14 July 2006

Cutting Teeny Lines

#1 Ready To Carve

I'm starting on the next print in the Attitudes/Tai Chi series. Here the hanshita (sketch) is pasted to the blocks. Once the hanshita is pasted, I rub the top few layers of paper off so I can see through it to the design. As you can see on the top block, I often rub too much and make holes. There are many other methods for transferring an image to the blocks, including using tracing paper so you don't have to rub off any layers, but I stubbornly keep using the common laserprint paper that I have lying around the studio.

Today I'm cutting some thin lines that will print black, including some lettering. Cutting thin lines is challenging, especially when working on plywood, which is what I use. First I use a flat-bladed knife called the hangi-to to outline all the parts that will print. The knife is angled away from the black areas in this initial cut:

First Cuts

In the second round of cuts, I hold the knife a small distance away from and angled toward the first cuts. A sliver of wood lifts easily up and away, outlining the delicate bit of wood that will remain. Later, larger tools are used to clear away more wood:

Second Cuts

Today on Baren Forum, moku hanga printmaker David Bull posted a link to a friend and colleague of his who cuts way better thin lines than I do. Take a look and see how a real expert does it: Ryusei Okamoto's Carving diary


vertigo25 said...

Wow. Okamoto's stuff is amazing. Even before printing, his blocks are beautiful. Maybe in a hundred years, I'll have that kind of control.

I've become completely addicted to my hangi-to. So much so, that last night when I was carving a small rubber stamp, I used it almost exclusively. I can't even comprehend how I used to be able to use the sankaku-to completely outline my carving. using the hangi-to results in lines with far better fidelity and takes away all the headaches associated with small details.

I have a question for you, too, that maybe you can talk about in an upcoming post or something. I did my first actual woodcut last week. I'd been doing all lino and softblock until then. Maybe it was the shina wood I was using, but there were three places where small chips of wood broke free from the print surface as I was cutting. They were very thin pieces, and I'm not sure how badly they'll even effect the print. I'm wondering how I can avoid this. Is there some kind of common mistake I'm making with my cutting style that may be causing this? I think it may have occurred while cutting in the same direction of the grain. I've heard this is not good, but have no idea how to avoid it...

Annie B said...

Hi Vertigo25,

You said it: maybe in 100 years! I feel the same.

As for chipping, are you using full shina or shina ply? I've only used the plywood and it does chip. Angling the blade away from the cut line (rather than holding it completely perpendicular to the board) helps. The other thing that helps seems to be time and practice - getting to really know the feel of the knives and the wood. And patience, moving slower. A year ago I was chipping up my boards all the time, and now it happens much less.

If you pop off a piece of wood that's really important to the design, the best thing I've found for repair, at least using waterbased inks, is superglue as Elmer's wood glue melts with all the moisture. Elmer's might be OK with oil inks.

Maybe some other folks will chime in here, too.