12 February 2007
Testing Inferior Equipment
I'm crazy about x-acto knives. I'm a veteran graphic artist, after all, and I learned the trade before the computer revolutionized publishing. Before the Mouse there was the Blade. We used x-acto blades to do almost everything. If we made an inking mistake, the blade erased it. All typography was waxed and then cut by hand to fit into the layout. If we wanted our type to curve, we would wax the back of the type, cut out a single line, carefully slice between each letter and then spread it on the layout board in the desired shape. For color separations, we used the knife to cut rubylith or amberlith shapes to indicate where the colors should go. I always had my x-acto knife on my drawing board, right next to my pencil.
Make no mistake about it, I love my Japanese woodblock tools. They're beautiful, precise and long-lasting. But they're also hard to keep sharpened and sometimes I miss the comfortable familiarity and the un-anxious relationship I have with my x-acto knife. So on this latest print, I tried using a #5 x-acto knife with a sturdy #24 blade instead of the hangi-to. I have to admit, it worked pretty well. I'm not saying that I'm going to give up the hangi-to, but having another possibility in my toolkit feels fine.