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Using Caps

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Using Caps

Using a copper stamp or cap (pronounced tjap)

Caps are a Javanese invention and a Javanese word for a wonderful batik tool. A cap (sometimes spelled tjap which gives you an idea as to how it is pronounced) is a copper stamp which is used for putting on a whole design at once in wax.

This marvellous idea started in the mid 19th century when the batik industry in Java was in grave danger of extinction from European imported printed cottons. The use of a copper stamp which could stamp the whole design onto the cloth in one go was a great time saver while still preserving the traditional look and feel of true batik.

The copper stamp is still widely used and is a work of art in itself. In Java many different caps may be used to complete a piece of batik and often mirror image pairs are used to wax the front and back.

We sell both second-hand and brand new caps. The used ones are usually very decorative but not so useful to use as they often have flaws. The new ones can be made to order, it will take quite a while but it is possible.

Using the cap


To use a cap you will need a shallow flat pan which is big enough to accommodate the cap. I use an electric frying pan which has a built in thermostat. You need enough wax (our batik wax mix is fine) to cover about half an inch, and a piece of flat kitchen scourer (those  square green ones) covered with a couple of layers of scrap fabric. This helps to soak up the wax and acts as a stamp pad. If you are using a non electric pan you now need to heat the wax up over a cooker or hotplate. The cap you are using also needs to sit in the hot wax for a few minutes until you can feel the heat in the handle. You may need to wrap this with a piece of cloth. When it is hot enough all over, it is ready to print.

Your fabric or paper should be on top of a bit of padding such as a few newspapers. This ensures you have a bit of 'give' when you use the stamp. Take the cap out of the wax and shake off any excess. Experiment on scrap paper or fabric first! When you feel confident, place it carefully and firmly onto where you want your design. Give it a press and there's your design! You will get a couple of impressions out of each dip, but leave it in the wax to keep warm while working. You will need to experiment to get the cap printing perfectly but there should not be any problems with the new stamps.

When you have finished, take the cap out of the wax to cool down. Don't leave it in cooling wax.

If you are using a second-hand cap, you should be aware that the more detailed and intricate the design, the harder it is to get a good print. These ones are best left to the experts in Java, or as a very attractive item on your mantelpiece.

Good luck and have fun!

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