Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Wobbly blocks and rollers too

I've at last started to get a little time for my printmaking! The wobbly cottage block has been adjusted and proofs were taken both on the press and by hand. The best results as you can see, were patchy. Looking at my rubber brayer (roller) it seems I have an uneven area that's not picking up ink and although I've tried to work round this by only inking with the good area, it's proving difficult.

So...I need to bite the financial bullet and buy a durathene refill for my old brass brayer holder. My old roller melted into a gooey mess, as they did in those days...these new ones are free of that problem, but expensive, which was why I tried to economise by getting the cheaper rubber rather than the durathene, in the first place. It's going to be a cool £42 for a refill, but if it means I can actually print the cost is insignificant.

In the meantime, I'm busy hacking down the background on the doggie block. It's slow work with the round scorper but I'm getting there and I haven't gouged myself, as I did with the chisel tool!

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Wobbly blocks

After the trials of the past few weeks during which we lost yet another member of the family (mum-in-law this time) and all the disruption that followed...I'm once again able to pick up my burins and carve.

I bought a mixed bag of small endwood offcuts from Lawrences, to enable me to develop my style and skills without breaking the bank. (Boxwood is very expensive.) These pieces are uneven in size and thickness, but with a press capable of height adjustment of the roller, along with some packing I should be ok.

Above is a block ready to proof; one of my wobbly blocks. I hope to print tomorrow.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Rugby club Christmas card

Thought I'd show you the card I designed for our local rugby club. All done digitally in Corel Painter.

Friday, September 21, 2007


I decided to deepen the cut-away background on the doggie block...unfortunately the chisel slipped and gouged into my forefinger. Argh! That put paid to doing any more for a few days till it healed sufficiently (and stopped bleeding everywhere!) to hold the block again, but I'm very wary of it now. But better the finger than the chisel had hit a bit of the image! Phew! I wish I had an electric router or something to make short work of it. Anyway, I'll cut a bit away every day and it'll soon be done. In the meantime I need more paper. I'm experimenting with some zerkall scraps and newsprint to get to know how to pack for an optimum print.

The 'walkies' block with the sky is also on hold as I changed my mind in an arty-farty moment and now can't decide how to engrave the bottom bit. I'm in the process of trying different approaches on the computer.

In the meantime I'm experimenting on a few endgrain offcuts which are small and quick to do. I love the fact that these blocks are a bit irregular and they're cheap enough to make mistakes on and not worry about the cost too much. First one is a 60mm x 35mm ( about 2 1/2 "x 1 1/2") clifftop cottage.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Trevethy quoit

This was an engraving of Trevethy Quoit in Cornwall, cut some 27 years ago and printed on an Ullmers table top Albion (see below), a pretty little press.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Advice welcome!

I've been having a great time getting to know my press, I've only been able to get two evenings at it so far, but now I'm at the stage that I know what questions I need to ask to improve my impressions.

Here are 3 impressions. (This is from a 3 1/4" x 5" engraving.)
A is on newsprint and crisp with good blacks.

B is on Zerkall, I had a problem getting the black rich without the fine detail filling in.
C is on Zerkall too, but shows the fine detail, although the black is a bit spotty.

I made 40 impressions, adjusting the packing to get a consistent result, but it was still hit-and-miss.

I wonder if my inking isn't consistent, rather than the packing and impression? I do try to roll ink onto the block evenly and lightly, but it varies widely. Also I seem to need to keep topping up the ink on the slab every 10 impressions or so. I didn't roll out a massive amount , just an area a bit bigger than the block. Tried to keep in mind the advice of making it hiss slightly and it should look like a mole's tummy (I do like that expression!). So I think I'm asking for any ideas, advice, thoughts that could help me.

Should I concentrate on getting consistent results with newsprint before I try more expensive paper?

Wednesday, August 29, 2007


Yesterday I sent off for some printmaking supplies from TN Lawrences...this morning they arrived! What service!

So no excuses now...I have fresh ink, Zerkall paper to try out, two double-sided maple end grain blocks and a box of mixed offcut practice pieces. I'm dying to get cracking. Last night I finished the sky in my latest block and now just need to finish the figure, dog and ground, with a bit more light texture to the tree side. I also have my first block to print on the press; Charlie our Jack Russell.

Added to that, I found one or two old blocks in my archive that I might tinker with and reprint. You can see one below the press, on the shelf. It's a rendition of Trevethy Quoit in Cornwall, an ancient burial chamber. I also have a block showing a Spitfire plane, which I did as a bookplate for a friend who was well into WW2 aircraft. Might reprint that too as the only print I have is damaged.

(Please note, none of the blocks mentioned have ever been part of an edition, if they had , reprinting would be a no-no.)

But first, I have to finish my 'day job' work. And lunchtime's over...back to work!

Friday, August 24, 2007

An addition to the family!

Here's my new baby, courtesy of Jeremy at AMR in Kendal. It's a Farley proof press, with paper grippers and height adjustment on the roller. Perfick!

Just need to sort out a bench or stand for it; J thinks he might know of one.

So it's in the shed until I can clear the studio but I can't wait to start learning it's little ways. Hooray!

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Woodblock latest and holiday sketches...

Here's the block as it stands at the moment...I've almost cleared those bloomin' branches! Making progress......and I have a printing press arriving soon, too! Jeremy at AMR has found me a Farley cylinder proof press and is going to clean it up and deliver it shortly. Here it is:

I'm looking forward to using it.

And the first couple of watercolour sketches I did on me hols...........

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

More chopping

Yes, I'm still hacking away at the block, I feel it's running away from me a bit and doing it's own thing. I had that twang whilst working on it last night...you know the one...the 'Augh! I've lost it!' twang. Still, I shall carry on regardless; experience is that often work turns out ok even if you think at any point you've 'lost' it...and if it doesn't, it's giving me plenty of experience in texture work and the marks my burins can make.

I'm not over keen on one of my spitstickers; the tang seems a little twisted in the wooden handle so that when I have to cut with it over the block I can't get as low to the wood (because the handle starts to touch the block) and the cut ends up a little too deep and wide as a result. I may have to see about getting that looked at.

I had to sharpen a couple of burins too last night. Sadly the sharpening jig I bought is too big for my little sharpening stone, so I did it by hand. Not very experienced in these matters, but it seemed okay-ish.

It seems I may take delivery of a press in a few weeks, after my holiday. Jeremy, my contact, has one but is working away at present; then I'm away for a fortnight, but after that he'll be in touch. Yippee!

Sunday, July 01, 2007

More sky and tree branches!

Here's the latest state of the block. Having fun creating pecks and swirls for texture. More later!

Thursday, June 28, 2007

I wish it was summer....

...in my engraving, that is. I'm still doing the bits between the bare tree branches. To balance things out I've started to work on the figure too. Being still a newcomer to this I'm not sure how the textures on the block will turn out on the print and I envisage having to do some state proofing as I go along. It's quite exciting feeling my way like this.

Talking of proofing, I'm still burnishing with a spoon, still patchy results and there are questions as to whether it's the elderly ink or the paper. I have more trials to do. I've started looking for a press, money's tight but I've decided to ebay a few unwanted items to help pay for it.

I'm doing a little engraving most evenings now, it's slowly getting there. I look forward to being able to spend a whole day engraving, I don't know when but it'll happen. Maybe not till our holiday in Cornwall in August, given my work schedules. I can wait that long.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Walkies....The first cut

Well, I started cutting this block almost a week ago. It's taking time, I didn't realise there were so many branches to cut around! Still, it's good practice trying out different textures with the tools. I'll post more soon.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007


As I have to keep putting off my print run of Charlie because of lack of time (see below) I've decided to start on my next block. After all, it's much quicker to set up engraving tools than the printing stuff and I can engrave evenings. So....here's the sketch I scribbled out last night during 'most haunted', a weird paranormal TV programme that I really don't know quite what to make of. Nothing to do with this design, this is more on the environmental theme.

Also a block I've already scribbled a design on as yet uncut, as I'm unsure as to my approach. Logging off in haste now as a thunderstorm is hoving into view.....

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Normal service will be resumed....

Sorry....Charlie's block printing has had to be put on hold as we had one elderly relative whisked off to hospital, closely followed by the other. Lots of whizzing between them and where we live, ensued and most evenings and weekends are taken up with visiting and the travelling between. Things are a little quieter now; we await test results for one and the other is being waited on hand and foot in a Care Home, temporarily. I HOPE to do some printing tomorrow. Watch this space!
Yesterday I did manage to draw my next design onto a block....not sure how to make the approach; I'd like it to be fairly free in quality, but maybe I'll just start cutting and see what happens.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Final proof and on that paper!

I had an unexpected free day yesterday, so I cleared the decks in the kitchen, putting a big sheet of acetate on the worksurface along with lots of newspaper. Then I got out my inking slab (a big bit of bevelled glass taken from an old cabinet) ink and roller. Then I tore up some sheets of that nice Chinese paper. The idea was to do some final proofing coupled with minor adjustments to the block and maybe get one good impression at the end of the day.

It took me a good few minutes to roll the ink out so it 'looked like a mole's tummy' (thanks to Andy English for that description, I love it!) and my first impression wasn't inked enough. The next was better and I made some tweaks to the block, especially the background where tiny bits needed scorping back further. That was the real bugbear of the day. No matter how much I hacked the background away little bits printed on the next print! Argh! Next time remind me not to have a large expanse of pure white! It's bloomin' hard work clearing it. I think I may have a way round it though. If I cut a mask with a hole and lay it over the inked block I can lay the paper over it and burnish away in the knowledge that the paper will be protected from the background. Anybody else have any other suggestions?

I have to report that the Chinese paper worked a dream. I used the smooth side and it printed crisply. It has a lovely thin, crisp feel, with a gentle unobtrusive texture.

Printing with a teaspoon is very hard work. I was having a job to get a consistent print every time, there was always a tiny patch somewhere that was lighter; and I was very careful to burnish all over. I wondered if it was my 25-year-old ink, but it seemed ok. It must be inexperience, but if I make an edition of this block it'll have to be small and I expect a fair bit of wasteage. All good experience though.

Here's Charlie complete with background flecks....

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Chinese paper?

Doggie engraving is ready for his final proof and any odd tidying up of scorped-away bits, but I won't have the chance till the weekend. If I'd done this project during work hours it would have been completed ages ago.....argh! Anyway, I have so far printed on newsprint, which is nice but not a long-term prospect because of it's tendency to yellow and go brittle in time. I was wondering which sort of paper would be suitable for printing with a spoon to my Mum, also an artist (in odd moments), when she suddenly said...'Aha!' and reached in her plan chest. She drew out a pack about 18 1/4" x 12 1/4", soft thin paper covered by a sheet of paper with Chinese writing, as shown below. She bought it in Birmingham years ago to do watercolour, but didn't get on with it's absorbent qualities. She said if I can use it I can have it! It looks promising, I'm dying to have a play with it. Almost 50 sheets!
Does anyone know if this is Woodcut paper? What do the characters say? Do you think I'll get on ok with it using letterpress ink?

Friday, April 20, 2007

First Proof

I set to Thursday evening and printed a first proof off my block. The only space I have at the moment is the kitchen, so lots of newspaper went onto the brand new worksurface! Also I've had this tin of proofing ink for 25 years and I wasn't sure how well it would print. Still, worth a try.
The greaseproof paper protecting the ink was very brittle and I had a job to get ink out of the tin that didn't have any bits of paper in it. It was very stiff to roll out too. Maybe it's time I threw it and got a fresh tin for the next time I print! Anyway, it at least sufficed to give me an idea of how the block was progressing.
I tried one print with a wooden spoon and several with a teaspoon. Not sure which is best, you can feel more with the teaspoon though. This was the best impression I managed. I over-inked for one print and lost the fine line work.
Looking at the proof I need to do some tidying up of the edges of the fur and lighten some patches up. I need to have time to sit and really look at it before I make any more cuts, apart from scorping away the rest of the background. What do you think?

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Still chipping away...

Just a quick flash (ooer, missus!) to show you how far I've got. Not far off first proof time now, just got the rest of his undercarriage to do. I will probably lighten his muzzle a bit in the lower section as well.

I can't do anything to him for the next few days anyhow, we're off to Twickenham to watch the mighty Pirates steamroller to victory over the Exeter Chiefs at rugby in the EDF National Trophy. Arrrrr! And I'm taking the sketchpad. Watch out for streakers!

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Progress continues...

Progress is being made. I'm wondering whether to leave him a 'base' to stand on, then I can play with another texture. Might be a bit much though. The composition is probably stronger as a cut out. I might try it to proof stage then if I don't like it I can cut it away.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Chipping away!

I've done some more to my engraving, as you can see. I wish I could do it during the day, but there's that pesky thing called 'work' to get done first. This is one of my old blocks that had been stored in a box in the attic. You can see a small split in the wood at the bottom, which I've cunningly avoided in the design. The swirly patterns at the top of the block were me limbering up with the tools before I started. That bit will be cut away ultimately. More soon!

Sunday, March 25, 2007

The engraving begins!

This is the first wood engraving I've done in 20 years. It's taking a while to get used to the tools again; that's why I've been practising making marks on the bits of the block that are going to be white (ie, cut away). The rough scraper-boardy like drawing beside the block (and shown below) is a rough I did on the computer to get myself into 'white-line' mode again. It's proving very useful to guide my strokes. I also did a pencil rough and flipped it to see if there were any glaring errors.

Yesterday I ordered a new roller and some newsprint to proof on. Sadly I couldn't afford the durathene refill that would fit my roller frame, so I've compromised on getting a good quality student rubber roller from Lawrences. The durathene will wait till later.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

My Wood Engraving stuff!

Look what I found in the loft! My lovely old wood engraving tools! )There was an ink roller too, but it had melted!! ) Alas, I no longer have my table-top Albion press.

I've been looking at my old wood-engraving books and drooling over some of the latest work by engravers that are on the web. I've always loved the medium and treasure the memory of going to the annual Society of Wood Engravers' exhibition, with a little money to spend and wandering the exhibits wishing I could buy them all. I ended up choosing a Kenneth Lindley (Downland Monuments), which the artist despatched later with a lovely covering note which I still have. Later I bought a tiny Clare Leighton from a stall, but this turned out to be cut from a book, which was a shame.

That was all a long time ago, and I no longer have much money to spend on artworks. I'm still inspired by the latest engraved offerings that you can see on the web, though, Hilary Paynter being a particular favourite: http://www.hilarypaynter.com .

I've begun preparing a block for my first engraving for 20 years, which is exciting. I've decided on a forgiving subject...our hairy terrier...in case of wobbly lines ! I intend to post the various stages of production here, I have to get some paper for proofing at least...... and a new roller! And I suspect I'm REALLY going to regret selling the old press, but hey, I'll manage.