Fitting it all on one block – again!

My next project is now just about ready for test printing. I have a backlog of pictures to show various bits of the preparation.

I wanted to use a whole sheet of the Kitaro Kizuki without wasting any of it. This drove the paper size, which turned out to be 6-1/4″ x 8-3/4″ (about 160 x 220mm).

This will be a print without key lines. At first I thought I could use shina, but when I worked up the design (which will take 7 color regions), I realized that to get the shapes I wanted, shina would be risky – the top plies might come off of the smaller regions. So cherry it is; time to make a new block!

I cleaned up some aluminum scraps I found to help flatten the glue-up, scrubbing them with soap and water, filing the sharp edges, and checking to make sure there are no nicks or burrs that could damage the surface of the wood.

As usual, I used a card scraper to smooth the surface. I also wet-sanded with 1500 grit and made a final pass with the scraper.

So yes, as you might be wondering, that is a really long block! If I had made 2 double-sided blocks, I would not be able to fit all the color areas; by leaving it in one piece (8″ x 18″), I had more flexibility to position the registration marks and color areas so they would not interfere with each other.

Some carving progress:

Below are some straight shots showing the full blocks, with registration marks circled.

I tried to place the registration marks so that there would not be some weird bump in the middle of the paper that would result in unwanted embossing. The second mark in the top image IS in the middle of the paper for the shape that is approximately in the middle, but I think it is far enough away that I can avoid rubbing it. In the bottom image, two of the shapes are at a little bit of an angle. This places the potentially-interfering registration marks outside the edge of the paper (red lines).

Below are the cleared blocks tilted so they are lit at a low angle. This really emphasizes the texture, but it also shows that I am trying to carve deeply enough from the beginning so that I’m not doing so much cleanup when I get into printing.

That is it for now! Onward to the test-printing!

Fitting it all on one block, part 2

Tada! There it is – two sides of the same hunk of wood.

Actually it did not take that much time to paste down all the transfers.

Those familiar with woodblock printing will notice a whole bunch of registration marks! 4 sets in the left picture, 3 sets on the right. So I’ll be doing MINIMUM 7 impressions (probably more), with ONE PIECE OF WOOD! I think I was able to place all of the pieces so that I have enough distance between color regions and registration marks to avoid unwanted pigment transfers.

In the right-hand image, the key lines are covered up by some copy paper that is taped on, to protect them while I am carving the color regions.

Another block

Another block? What’s going on?

Nope, not adding a block to the forest rays print! The truth is, I just don’t have the time to start printing that one. I need several continuous days without many other responsibilities; I think I will need to take vacation to do the printing. Carving, however, is something I can spend a couple of hours on here and there. Plus I really love carving! So, motivated by that excitement and a new design idea, I’ve prepared another block. I’ve used a card scraper to smooth the surface – it yields the same kind of surface that can be achieved with a hand plane, but is a lot less expensive and requires less skill to use.

Since the last design was so complicated, for this one, I am aiming for simple simple simple. All the impressions will fit on ONE piece of wood (with two laminated cherry faces). I’m thinking monochrome too!

I got everything ready before starting the carving. I figured out the final size, cut the paper, and planned out where on the wood each impression will go.

A few of the sheets of washi have some flaws. One has a tiny blood stain because I trimmed off the very tip of my thumb cutting them 😦 and others had some bends in the paper. I’ll print them all – the sheets with slight bends might turn out fine after being dampened and printed. The sheets with (possible) flaws got a little line as a corner mark; the others got a dot on the corner that is the squarest, which will go into the corner kento when it’s time to print. 50 sheets in all! My biggest print run yet.

Now to paste down that hanshita and take a knife to the block!

Back to the forest

Now that Floating (to the left!) is done, it’s time to get back to what I was working on before. My idea was for a path through trees, dappled with light, with sunbeams filtering through the leaves. I wasn’t sure how to accomplish the sunbeams, so in a sense, the work on Floating let me test out an idea. I think it turned out as I expected, so It’s given me the courage to move ahead!

I haven’t posted this snapshot yet because it’s really sloppy, but this is about as far as I got with test printing. Mainly the aim was to test out some colors to see what works. I will probably make some more test prints; I think the bluish green is too blue, and I have since removed the hard line between the ground and the background foliage from the key block, hoping to make that a mistier transition.

It seems like a pretty complicated project so far. Here’s the stack of blocks; one is empty on the back so that’s 9 faces, and I think the test prints have about 15 impressions looking back on my notes.

I’ll give a sense of sunbeams by overlaying shadows that intersect and darken.

Originally, I thought the shadow blocks would be really straighforward, without much detail, and had planned to carve them on shina plywood. However, after making the transfer sheets and seeing the size and shape of some of the areas that need to be preserved, it’s pretty obvious they need to go on cherry. So, today I will make one more block! Because that one little bit of shadow on the upper left goes all the way to the top, neither one will fit on the blank face I’ve got — it’s a tiny bit too short.

Temporary diversion

Here’s the latest block set, hot off the carving bench!

It’s a bit of a departure. No key block, and carved on shina! I’m working on a quick print on A4 paper, for the Awagami International Miniature Print Exhibition. The print needs to be in Japan by July 31, and given how unpredictable mail can be these days, I think I need to allow a month for shipping. There’s NO WAY I can have the complicated Forest Rays print done, and besides, it won’t fit on A4. Hence, a temporary diversion.

Shina is quick to carve, and I had a ton of it laying around so I didn’t have to make new blocks. But shina has definite downsides. I’ve had the top ply come off of thin lines before. This piece was part of a fairly large area, so I am surprised it peeled off. I’m just glad I noticed, and saved the piece! I’ll be able to glue it down when the wood is dry.

Fitting two impressions on a block

When I made the plan for how to put the colors on the blocks, it seemed obvious that by rotating one of these 180 degrees, I could fit both of them on the same block:

It turns out it was not that straightforward! When I lined the two transfers up with a light board, to make sure they would both fit on the block without interfering with each other’s registration marks, I ended up with this situation. If I place one of the transfers at the position of the normal corner registration mark (red circle, upper left), the registration corner of the OTHER transfer sheet is hanging out in space (green circle, lower right). So without special provisions, I can’t fit them onto the same piece of cherry.

You can already see the solution (or part of it) in the image above. By gluing the cherry to a larger piece of plywood, and using small pieces of cherry strategically placed, I’m able to move the registration cuts out to locations that will let me place both colors on the same block:

And here are the two transfers, pasted down:

All clear

I’m now ready for the first test-printing of the key block for what I am calling “forest rays.”

This block took some time to carve! Carving is not my full-time job, and indeed I don’t think I spent more than 3 or 4 hours a day working on this block (and usually only an hour or so). I started on January 2, and now am (mostly!) done 3 weeks later. I say “mostly” because test printing will no doubt reveal that some adjustments are in order! Either I forgot to clear a spot, or there is a splinter sticking up, or I need to deepen some of the valleys because they are shallow enough to to let the paper touch, which would risk getting pigment in unwanted areas.

I included the “dramatic lighting” shot on the right to try to further illustrate how deep I’ve carved. The general rule is, the bigger the area of clear space, the deeper the valley needs to be. Paper won’t sag very deeply when the adjacent lines are close together.