The results are in for the Which tool or technique has made the most significant difference in your carving skills? poll. (Wow! That's a long title!) Many thanks to all who voted - here are the unofficial results:
44% of readers attributed improvement in carving skills to this little contraption: the magnifying lamp. This is actually the model I use; I found it at JoAnn's in the sewing lamps section of the store. I believe retail is about $40, but I used a 40% off coupon, so it was an inexpensive addition to my carving supplies. I won't carve without my lamp...I am getting older, y'know!
20% of you said that just the right carving tool(s) makes all the difference in the world. Here are my favorites: the set of three Staedtler carving tools. Find them at Stampeaz. Our friend Webfoot even sells the #1 gouge separately so you can give it a try before investing in the complete set.
Another 20% of carvers say that it's just plain ole practice that has improved their carving prowess - I'd certainly have to agree. Practice, practice, practice! Challenge yourself to harder images, just outside your comfort zone - trust me, it will improve your confidence and skill in no time. Then plant 'em, send them away, or keep 'em for cards; you never know when you will want to use one again beyond it's original purpose.
I have a rather sizeable collection of carved stamps to pull from; below is a pic of my 'stamp drawers'. My husband retrofitted an old put-together nightstand years ago for me with skinny drawers specially measured for stamps. Unfortunately, I had a little accident with some leather dye, so they are decorated quite nicely...wouldn't you agree? lol!
8% of the carvers that voted in our little poll said that a better transfer method helped them improve, and 4% claim that just the right the carving material helped them. The last 4% were inspired to greatness by fellow carvers - wow!
If you have a great poll idea, let me know! I'd be happy to host the poll and post the results.