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.