mediums. I use Speedy Stamp to carve, and I used it on Speedy Cut where it also worked well.

Some have asked how Xylene compared to the acetone transfer method and I have to say that it blows the acetone method away! There is no comparison. I used the acetone method to transfer images until I discovered Xylene and never turned back. If you use acetone/fingernail polish remover as your transfer method, then you must try Xylene because it will make your life so much easier and your transfers will improve.

The first form I found Xylene in was a Chartpak Colorless Blender pen P-0 (201). This is a marker with a clear tip, filled with Xylene. It can be used for a lot of other things in the fine arts field, but in the letterboxing sense it will be used for a transfer. When starting out using Xylene, I would recommend getting this pen because it is very easy to work with. Later, if you want a better price break or you want to cut down on the amount of plastic trash generated from old blender pens, you can buy Xylene in a gallon container and then use a funnel to fill up a refillable blender pen.

Thanks go out to Dagonell the Pirate who tipped me off to an online source for Chartpak Blender pens and to Marita Ronald, the Marketing Manager for Hyatts, who was kind enough to provide me with the stock number for the pen. You will find these pens online at http://hyatts.com (1-800-234-9288) and the stock number is N20810. The pens retail for $3.19 each.

Warning: Xylene is a hazardous material, but is not too dangerous in small amounts. It does stink to high heaven, so use in a well-ventilated area. Keep it away from children, pets, and allergy-prone folks.

Instructions for the Transfer

Now let's get down to business and start transferring an image!

  1. Find an image on the web, or scan in an image, and then print it out on a laserjet printer. It can also be used with newsprint images cut directly from the paper.
  2. Cut a square around the image, leaving room to tape to the carving medium.
  3. Tape the image facedown to the carving medium. Keep it snug against the medium for the most precise transfer.
  4. Now take your blender pen and swipe it across the taped down image using long, steady horizontal strokes until the paper is saturated with the Xylene. This will only take one complete pass over the paper.
  5. Set this aside and let it dry for about 3-5 minutes.
  6. Repeat the blender pen application like you did in step 4, but use long, steady vertical strokes. Set aside for 3-5 minutes again.
  7. Repeat the blender pen application once more, this time using diagonal strokes. Let dry.
  8. Carefully peel the paper's edge from the carving medium. You should now see a purple mirrored image of your image on the medium. If the transferred image is visible but it doesn't look dark enough, securely re-tape the image and repeat the swipe and dry process 2 more times using alternating directional strokes. Most likely your image will have correctly transferred, so you may remove the paper and tape and begin to carve at this point. Be sure to throw away the soaked paper so that kids or pets don't get a hold of it.

Troubleshooting Tips

If you are having problems getting your image to transfer properly, there are only a small number of things that could be the culprit:

  1. You did not print out your image on a laserjet printer. Try reprinting it on a laserjet printer.
  2. The image may have printed out too light. Either darken the image in a photo/image editing program or check the printer cartridge.
  3. This may seem obvious but the image must be facedown on the medium to transfer.
  4. You are not using the correct blender pen. See the info above on the blender pen.
  5. If you are still having problems, shoot me an e-mail and I'll see what's happening. [Contact Mark]

And there you have it. Everything you probably ever wanted to know about blender pens, and probably a few things you didn't want to know!

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