Wintergreen Essential Oil transfer by Wise Wanderer

A common question of many new letterboxers is, “How do you get a good transfer of your image to the carving medium?”  There are a few ways to accomplish this goal.  My friend, Wise Wanderer taught us her favorite method at our letterbox trading card retreat.

Porras Posse took a wonderful video of Wise Wanderer’s demo.  You can watch the video HERE

From Wise Wanderer’s  handout:

“This method requires an image printed with toner.  Older copiers/printers such as those found at libraries often work.  My home copier/printer is a Canon D420, purchased about three years ago on sale at Office Max for less than $100, and I am still on the original toner cartridge after several hundred prints.

You also need genuine “BOTANICAL” wintergreen essential oil.  It is available at some health food stores and drugstore pharmacies (my local Rite Aid doesn’t stock it, but has ordered it for next day delivery).  It is also available online, and a reliable website I have found is  You want only the pure botanical essential oil, and not the synthetic chemical “methyl salicylate” marketed as wintergreen essential oil, but not distilled from the plant (the synthetic will not work for this purpose).

1. Prepare the material: For OZ, sand the surface lightly with a nail-smoothing block, or very fine sandpaper, to remove the shine.  Wash sanded block with warm water and dish soap to remove dust and surface oil/lubricants.  For pink stuff, no sanding is necessary – just wash in warm water and dish soap.  Dry material.

2. Put several drops of oil on a cotton ball (don’t saturate the cotton) and wipe lightly across the surface of the material.  Place the image face-down, hold in place, and wipe with the same cotton ball over the back until the paper turns translucent.  Place a piece of clean, dry paper over the image paper, and press down firmly over the entire area with the side or heel of your hand.  DO NOT RUB across the paper.  Carefully lift off the plain paper only and wait 10-20 seconds.  Bend the material slightly at the corner to lift the edge of the transfer, and peel the rest of the way off.  **

3. Let the transfer air dry for a few hours or even overnight.  I find it very helpful at this point, to ink over the entire image with Stazon yellow, and then “stamp off” the excess ink.  This will seal the lines of your image so there is no possibility of smearing.  Also the yellow contrast allows you to see where you have carved and where you have not.  And finally, you can test-stamp to see your progress (using a water-soluble ink) and rinse it off without affecting the remaining image lines.

**If you smear it at this point, or see something that has gone wrong, immediately put a few additional drops of oil on the cotton ball and wipe across the material to remove as much of the transfer as possible.  Then wash it again in warm water and dish soap, and it should be clean enough to reuse for another transfer.”


The Truth About Wintergreen Essential Oil
Wintergreen (Gaultheria procumbens), is not a mint in spite of its strong flavor that is often popular in chewing gum toothpaste, and mouthwash. It is actually a member of the Ericaceae, or heather family which has nearly 12,000 species among its members. Wintergreen has origins in both China and North America and is steam distilled from leaves and bark. It is an anticoagulant, antispasmodic, highly anti-inflammatory, lowers blood pressure and has analgesic/anesthetic properties beneficial for all types of pain. Its leaves were chewed by Native Americans to increase respiratory stamina. It was also used as a substitute for Black Tea during the Revolutionary war.
Wintergreen contains over 90% Methyl Salicylate, which is a powerful pain reliever and which led to its artificial manufacture as an ingredient in creams and liniments more than 150 years ago. Gradually, synthetic Methyl Salicylate began to replace pure and natural Wintergreen Oil because it is less expensive to produce. It is still frequently identified as “oil of wintergreen” on labels, even though it is synthetic. However, the pure chemical Methyl Salicylate is very different from pure and natural therapeutic grade Wintergreen essential oil. Even though Methyl Salicylate is the dominant component of Wintergreen essential oil, accounting for over 90% of its makeup – the properly distilled essential oil still contains hundreds of other trace biochemical compounds which affect its balance and therapeutic properties. Moreover, natural Methyl Salicylate as found in pure Wintergreen essential oil is easily absorbed by the body, is not toxic, and does not accumulate in the system. Synthetic Methyl Salicylate does accumulate in the body, and can reach toxic levels.


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