Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Rubber Stamp Carving

For me, the most challenging aspect of letterboxing is the carving of creative and beautiful rubber stamps. My wife, puppy and I use unusual factory made stamps still, and, so far, have been negligent in our duties as devoted letterboxers to carve our own.

I have gotten bits of information from various people, but nothing conclusive. Until now.

On line I stumbled upon a rather eclectic personal web page for a gentleman named Kirby Palm. On this page he has devoted a huge subsection to very practical and well considered advice on how to go about carving rubber stamps! Kirby is a fellow letterboxer, and he has addressed the art of stamp carving to a great extent from the perspective of the letterboxer. He covers hardware, materials, images, how to make a stamp blank, transferring the image to the blank, labeling the stamp and sundry related topics. It is a brilliant contribution to the topic, and I am extremely pleased to find his page!

You will find Kirby's advice and insights into rubber stamp carving here: Rubber Stamp Carving Tips. For Kirby's insights into other topics from bicycling to Jaguars to how to buy a garbage disposal, check out his Home Page!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

The Virtual Experience

What I really like about letterboxing is its simplicity. I grant you, it has been made possible by the existence of the Internet, but once you get your clues, it is just you and your compass and your wits – the highest technology needed has been around since the sixteenth century.

So-called "virtual" letterboxes offend my sensibilities, and I want nothing to do with them.

Until today.

In beautiful Folsom, California I find that I am a prisoner in my house. The mercury is vacillating around 108°, I am broke and out of gasoline (yes, I know that sounds like the whining of a college student, but I am an unemployed 45 year old man!), and, to top it all off, I am suffering from a significant gouty attack. The short form is that I am absolutely stir-crazy, and I want to do a letterbox or several more even than usual. So I go over to Letterboxing North America to contemplate the sundry boxes that I cannot do today, and, lo, there the section that I have, up until now, disregarded – the virtual letterboxes.

There are a huge selection here, all seductively named. I pull the first one that catches my fancy up: S Holmes Casebook: The Case of the Lion's Mane. Sadly this one requires that one have a copy of the Casebook of Sherlock Holmes about, which I do not. I put it off for another day.

The second candidate is I Dream of Jeannie – 2. The clues are straightforward and the answers are, with a little cunning, available via the Internet. This is not a hike in the Sierra Nevada, but it is not bad.

I pull up Your Horse, M'Lady which consists of a series of horse-related questions. This is getting fun! I can see where this might be a suitable addiction for those of us who are not able to go aboxing at our every whim.

The rewards here are pictures, akin to what might be rubber stamp. I will have to trim carefully and add to my log book.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

More EBay Criminals

I have complained elsewhere about sellers on EBay who intentionally misrepresent the products that they are selling in order to get the uneducated or uninformed to pay artificially inflated prices for what is, in essence, junk. In my experience, this trend is the most pronounced among disreputable antiques vendors and in individuals who are selling single pieces and who are hoping to hit the lottery by getting some sucker to pay a bundle for a worthless item.

I have seen the most of this when shopping for fountain pens, but, given my passion for compasses, it was bound to show up there also. And, lo and behold, here it is: OLD! Compass LENSATIC Liquid Filled MILITARY. You will notice in the title that they use the terms "old" and "military". Old is a completely relative term. To my daughter, old can be something dating from early last week. This particular compass is currently sold at Wal Mart, but it may still be several years old, so it is hard to argue about that. It is, in fact, a military style compass rather than a military compass, and that is truly misleading in my view. The term "military" should refer to a tool that was actually used by the military or was manufactured under contract for military use, not something that superficially looks like a military tool. This compass is a particularly cheesy replica of a World War II style lensatic compass. Despite its gold color, it is not brass, but rather is pot metal painted gold.

This compass is marked on the lid, "Lensatic Compass Liquid Filled." The genuine article is labeled, "Corps of Engineers U.S. Army" above the sighting wire, and below it would have the manufacturer information. This one is marked "Japan" on the back – the U.S. Military has never used a compass of Japanese manufacture, and particularly not in the course of the Second World War.

This compass is sold by places like Wal Mart to be a cheap, essentially a toy, compass. It is a great tool for kids to learn how to take azimuth readings and to learn to navigate the landscape, compass in hand. It is not something that you would want to be lost with, and, most certainly, it is not an old military compass.

To avoid being duped there are a few things that you should do:

  • Do your homework – Know as much as you can about what you are shopping for before buying antiques off of EBay
  • Deal with reputable vendors – Make use of the ratings system on EBay to leave an honest evaluation of the vendor and to research your vendor's reputation before dealing with them
  • If something seems too good to be true. . . – You know the rest. Do shop for bargains, but if you stumble across a mint condition M-1938 Prismatic Compass selling for $4.99. . . well, you know.