09 August 2007

Not Shina


The 12" x 12" birch plywood blocks I bought at the craft store are doing OK, but they're not the shina plywood that I get from McClain's. What I'm experiencing with the birch is that the grain has a lot more personality than the shina, not a bad thing in itself but the grain grabs the knife as I cut. The knife wants to follow the grain, so cross-grain cuts are hard to control. Fortunately, this design doesn't have all that much detail so I think it will work out fine.

It feels great to be cutting blocks again!


Bette Norcross Wappner -- said...

. . . and its nice to see you woodblocking again!

making do can be a fun challenge and it looks like you're making it work. i've used birch plywood like this that i bought at a Woodcraft store when i didn't have all-shina handy, and it behaved in the same way you're experiencing :)

your design sounds very interesting.


Jenn Rodriguez said...

nothing beats shina, but birch is my close second favorite (and my first choice for cost effectiveness). some tips for birch:

- use cabinet grade B/BBB or better, with no patches of course.

- sanding. by sanding the surface to a glassy finish, you fill in all that grain. using wet/dry sand paper from 320 up to 1200. i got the tip from this site: http://www.1000woodcuts.com/Studionotes/wood.html

- i've also started sealing the surface with a thin layer of watered down acrylic matte medium, followed by more sanding.

i find this makes carving birch easier and more manageable.

Annie B said...

Thanks Bette and Jenn. I've always avoided sealing my blocks for fear that the seal would repel the waterbased pigments I use, but thin matte acrylic medium might be OK. I'll give that a try.

Anonymous said...

For sealing the wood you can also use acrylic gesso, just paint it on the surface with a brush, let it dry and then sand it. It works very well with both waterbased and oil based inks. The advantage is that it makes it easier to see the carved marks.

As for birch vs. shina, I'm not a big fan of shina, it seems to splinter way too easily, plus I'm not convinced that it can support fine details. It also costs a lot.

Annie B said...

Hi Anonymous,
Thanks for the tip. Gesso sounds perfect - a nice matte surface that also makes carved marks easy to see. I agree, shina plywood is expensive. I've managed to get some pretty fine detail with it, but I've never used plank wood so I have nothing to compare it with. The cherry plywood that Tom spoke of in his comment on the previous post sounds like it would be a step above shina. I'm interested in trying it.

Anonymous said...

Hi Annie,

Wood is made to carry liquid from the roots to the leaves. Wood is a mass of tiny bundles of vessels that are able to transport fluid against gravity by capillary action.

When printing with water-based inks we are able to exploit the structure of the wood. Prints always improve after a number of impressions are taken from the block. The pores of the timber become charged with colour and start pumping out extra ink. Like magic.

To improve carving there is no better solution than sharpening the tools. I use a Tormek sharpening wheel that runs through a water bath. It is an essential outlay to improve carving and save on hand strain.

Bette Norcross Wappner -- said...

I sure appreciate Jenn and Tom's tips :) I'll also try the gesso on birch. Annie, after you try cherry plank, you will know you've gone to heaven. It holds detail very well. I just might get that Tormek sharpening wheel Tom mentioned. I've just been using green oxide honing compound on a board and I know I'm not getting them sharp enough.


Annie B said...

Bette, my sharpening skills are also lacking. Maybe I'll have space for a grinder in my new place. Tom, I love your description of the capillaries in the wood. Those magical properties of wood are the reason I don't like the idea of coating the wood with any kind of sealant. Plenty of folks seem to do it, though, and they still make fine prints.