Thursday, May 17, 2012

What I Did Wednesday :: Letterboxing

Letterboxing Tools and Stamps I've Carved

I'm thinking each Wednesday, I'll share a little bit about what I did throughout the day or at least one main accomplishment! This afternoon, the boys and I decided to go letterboxing. This was my youngest son's first letterboxing outing.

We Found a Clue!

If you don't know what letterboxing is, I've definitely got your curiosity peaked. Letterboxing began in Dartmoor, England in 1854. The name "letterboxing" referred to notes or postcards left by hikers on the northern moor in a trail box to be mailed. Most of these first boxes were hidden so well that only the most determined hikers would find them. Today, however, the tradition has changed and is no longer unique to Dartmoor. Since a 1998 article in Smithsonian magazine, letterboxing has taken off in the United States; and unlike the traditional boxes has taken on its own identity through the use of carved stamps.

If you've never been letterboxing, it is very easy to get started. All you need is your own personal stamp, an ink pad or ink markers, and a log book.

For your personal or signature stamp, you may use either a store bought stamp or a hand carved stamp. The pre-made stamp and the carving materials may be purchased at your local craft or hobby store. When we first started letterboxing (in 2006), I used a store bought stamp. Eventually, I decided to carve my own; tailoring it to me. If you carve your own stamp, you will need the following: block print carving tools, Speedball carving medium, a pencil, and tracing paper. Click here for how to carve a stamp; there is a weath of information on this site.

For ink pads or markers, visit the stamp section of your craft store. There are many varieties of both; however, make sure you get a high quality of archival ink if you would like to keep your stampings for many years to come. By using ink markers, your stampings become an artistic creation and not just a monochromatic print.

You may make your log books or prepurchase them. I have done both. When I plant letterboxes or mail in postal rings, I like to tailor my logbooks to the theme of the box. My personal log book a prepurchased journal. My eldest son has a Moleskin log book. A word of advice: your logbook pages need to be thick enough to keep ink from bleeding through to the other side. While it seems obvious, it is something I have overlooked on more than one occasion.

Once you're got your materials together, you're ready to begin.

Visit Atlas Quest or Letterboxing North America to discover  the closest letterboxes to your location. Print the clues and head out to find your first box!

Youngest son's first letterbox find!

Use caution when letterboxing; watch for snakes and poison ivy, as well as other people (some individuals have been known to take planted boxes). When you find the box, stamp the found stamp in your log book and then use your personal stamp to stamp the box's logbook. The box owner will be able to see whom has visited their box. Make sure to log your find online and update the box owner about the status of the box.

Once you've been bitten by the letterboxing bug you might get the inclination to craft your own box. Place a stamp and logbook in a waterproof container. Find a hidden and safe location to hide your box. A lot of people take the time to camouflage their boxes using natural materials or camo Duct tape. Write out your box's clues and list your box on Atlas Quest or LBNA. Individuals will check-in through those websites after they've visited your box and will update you if your box is missing or damaged.

Letterboxing is a great family adventure. Children receive exercise, learn local geography, and practice follow directions and orienteering. Harder letterbox clues may have you decoding Morse code, counting off paces, and even solving riddles.

Make sure to add letterboxing to your family's summer bucket list!