FYI - this is a REALLY long post!!!
I get a lot of questions about using unmounted rubber stamps - as in what exactly does it mean - unmounted?, how do you use them?, do they have foam backing?, what is cling foam? etc etc etc. I'm hoping that the following "tutorial" of sorts w/ the pictures will help answer any/all questions!! I know a visual always helps!!
When a stamp manufacturer says that the stamp is unmounted it means that it is NOT attached to a wood block and comes one of 3 ways: 1 - it's JUST the rubber stamp, nothing else. 2 - it's the rubber stamp w/ sticky foam (meaning that when you get the stamp you would peel off the paper backing and stick it permanently to a wood block of your own). 3 - it's the rubber stamp w/ CLING mount foam - meaning that when you got the stamp you would use it w/ acrylic blocks.
One big reason that stamp manufacturers offer unmounted stamps is cost. It's a lot cheaper to buy stamps unmounted, and a LOT cheaper to ship them.
Now don't get me wrong - I LOVE my woodmounted stamps - and I highly doubt I'll ever give that up. I just prefer the feel of the wood as opposed to a cold acrylic block. Plus I enjoy the convenience of just grabbing the stamp I want and using it ASAP w/out having to worry about getting a block too, mounting it, using it, cleaning it, then unmounting it and putting it and the block away.
BUT I have quite the collection of unmounted stamps - I like that I can get a LOT more images for my $ - and also the fact that for ME - living up here in Canada it can be a lot more expensive having things shipped here - so I like being able to buy unmounted stamps and paying less $$ all around on the rubber and the shipping! Not to mention that some of the companies I love the images of (Mandarin Pixie, Stamping Bella, TAC, MissyB Desings) sell ONLY unmounted rubber stamps.
OK enough of me jabbering!!
The way I prefer to use my unmounted stamps is w/ CLING mount foam and an acrylic block. Some companies (TAC, etc) include the foam w/ their stamps, the rest (MissyB Designs, Mandarin Pixie etc) you need to buy the foam separately in 8 1/2 x 11 sheets, and still others (Stamping Bella, etc) use another method (which I will explain at the end).
The makers of the Cling mount foam I use is Sunday International - so if the stamps you are buying DON'T have foam and you want some you can Google that - I'm sure you'll come up w/ a TON of online resources.
FYI - all the stamps shown in these pictures are from Mandarin Pixie - I got a bunch of them for Christmas from Tim! They come on a sheet and you have to cut them apart w/ Craft and Rubber Scissors (MissyB Designs and TACs also come like this).
When you peel off the covering to the sticky side of the foam, take care not to get it stuck to anything as it is REALLY sticky.
When placing the rubber stamps on the foam - make SURE that the foam will completely surround the image - for this one the edges were hanging over the edge of the foam - but it doesn't matter as I'll be cutting all that off anyway.
I cut apart some of the other stamps to be able to fit them on the remaining foam - it's like a jigsaw puzzle of sorts - trying to make the most of the foam!!
I did the same thing for this piece of foam that was left over from before.
Before cutting all the stamps apart - sprinkle baby powder on all the exposed bits of sticky foam. This part is a MUST unless you want to be COVERED in sticky gunk (yup - first time I did this I didn't use the baby powder - I used up about half a bottle of rubbing alcohol trying to remove the gunk from my scissors, my hands and even the stamps themselves were all sticky - it was a total disaster).
Tap off the excess baby powder and cut apart all the stamps w/ your Craft and Rubber Scissors.
I use straight cuts - and make sure not to under cut the foam .
The stamps now cling to the acrylic blocks (like static cling).
And you can see through the block to the stamp itself (some ppl actually stamp the image in Stazon onto the cling side of the foam before adhering the stamps to the sticky side and cutting them out - then you would have the actual image to guide you. I've never bothered w/ this extra step tho it is a neat idea!)
So now you can use the stamps just like you would a woodmounted stamp. You just press the stamp to the acrylic block that fits best (it's nice to have several of different sizes on hand - you only need ONE of each size), ink it up and stamp!! Then you can clean it in your scrubber (still on the acrylic block - *most* of the time they stay on!!), peel it off and put it away.
Now there are other ways to use unmounted stamps other than cling foam. Some ppl use an "adhesive" like Aileen's Tack It Over and Over on the backs of the stamps - it stays "tacky" so that you can press it to the block, use it then peel it off and do that over and over again. (I've never tried this - I've just learned about it on the net).
Another way to do it is to just use double-sided tape on the acrylic block itself (some ppl recommend poster tape b/c it has a paper backing - so then you can replace the paper after each use thus keeping the tape cleaner - preventing it from losing it's stickiness faster by getting dust and debris stuck to it). You can also get a sheet of Tack 'N Peel (made by Tsukineko - same ppl that make StazOn) - that you put ON the acrylic block that all the rubber stamps will cling to - THAT idea I like!!
Stamping Bella stamps come unmounted and ALREADY cut out so you don't have to trim them. They are deeply etched rubber so you really DON'T need foam backing to get a good impression.
I thought I'd try these stamps out w/ double sided (Scotch Brand - in the yellow box that you can get practically everywhere) tape just to see what they're like. I stuck a couple of pieces on my block (this picture was taken after I'd used them several times - so the tape is a little dirty - but it made it easier to see them in the pic!!).
And the (CLEAN) stamp stuck to the tape w/out a problem.
And you can see through to the stamp no problem.
And you know I had NO problems getting a good, clear stamped image just using the tape and the rubber. It worked GREAT!!
However I ended up mounting my Bella stamps onto the cling foam anyway since that is the system I'm already using. I was worried that if I ended up accidentally pressing a foam backed stamp to the block w/ the tape I'd end up tearing the foam when I pulled the stamp off!!
Ppl also ask how I store my unmounted stamps?? Right now they're in clear CD cases - yes the stamps WITH the foam will fit (these are REGULAR CD cases - not the slimline ones!). I'm looking in to some other options tho as I have a LOT of CD cases now that are full and some of my larger sets (like that Mandarin Pixie Alphabet) take up several cases and it's just a storage nightmare.
SO....I'll get back to you all on this when I come up w/ a system that works for me. If you've only got a few sets/stamps that are unmounted - storing them in the CD cases is great. I still like them stored that way - it's just that now I have an entire drawer FULL of CD cases and it's hard to find the one I want!
ETA - All the acrylic blocks pictured are from Mandarin Pixie and are made by Prairie Stamper (if you google Prairie Stamper Acrylic Blocks you can find their homepage - I don't really know much about them but I had heard they make the BEST acrylic blocks and they ARE really really nice - very thick (about 3/4"), smooth, easy to hold and clear - they look like glass actually).
As for how I clean them - if they get really inky I'll scrub them in my stampin scrub just like my stamps. I'll also wipe them off w/ a baby wipe. If I get any solvent ink on them (ie StazOn) I'll use a cotton ball soaked in rubbing alcohol to remove the ink.
Oh and my mom does my nails - they're gel and she has fun glittery top coats that she puts on them for me. I keep them short so I have no problems typing or stamping. And especially w/ all the pics I post on here that my fingers are usually in - I need to keep them nice *wink* LOL!