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  Introduction Design-Transfer using  
       transparent paper  
  Work-Place    a printing-method  
     Work-Table Plates  
     Printing in large format    Care  
     Storage of prints for drying    Storage  
  Tools ( Sharpening )    Flattening  
  Ink Paper Wood    Building  
     Paper instalation Printing (Press )  
     Printing-plate inst. using a positioning .stick Multicolor prints (in prep.)  
     Element instalation using magnets Framing of large prints




  The descriptions and notes given below refer to my own, rather rough, large scale, western style of cutting and printing only, but may, never the less, provide information eventually of use in other settings.

Extensive information about woodcut-printmaking - especially in regard of eastern style of printing - can be found at Barens, a web site offering information provided by woodcut-artists form all over the world, and on many of the web-sites of the contributing artists themselves. A large collection of links is made available at the web-site of Maria Aragno, artist in her own rights.

  There are but two rules to follow closely in regard of woodcutting: First, to use only well sharpened tools, and second, once the procedures are established, to use but the most qualifying material. In my settings, I use rather inexpensive wood, ink and paper, as it fulfills the purpose. But if e.g. very fine cutting would be a request, only hard, end grain wood would likely do the trick, - and not the poplar wood-plates, I normally use.  
  Woodcut-work is to me always a unique adventure, an art-trip involving wood, tools, paper, ink, and myself, all having their rights and duties, thus contributing to the final result.

In brief : Mostly I use poplar wood. It is easy available, not too hard to cut, but of very variable quality, rarely suitable for fine and detailed work. I use Stonehenge-paper (250 gr/m2) without moistening it before use. It is easy to print upon, and to reposition as well. I use Speedball acryl-based screen-printing inks, as these inks allow to overlap without the newly applied ink dissolving the ink already applied. For printing, finally, I use a ball-bearing baren, manual pressure, and, if appropriate, a press.

  Please note: These notes are written to pass information - not for the gallery -, some more elaborated and easier to read than others, addressing readers rather already familiar with the topic.   
  Work place  
  Work-table (w11) : The cutting-plate is kept in place by wood-sticks and screws easy to reset. For safety reasons, the plate should not be hold using but a single hand.  
  working-table   w11     work place for printing in large format   w110
  working while standing   w12     storage of prints for drying   w115
  head-lamp   w13          
  Tools and wood contribute both to the appearance of the final print. A knife evokes a different trace than a v-tool. The trace produced by a v-tool driven by a hammer differs from that by the same tool maneuvered solely by hand. Frequently I use for cutting but a common carpenter knife and drive the v-tool or the chisel with a hammer.  
  Only sharp tools should be used !!! "to avoid that your finished prints are not going to look much worse than they need to do," as Dave Bull - the founder of Barens - wrote in his charming introduction to wood-cutting. Before use, the blades of new tools are best examined using a magnifying glass, and their shapes eventually documented.  
  Sharpening of the tools is best understood by first having a close look at the blade using a magnifying glass and studying the literature (see urls below). To estimate the optimal angel of sharpening, the tool is hold in a rather steep position, and then the angel in-between blade and surface gradually reduced, just until the blade starts to be lifted out of the plain (w04 ). The sharpening angel may vary with the angel of the rotation of the handle of the tool. (First attempts of sharpening are best performed using old blades,  e.g. from carpenter knives. A magnifying glass is helpful to check on the effect. Some knives request special care such as the use of specified sharpening stones.  
Literature http://www.shavings.net/SCARY.HTM
Sharpening angel w04
Blade w02
Holding a carpenter-knife w03
Knife, V-tool, Chisel w01
chisel driven by a hammer w05
plate (penguins) w06
  Ink, Paper and Wood  
  Mostly I use acryl-based screen-printing inks (Speedball, two pounds of ink costing about $15) and Stonehenge paper (250 gr/m2) without moistening it before use. Acryl-based inks allow to overlap without the newly applied ink dissolving the ink already applied. These inks can still be washed off the plate safely the day after printing. Large scale printing requests considerable more ink than printing in small formats, and as the printing process involves more time, the ink is more exposed to ambient conditions eventually affecting its consistency.  
  Mostly I use poplar wood. It is easily available, but very variable in regard of quality, which may vary considerably even within a single plate. Occasionally, but rarely, a particular piece of wood is suitable for rather fine and detailed work. If the v-tool produces blistering, the plate should not be used, as such plates may cause problems during printing, or easily get damaged during the process of cleaning or drying.

(Plates containing additives such as glue may severely damage the blade of the knife !!!)

  Design-and-printing-board (w601)  
  The design-and-printing-board I use, is mainly built for plates up to 16x24" and paper-size up to 20x30". An upper, lower and smaller side bar serve for registration and/or copy purposes. The depth of the board allows to handle single as well as double-plates  (two plates mounted on each other). If only a single plate is used for printing, an additional board needs to be installed first to attain half level.  
  Paper installation  
  The center of the board is brought to the heights of the large bars, installing e.g. one or two clean printing-plates. A wood-stick bearing an alignment-line for the paper is placed on the side bar and the paper installed adjecting to this alignment- line along the metal piece of the upper bar. (Instead of the alignment-line also a calibration stick can be used as shown in w610.) The paper is then attached to this stick using three small clamps, and to the bar using two large clamps (w615, w620). Pencil marks are used to document the position of the paper in relation to the stick, allowing to verify or correct its position.  
  The two large clamps allow to fold the paper back during printing sessions (w625). While removing the paper the small clamps and the stick remain attached. This facilitates fast and safe re-installation, helpful for e.g. multicolor printing or installing the prints for drying.  
  Plate installation using a positioning-stick  
  A positioning-stick - consisting of a wood-stick with a screw inserted at one end, two screws inserted at the side and a small piece of wood attached at the opposite side near the end - is placed in the left upper corner of the board, and the plate installed as shown in w630. The position of the left upper corner of the plate is calculated related to the upper and side bars as P (x,y) = [paper length (x.y)- plate length (x,y)]/2. Every plate-paper-combination has its specific positioning-stick.  
  Plates or "element" installation using magnets ["element" equal "part-plate"] (w640)  
  A thin metal plate (20x30") is first placed onto the board, covered with a piece of paper containing the outlay of the design*, a transparent paper placed on top to establish clean conditions, the plate or "element" positioned according to the marks and kept in place using magnets. *The position of the plates or "element" is estimated in pre-trails, and marked as outlay.  
  The use of "elements" allows not only to "save" wood, but may lead to a rather specific "free" expressions.  
  Design-transfer ( addressing readers rather familiar with the topic)  
  The designing or drafting of wood-cuts requests eventually the use of a mirror-image and/or a copy technique.  
  Using transparent paper  
  In brief : The future printing-plate is put in the future printing-position, a transparent paper - not smaller than the printing-paper - placed upon and fixed onto/in-between two alignment-wood-sticks - installed along the metal piece of the upper bar, and the circumference of the plate drawn upon (w640). Thereafter the paper is removed.  
  The drafting-paper is installed along the metal piece of the upper bar, adjecting to the side bar. The transparent paper is switched - the alignment stick first showing up now facing down - and re-installed upon the drafting paper - again along the metal piece of the upper bar -, and the circumference of the plate drawn upon, transferred onto the drafting paper.  
  Respecting this frame, the design can now be drawn on the drafting paper, transferred onto the transparent paper, and - by switching and re-installing of the transparent paper - transferred onto the printing-plate.  
  Following these steps allows to keep line-up errors rather minimal. It also allows to use prints as drafts for further developments or corrections such as repositioning "elements".  
  Copying using a printing procedure:  
  Principle : If a piece of speedycut (SC, a Speedball-product) - or eventually India-rubber - is pressed onto a freshly inked linoleum-cut-plate and thereafter onto printing-paper, a nice "direct" image (w60) results. Using a wood-cut instead of a linoleum-cut does not lead to much of an imprint, as the ink sticks rather to the wood than to the SC. But if the ink is applied onto SC, the SC then pressed onto the woodcut-plate carrying the design (leaving a dark mark, w62) - and thereafter onto another wood-plate, a "reverse" image ) is created (w64).  
  Proceeding :  
  1 ) A metal stick containing an attached triangle element is fixed at both large bars, the plate containing the design installed and the freshly inked transfer-plate (speedy-cut Speedball) put into position (w650) and the printing-plate together with the transfer-plate shifted through a press..  
  2 ) The original-plate is then replaced by the receiver-plate, the transfer-plate installed again and both shifted through the press again.  
  W660 shows good connection/overlap in-between two areas of two consecutive transfers, But also that optimal inking of the plate requests some elaboration. To avoid changes of shape of the transfer-plate by the press, a soft but not deformable piece of plastic is glued onto the transfer-plate. Two thin metal wires are attached along the mid-line about half-length apart serving as holds.  
  Rollers are used to transfer the ink from the inking-plate onto the printing-plate. The inking of the plate has to be completed within a certain time, to avoid that the printing-paper  gets eventually stacked to the plate.  
  Picking up ink or displace it onto the printing plate is done by gently moving the roller back and fours, every-time lifting it slightly out of the plate while still executing the move and resetting it carefully and  slightly displaced. This prevents uneven distribution of ink on the plate as onto the roller as well. Critical is to avoid overloading of the roller. Small areas of ink- overload on the plate can be cleaned using e.g. a tooth-brush, large areas of overload may eventually request cleaning of the entire plate.  
  For the first and basic application of ink onto the printing-plate, the roller is loaded rather sparsely. This allows to apply rather high pressure onto the printing plate without fear of filling the spaces in between the relief-parts of the plate. The goal is to achieve a thin, uniform, and complete covering of all the relief-parts of the plate. Correctly done all relief-parts should appear in a soft slightly shiny glance. Relief-parts eventually not covered by ink, will appear as not-shiny dry spots and have to be re-worked.  
  This basic inking completed, the load of ink onto the roller is gradually increased until to its optimal load, and the pressure applied on the printing plate is gradually reduced, as the ink on the printing-plate gradually builds up. A good estimate for optimal loading of the printing-plate is a characteristic wet, but not to wet, sound created by the roller when moved. Important in the estimation of adequate inking is to to be aware, how much ink was actually removed from the inking-plate.  
Press   w74
  As a press, I use a home-built model. It allows to create a basic imprint, which then can be completed using manual techniques. It handles plates up to 22x46". The mechanism to drive the plate and to apply pressure are separated processes. Acryl-sheets are used for pressure modulation. The serial arrangement of the upper roller causes no mayor problems. The carrier-plate is easy replaceable, the top part of the press can be removed, thus allowing the body of the press to be used as a working-table. (Operating at rather low pressure, this press is not suitable for etching purposes. Also it is not suitable if high-output is a request, or to be handled by un-experienced user, e.g. in a setting such as a school.)  
  After printing, the plates are cleaned with water using e.g. a tooth-brush, wrapped in-between papers  for a short time, and then further dried with hot air. Double-plates are eventually taken apart. The plates are then clamped onto a leveled reference-plate for a few days. For protection and uniform exposure, wood-sticks are placed on both sides (w31).  
  Plates are stored in up-right position, thus exposing both sites to similar conditions, and periodically checked on deformation and stable dimensions.  
  As a measure to protect from breaking, a deformed plate is best exposed to water (about half an hour for poplar wood). before any attempts of flattening are performed.  
  For flattening the plate is placed face-down on a perfectly leveled reference plate and a second plate put on top, observing a "along" and "across" orientation of the grain structure. Clamps are applied and the pressure gradually increased until the plates are completely flat. Then the two plates are fixed together using screws. Flatness is checked using a level. A normal writing paper is allowed just to pass in-between measure and plate. To allow perfect leveling, eventually small pieces of paper  need to be placed in-between the plates.  
  Building plates  
  Self-built plates should only be used, if the appearance of a connection line in-between the two plates in the final print can be taken into account or eventually corrected.  
  Two candidate-plates are placed onto two wooden bars and then clamped together in position 1 and 2, perfectly leveled in-between w32 . These two clamps are then further tightened, and the plates adjusted at equal level in position 3 and 4. If no "steps" occur along the common border, the plates are suitable to be fixed together. The clamps are then removed, glued applied onto the parts supposed to fit together, and the procedure repeated again. Minor unevenness can be corrected by sanding, sub-optimal fitting plates are best re-separated, and the whole procedure eventually repeated.  
Plate-building, installation-procedure   w32  
  Repair work is time consuming and does not always lead to satisfaying results. Crucial is to select the most suitable wood right from the start.  
  Faulty parts should be cut out generously, but cutting through relief parts of the plate kept minimal. If possible, the pieces to be cut out should be"convex" shaped, as such a form - corresponding to the form of the future replacement piece - is easier to shape, facilitates e.g. the use of a sander.  
  Drilling a few holes and cutting out the faulty part, using a jig-saw equipped with a suitable blade, is usually effective. To create incisions may require the use of bits such shown in xxx. The new piece can mostly be created using a jig-saw. Eventually a scroll saw is needed, to achieve a proper vertical cut. The form of the replacement piece can be estimated using e.g. transparent paper. For small and delicate repair work best end-grain wood is used, as it is easy to shape and does not break too easily after insertion. End-grain wood can be created using a powered miter-saw. For severe repair-work, the still suitable old parts and the new pieces need eventually be mounted on a new, underlaying plate.  
  Multicolor prints (in preparation)  
  Working with a key-block  
  Free-cut *: composition while doing, using "elements"  
  (* Similar proceedings are described by Walter Philips, presented by Matthew Brown in the Barens-Archive}  
  w101   with key block   w102   variation of   w103   Variation of
      no overlapping       final appearance       plate position
  w111   with key-block   w112   detail        
      print based multicolor prints ( in prep.)                
  Framing of large prints using foam-board and floor-molding material (w85)  
  1) Suitable frame-elements are prepared using a powered miter-saw. (A powered miter-saw (w82) allows to produce clean cuts, to cut angels of exactly 45 degrees etc. A touch of water eventually needs to be applied onto the parts to be cut, to prevent pre-administrated paint from over-heating,)  
  2) Paper strips are glued along the outer border of the foam-board considered for backing, restricting the application of glue to the outer (order-adjectant) area. A few incisions are made at the inner side, allowing to install the print and to keep it in place (w83).  
  This method allows to create "chic" looking, but rather in-expensive frames (approx. $ 15/ per paper size of 22x30 inches), suitable whenever professional framing is not a request. Low in weight, they are easy to transport, but may need a 4-point-fixation at the wall. Bowing easily, the backing needs eventually enforcement. Also, the frames are best stored in upright and firm position.  
  Minor inconsistencies in the shape of the floor-molding material may hamper their use for middle- or rather small-sized prints. W81 shows a 45-degree cut. Note the eventually resulting shape- inconsistency.  


Legal notice : The use of the methods and procedures described above is granted without express notification or permission. to gain personal experience and for occasional educational purposes ( Fair Use doctrine), if adequate credit is permitted. For intensive personal or educational use, please contact. Permission will generally be given without charge. The use of the methods and procedures described above is not allowed for commercial purposes without permission.