There’s a lot to like about woodblock prints; the centuries-old tradition, the direct nature of the process, the simplicity of the equipment, and the magic of pulling the print from the block. I decided to give it a try a couple years ago, I already had boards and carving tools after all. Still, I’ve only made a few since then, but the upcoming Greenwood Fest inspired me to make this print that is hot off the block.
There are lots of technique and equipment options for making relief prints, and my explorations are very limited. But the basic process is straightforward. Here’s how I went about it.
I started by flattening a 5″ x 5″ piece of wood (tulip poplar in this case) with a hand plane, then sanding that surface just with some very fine sandpaper and a block. I painted on a light blue washcoat of artist oils that still allowed the drawing lines to show over it, but also provided some contrast once the cutting begins.
After lots of carving, oil-based printing ink is rolled onto a brayer (rubber roller) then over the block. This applies ink only to the uncarved portions on the surface. With a couple dabs of glue, I’ve attached the block to a piece of cardboard along with two registration sticks.
The paper is laid onto the inked block. For this print, I used acid-free unbleached mulberry (kozo) and bamboo fiber paper. The paper is lightly textured and strong, but thin. As I burnish the back side of the paper with my baren, an old wooden knob, the impression is visible through the paper.
Steadily pull the paper from the block, and, if all went well, a finished print is revealed.
The oil-based ink can take a couple days to dry. Due to the hand process there are often very subtle differences between the prints.
I and the prints are just about ready to head to the Fest.