Friday, September 22, 2017


That gouge is a very shitty gouge. Really, really shitty.
I've found a block-making material, new to me, that I rather like. It's a rubbery synthetic laminate, blue on one side and green on the other, and grey in the middle so it's very easy to see exactly where you're cutting. It can be cut very easily, just like lino, except that it's a bit more resilient and it doesn't split and crumble as lino can do. I don't yet know if there's any qualitative difference between the blue and green sides; thus far I've only cut the green and next time I'll do the blue.

Like lino, it's not great at reproducing very fine detail, but then if I want that I'll use wood.

It's not without its faults though. It repels water, so I can't draw directly on to the block with brush and indian ink as is my preference. Nor does it accept solvent transfer from a photocopy or laser print. A pencil line is quite indistinct against the green or blue background. I can draw on it with a Sharpie, so at least there's that.

I have some 100mm (4") Speedball soft rubber brayers, and I like them, but they're rather too narrow for me. I'd like some at least twice that width; the smaller ones have a tendency to fall into voids and leave ink where it's not wanted, so open areas have to be cut a bit deeper than would otherwise be necessary to keep them from printing.

My glass-bead baren, though otherwise excellent, is also a bit small, and the individual cabochons a little large. I'm waiting on some smaller glass cabochons, and when they arrive I'll make a wider, flatter one.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Sketchbook Doodlings



Spring Feet

Seminar Bung Knee

Feet Of Many Sizes

Friday, September 8, 2017

The Proof Is Out There

The block

The first proof
I finished cutting the key block.

I was originally planning to cut away the blank background areas completely, to eliminate the chance of any accidental ink contamination, but then I realised that would make registration placement quite difficult. So instead, I carved them away quite deeply so that the brayer (ink roller) doesn't touch them. I'll probably also give them a couple of coats of gloss varnish, so that if I do get ink in those areas I can just wipe it away.

The first proof (right) was pretty successful. There are a couple of areas that could do with a bit of extra cutting, but overall I'm fairly happy with it.

I can see that I'm going to have to be quite careful with the baren at the ends of the block — you can see a faint patch at bottom right where I skipped over it a bit.

Next up, I shall build a registration frame and start working out the colour blocks.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Block Cutting

I'm cutting my first block in quite some considerable time, and my hands and neck are cramping up something awful. This is the key block; I'm thinking the finished print will be in three or maybe four colours, so of course blocks will have to be carved for each of them as well.

I'm using MDF, which isn't the best material in the world for block making, but it has some advantages. It's cheap and easily available, and it has no grain, which makes carving it a lot more like linocut than woodcut — your knife or gouge isn't going to be deflected by an unexpectedly hard and twisty bit of grain. However, it's rather fibrous, and if your tools aren't scalpel-sharp it tends to tear. It's pretty hard on tool edges too, so you need to be sharpening fairly often.

The image is one that I drew a few years ago, in ball-point pen.

I did a solvent transfer of a laser print of it on to the MDF, and then over-drew it with brush and Indian ink — I find that a brush drawing works quite well as a cutting guide, as I can't get too finicky about detail that I'd never be able to cut. For an image like this, the brush line changes the character of the image somewhat, but I like that; there seems little point to me in trying to force one medium into replicating another.

The small print you see in the main image is just a quickie I took early on in the cutting to see how the cutting will reproduce. That ink should be red, but it's been sitting in its tube so long that it's separated out, and despite all the kneading and massaging of the tube I could do, it stubbornly persists in squirting out mainly its chrome yellow base. I did the test print in a colour other than black because I wanted to still be able to see my ink lines afterwards.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Baren Test

 I gave my glass-bead baren its first test outing today. I used water-soluble Flint relief printing ink, applied to a roughly 120mm square MDF block with a rubber brayer.

This one is one very thin, smooth note paper, and it was pretty easy to get a fairly clean, sharp impression. I need to pay close attention to keeping the paper in place though; the first one I did moved about a bit under the rotational thrust of the baren, but it's not really difficult to keep it still if I pay attention.
This one is on fairly heavy printmaking paper — I don't know the manufacturer — about 280-300 gsm, I'd guess.

The impression is not as clean as on the thinner, smoother paper, which is not unexpected, but it's not too bad. It's worst at the bottom of the print, which I think is because I was a bit uneven in my rubbing pressure.

What I've learned from this very brief test is that the glass beads work very well as a baren surface, moving smoothly and easily over the paper surface, and it's easy to get a good amount of pressure without having to grunt and strain. However, I think it would work better with more, smaller beads, more closely spaced, so I'll see what I can find and make a second one.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017


The components
All the bits together
A baren is basically a palm-burnisher for relief printmaking. The traditional Japanese ones are made from coarse-twisted cord glued spiral-fashion on a lacquer-laminated card disk, the whole being wrapped in a broad bamboo leaf to reduce friction and simultaneously create a hand-strap.

My version replaces the lacquered card with hardboard and the twine with small glass cabochons, which removes the need for the friction-reducing bamboo leaf. It means there are fewer, broader "points" than on the twine version, to transfer the ink from the plate to paper, but that has its pluses as well as minuses.
It looks kind of delicious, don't you think?

The cabochons are glued to the hardboard with epoxy. I've used the 24-hour cure super-strength stuff, but mainly for its extended working time rather than for its mechanical properties.

The glass cabochons themselves aren't precisely sized, which would make getting a perfectly level surface difficult (or impossible) if I glued them directly to the hardboard disc. So, instead I laid them out flat-side-up on this silicone baking sheet, added a blob of epoxy to each one, and then laid the disc down on top of them. The unevenness of the cabochon thickness is taken up by the epoxy resin, so it no longer matters that they're all subtly different. 

Conveniently, the sheet has these concentric rings printed on it, which made it a simple matter to keep everything centred.

It would be usable in its present state (once the glue has cured properly), but I intend to add a shallow wooden dome to it, both to make it easier to hold, and also to ensure that my hand pressure is being distributed evenly across the whole face of the baren. I'll also be able add a hand-strap, which means that I won't have to divert any energy to just holding on to the thing.

I'm getting really impatient to see how well it works. I must hold my enthusiasm in check until everything is properly dry.

A few days later....

Shellacked oak hand-pad

Delicious-looking glass cabochons,
looking like glacé cherries.
I've finished it off now, with the addition of a fairly hefty shellacked oak hand-pad. The whole thing is about 100mm in diameter.

I've only given it one outing as yet, and a fairly perfunctory one at that, but it was sufficient to give me an idea as to how to improve it. These cabochons are 20mm in diameter, and I think it would work better with more and smaller beads. To that end, I've ordered some 8mm and 12mm cabochons, and when they arrive I'll make a couple more and see how they compare.

I'm feeling quite optimistic about it.

So, now I shall have to get on to cutting some blocks, and getting some decent light-weight paper to print on — the baren works OK with heavier paper, but it's definitely more hard work, and the printing isn't quite as crisp.

Friday, August 18, 2017

More doodling

This is like those adult colouring books I guess, only without the colouring book.

A5 cartridge paper, black ink rollerball, coloured pencils.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017


Black roller-ball ink pen on cartridge paper. Each page is A5.
That's about 6" x 8½" for Americans who are still stuck with archaic and arbitrary measurement systems.
I like to doodle while I'm watching British panel shows on TV, because it makes me feel like I'm not just lying there passively absorbing entertainment and wasting my life away fruitlessly. Sometimes it'll be a drawing of an actual thing, but it's just as likely to be something like these, because doodles like these don't require a great deal of attention while I'm doing them.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Tiny, tiny chisel

The sharp end looks black because it's been polished to a mirror finish,
and that confuses the hell out of the scanner sensor.

Sometimes you just need a smaller chisel than you have. I found myself in just such a situation, so I sacrificed a cheap little needle file for the task.

I heated the top end to red hot with a butane torch for just a couple of minutes; this isn't enough to completely soften the steel, but it does make it a little bit more workable, and relieves some of the file's very brittle hardness. A better way to do it would be to put it into an oven at about 200-220° for an hour or so, but I didn't want to take the time, because I require INSTANT GRATIFICATION.

I ground off the file's cutting surfaces and polished them all to a mirror finish, and ground and polished the tip to an angle of 30°. This gives me a chisel edge of about 0.9mm wide.

The whole job took about twenty minutes, I guess.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Oak Router Bed

I have a Record 071 router plane which I like a lot, but it has some issues. Most important, it's missing its depth adjustment screw, though I'm hoping to fix that shortly.

The other issue is its cast steel base, which though great for gliding across a wood surface, does tend to leave black marks behind it. (I have a much older brass Stanley router plane that does it too, probably due to the lead content of the brass alloy.)

To fix that problem, and also to increase the surface area of the base, I've given it a new wooden base, laboriously planed down to thickness from a piece of oak I had sitting around. Oak isn't ideal for the purpose; it's good and stiff, but it has a very prominent grain, and because it's being pushed across the grain there's quite a bit of friction. Some nice slow-grown English beech would be better. However, oak is what I've got, so oak it is for the moment.

I'm wondering if a few coats of shellac might help it slip a bit more easily. I'm reluctant to try wax, because I don't want it leaving wax on the surface of the timber I'm routing.
LATER: Shellac works a treat, About three coats, applied quite thin, and then polished back with an 0000 nylon abrasive pad, and now it slips and slides beautifully.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Tragic. Just tragic.

I found a dismembered body on the street.

I bought it home.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Enoch the Omnipotent

Here's the little idol I carved, Enoch the Omnipotent, all stained and waxed.

I've named him after a Small (but willing) God who once saved our D&D characters by manifesting a handful of pennies in front of our pursuers. He also made us a picnic feast once. We returned his service by evangelising constantly, in the hope of expanding his worship base, and getting in on the ground floor when it came to handing out divine favour.

Enoch has a butt, but NO GENITALS, because he's not that kind of god.

Total height: 250mm.
Material: pine.

Saturday, July 22, 2017


I've been doing a spot of knife-carving on a scrap of pine. What I've found from this is that a scalpel, while nicely sharp and flexible in the blade, is bloody uncomfortable to use for this sort of work; my hands have gone all quivery from gripping its pathetic skinny little handle. I really need to make myself some proper carving knives with decent, meaty handles.

I don't really know precisely how this little fetish is going to end up, but I've got the general masses blocked out. Though I appear to have forgotten to give it any arms. Fetishes don't really need arms, right? Whatever would they use them for?

Enoch the Omnipotent

Later on...

I think I'm about done with this, except that I'd like to stain it and have a go at aging it a bit.

I shall call him Enoch the Omnipotent, after a Small God who once saved our D&D characters by manifesting a fortuitous handful of pennies in front of our pursuers. That, as I recall, was about the apogee of his divine powers.

It Was A Dark And Stormy Night.....

It may be particularly nasty out there, but it's rather nice in here.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Long Overdue Beautification


When we got our last clothes dryer, a long, long time ago, maybe fifteen years or more, (it just crapped out and has been replaced) I cut a hole in the wall of our house to run a vent through.

I fully intended to make it look a bit less shitty, but somehow I just never got around to it. Out of sight, out of mind.

We just got a new dryer, and I had to run a new vent duct. That put the full horror of the old half-arsed job right in my face, so this time I actually got off my arse and made this vent shroud to make it look a bit less like random vandalism.

It will eventually have a grille across the front as well as the bottom, to let the warm, moist air escape while also keeping rats and things out. I know that keeping rats out of a house is a futile dream, but that's no reason to make it easy for the little bastards.

If I can find some, I'll stuff the cavity around the ducting with insulation fluff, so minimise the chance of any of that wet, wet air coming back inside.

Friday, June 30, 2017

More saws for renewal

I got two more Disston saws from my friend Amie for renovation.

The uppermost is probably the older of the two, and the better quality. It appears to be a Disston D-7 panel saw, made between 1928 and 1955. All of the fixings are in brass. It has been sharpened in a sort of a crosscut pattern, but in rather a half-hearted way — it's very nearly a straight rip-cut.

The lower looks like a skew-back Disston D-23 panel saw, a very common model that was made from 1911 right through to 1990. The fixings are of galvanized steel. The handle is almost completely machine-made with very little hand-finishing, except for a desultory spot of decorative surface carving. It's a rip-saw. It has a very slight kink in the toothed edge of the plate, possibly too slight to worry about, but I won't know that for sure until I actually try to cut wood with it.


Less old
Both are missing fixings, to one extent or the other.

Oldest (left) is missing the stamped maker's-mark cap, but all the screws are otherwise present.

Less-old (right) is missing one of its cap-screws, and the handle is somewhat loose — most likely, it all just needs to be tightened up.

The plates have both suffered a bit from rust over the decades. I'll get them into a vinegar bath for a day or so of pickling and see how they come up, and then do a bit of polishing and sharpening.

The black spots are actually quite smooth and polished;
they look black due to the quirks of photographing reflective surfaces.

Coupla days....

This is the plate from the D7, after pickling and a bit of scrubbing with steel wool and various grades of wet-and-dry.

As you can see, the steel is quite badly etched by rust, probably beyond polishing with any reasonable degree of effort by me. I'd need to grind it right down on both sides, possibly reducing the plate thickness by as much as a quarter. There's a very clear difference between the areas that were exposed to moisture and oxygen, and those that were protected beneath the handle.

It doesn't make the saw unusable, but inevitably there's going to be a lot more friction on the plate within the kerf, and to compensate for that I'll probably have to increase the set somewhat.

Next day (July 3rd, 2017)

 All cleaned up, sharpened, and ready to cut wood.

This one, the D-23, has a handle made of apple wood. I noticed a bit of cell collapse when I was taking off the old dark varnish finish, so there are one or two soft spots — not rot, as such, but they could easily allow rot to start there. It may be worth applying a fungicidal coat to those areas maybe.
The D-7, with its woodwork cleaned up and brass polished, and its poor rust-etched plate. It's good steel and cuts perfectly well, though as I mentioned before I might have to increase the set a tad to keep it from binding in the kerf.

The teeth on this plate curve away from the edge towards the tip; I don't know if that's intentional, or a result of some over-enthusiastic sharpening — maybe at some point it lost a tooth there? Anyway, it doesn't seem to affect the cut, that I can can detect, and it's a very comfortable saw to use.

It's a pity it's lost its maker's medallion, but that has no functional effect.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Wrinkly Eyes

Liquid ink roller-ball pen on hand-made paper, coloured in Krita

Blokey-bloke Bloke

TV-watching doodle. Liquid ink roller-ball pen and coloured pencils.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Saw Renovation

I inherited this Disston 10 TPI rip-saw from my friends Andrew and Helen. It's a good-quality make, and will eventually be very useful to me. However, first it's going to need quite a bit of care.

The blade is very rusty, especially on one side — the side that was exposed to sea air for some years. That rust will have to be taken off and any major pitting polished and smoothed out. The handle is split in a couple of places, and will need to be glued and patched. I'll re-shape the grip a bit at the same time, to better suit my hand. And, of course, it will need to be sharpened; I'm not sure it ever has been.

Next day

Here's the saw plate after soaking in a bath of white vinegar and salt for about 30 hours, and a quick scrub down with steel wool. It hasn't got rid of all the rust, but the improvement is marked. Some grinding with increasingly fine wet-and-dry paper will take care of the rest, and will polish out any overly egregious pitting.

The screws were stuck well and truly into the wood of the handle, and with the existing cracks that meant that it pretty much fell to pieces as I disassembled it. I've glued all the bits back together, and I'll see if that will serve along with some judicious reinforcing, but if I have to make a new handle it's not the end of the world.

Some time later

Owing to various impediments, it's been nearly a week since I've been able to do anything more to the saw.

Today I've filed down the teeth on the plate to even them out before sharpening, and I've started reshaping the handle to fit my hand more comfortably.

Most of the reshaping is done with rasp, files and sandpaper, but I've also gouged out hollows for my finger and thumb.

It's been glued back together almost like a jig-saw, so I don't know if it will last forever. I'm using good glue though, so I'm hopeful. I may inset some reinforcing panels if need be.

One more day

Well, it's done. Not quite as good as new, but almost.

It has sharpened up well, but there's a catch about half way down the blade that I haven't tracked down the cause of. There are no kinks that I can see*, and no missing teeth. It doesn't seem to affect the quality of cut, so I'll probably just ignore it unless it gets too annoying.

I might possibly, at some stage in the future, take it up to 12 teeth per inch, but that's a job for another day when I'm feeling a bit more enthusiastic about filing.

* [NARRATOR] There was a kink.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Bedouin Sheik

This was drawn from an old photograph of a Bedouin sheik in the Lebanon. I think it was dated about 1912, but I'm not really sure.

It's all done in Photoshop.