A Woodcut is an original hand made print pulled from a plate that was constructed by cutting away all areas of a wood block that the artist does not want to print. The remaining raised areas of the plate are inked with a bryer. Rice paper is then placed on the inked surface and rubbed from the back. This forces the paper against the inked raised areas of the plate and when the paper is peeled away the image is transferred to the paper.
#1 Preparing The Plate
I start by cutting a 3/4" birch plank to the dimensions of the image that I want to create. Then the surface is sanded smooth and a coat of black india ink is painted on the plate.
Step #2 Planning The Image
I do a number of thumbnail sketches of the image I want to carve. I try various arrangements to establish the light and dark patterns that will make up the finished print. When I am happy with the final arrangement I do a full scale sketch.
Transferring The Image To The Plate.
I turn the sketch face down and rub white crayon on the back surface of the paper. Next I position the Image on the plate face up. I then trace the lines of my composition with a hard pencil. When I remove the drawing there is a white outline of the image on the black surface of the plate.
Step#4 Carving The Plate
With sharp gouges and cutting knives I remove any areas I do not wish to print. When I have finished, the areas of the plate that are still black will be the areas that will print. Because I painted the plate black first I have an excellent representation of what the print will look like when completed
Step #5 Inking The Plate
Ink is applied to the raised areas of the plate with a hard rubber brayer. Care is taken to apply an even coat of ink to the entire surface.
Step #6 Printing The Plate
There are several methods used to print a wood cut. The one I use primarily is a modified etching press setup. I designed a press bed modification that allows for the printing and accurate registration of relief prints. This diagram shows how the plate is positioned on the press bed and the printing paper is lowered to the surface of the plate. Once everything is in place the bed is moved through the press and pressure is applied to just the raised surface of the plate.
Probably the single most important ingredient to the successful execution of a woodcut print is the type of paper used to print on. I prefer to use a hand made Japanese rice paper because it captures all the subtle characteristics of the carved wood plate.
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