Wednesday, April 02, 2008

On blocks and things...

I'd been thinking about the way the maple block cut that I printed yesterday. I do remember when I rubbed india ink over the block to darken it the smoothness seemed to go a little rough. I'm not sure why; it's not happened before but then this is the first time I used maple. I wonder if that was why it was a bit harder to cut?

So I thought I'd do a little test on the backside of this maple block. (It's a double-sided block, but this side has a light score mark across it that I didn't notice till it was too late to send back.)

So: On the one side I wiped a little india ink across as I did the cut block. The surface became a little rougher. On the other side of the face I darkened it with a waterproof marker pen, which dried very quickly and retained the smoothness and sheen on the surface. Then I made cuts on each portion and wiped a little talc into the lines to make them clearer. I think the side darkened with marker pen is a little crisper, even through a magnifier. I also did the a test on a small practice piece of box as a control; the lines are cleaner and easier to cut, but that would always be the case as maple isn't as hard or close-grained. Box is also very expensive, so I need to find out which woods (choice of box, lemonwood, pear and maple, generally) work best for me, at the most economical price. Interesting exercise.

Now...looking at the print I made yesterday, I'm twitching over doing another version , maybe not so much 'white line' drawing, more tonal depth. As an experiment in technique. On maple, just to show it who's boss!

If there are any experienced wood engravers reading, in your opinion am I trying to get too much fiddly detail out of a 2"x3" block?

This morning I spent time perusing the web site of one of my favourite engravers; George Tute. I can only stand in awe at his strength of composition and his textures and pure technique. Many years ago I went down to the city to see the annual exhibition of the Society of Wood Engravers. This must have been the late 70's. I saw a print by Mr Tute, I think it was called 'Dandelion Storm'...I was entranced. Stood in front of it for ages. I really wanted to buy it, but it was just too far out of reach for my budget. I did buy a Kenneth Lindley (Downland Monuments) and I have that still and am very proud of it.


Andy English said...

I have finally arrived at my perfect darkening medium - blue-black or black fountain pen ink ("Quink") diluted further with water. I wipe this over the block until its reached a darkness where I can see both cuts and the marks I make on the block. I made a little film here:

2 x 3 is the standard block size for most of my bookplates and, believe me, you can pack a lot of detail. However, it really does depend on the wood. Box is fine but you will find maple works better with larger broader treatment. Have you tried pear - it can be almost as good as box.

I absolutely agree with you about George - I have always held him in the highest regard.

Phare-Camp said...

I've used India ink in the past for darkening my blocks. I remember Andy saying something about india ink "fluffing" up the grain so when I darkened the first block for the project I'm currently working on I paid attention to see if I saw or felt a difference. I didn't notice a difference. well if you've read my blog you'll know that first plate was a dud--I forgot to reverse the I went to darken the new plate and guess what, when I looked at the bottle I realized I'd been using my fountain pen ink by mistake! So I thought oh well it didn't hurt the last time so I used it again. I thought perhaps it was the fact that I water it down a lot then brush it on, therefore not rubbing the grain, but perhaps it was my grabbing the wrong inkwell! Cheers, Patti

fish said...

Regarding your April 2 blog "on blocks and things"

I would avoid using anything with a moisture content like india ink to stain your blocks.

I use oil based relief ink. Using a soft cotton rag, apply a small amount rubbing it evenly onto the surface of the block. It takes a little longer to dry but never effects the grain of the block.

With regard to maple blocks: I find maple to be a suitable and economic alternative to Boxwood, Lemon or Pear. I believe that just as much detail can be achieved but that the main difference is in the manner in which the wood cuts. Better quailty wood has a "smooth" feel to the cuts. After my first boxwood block I didn't really want to return to maple although I still use it extensively.

It's good to see that you're interested in wood engraving. I'd hate to see it die out and would like to see more young practitioners.

keep engraving.

If you're interested, I have a website where some of my engravings can be seen at