Saturday, July 22, 2023

Pfeil Gouge Rack

I designed and printed a rotating turntable holder for my Pfeil palm gouges for lino and wood cutting. It holds up to nine gouges, and when assembled it stands about 170mm tall.

It requires a 22mm skateboard bearing for the turntable, and I added a couple of disks of baking paper under the cap to provide a low-friction surface.

I'll probably turn a wooden base for it to stand on at some point.


I turned a base for the turntable from an old lump of rimu.

It's a raggedy, split bit of wood, and not a great piece of wood turning, but it will do the job.

I've also put the gouge number and profile on the top of the wooden mushroom, so that I can distinguish between them at a glance. It's not difficult to tell them apart by the blade when they're of a decent size, but the teensier tinier gouges all look quite similar to my tired old eyes.


I made another one.

It's fundamentally the same as the first, just different in detail (and colour).

I included some countersunk holes around the bottom this time, so that it could be screwed to its wooden base instead of being glued.

Wednesday, July 19, 2023

Etching Press Modifications

A few years ago, after a small windfall, I bought myself this little intaglio press. It's sold by an Italian company called RGM, and it's fundamentally identical to the Fome portable press available from Jackson's. So similar in fact that I strongly suspect that they're all just pumped out of a factory somewhere in China and re-badged by the end sellers. It's a decent, fairly well-engineered, entry-level press that doesn't take up a lot of room, but it's not without its issues.

The hand-crank supplied with the press is just stamped from a sheet of mild steel, and it's not nearly strong enough. Mine started to bend when the press was under even moderate pressure. I replaced that with a cast iron pulley wheel taken from an old pump, and that works much better, although its spokes can interfere a bit with the pressure adjustment screw on that side.

The other major issue is the bed, which was just a piece of 270mm wide 3mm stainless steel. It was adequate, but the felts and paper and everything tended to slide on its surface when they came up against the roller. I replaced that with a piece of 12mm plywood, a bit longer than the original bed. The knurled lower roller grips the wood very positively, and the felts stay in place on top. There's a possibility that it may end up being warped by the pressure of the rollers, but if that happens it's a very cheap and easy thing to replace.

The third issue, and it's one that I don't think I can do anything about, is the diameter of the rollers. They're only 34mm in diameter, and ideally I'd prefer them to be at least double that. The small diameter means that there's quite a steep angle of attack when the roller meets the plate, which is not ideal. However, they do work, and the press will produce pretty good prints, up to about A4 in size.

Sunday, July 16, 2023

Print Drying Rack


I got sick of having fresh prints lying around all over the place, so I whipped up a drying rack for myself at long last.

It's just some lengths of 3mm MDF glued into angled slots in a couple of battens, and the battens glued to a bit of 9mm MDF. I put a couple of hooks on it to hang it, as shown here, or else I can use it down flat, with the prints resting on edge. The hanging version is more convenient, as it keeps the drying prints up and out of the way.

This rack will cater to up to sixteen prints, which should be plenty. I seldom do more than eight or ten at a time. It handles A4-ish paper fine, and should be able to support larger sheets as well, though that would depend on the weight of the paper. Anything more than about A3 would probably tend to droop at the ends, I would think.

Friday, July 14, 2023

Land of the Blind — Colour Test


I've completed my first run of colour tests for this print. It's six blocks (or seven if you count the one that was printed in two colours). The key block is EssDee Soft lino, all the others are 3mm MDF.

I don't know what this paper is; it's a scrap I fished out of a pile of scraps. It feels like about 240gsm or thereabouts, and I think it might be a hot-press  watercolour paper.

There's a tiny bit of cutting left to do, and then I think it's about done and ready for a proper print run.

Tuesday, July 11, 2023

Land Of The Blind


Land of the Blind

"In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king"

Linocut, 105 x 150 mm

I have not yet decided whether or not to add a second or third colour block to this. I probably will, eventually.

Later on...

I bought myself a little Esselte lino cutter and a couple of blades, because I wanted a narrow U-gouge that I didn't have amongst all my other cutter profiles. It was cheap. Something I didn't anticipate is that the blades for these are sharpened with an inside bevel, unlike my woodcut gouges. That makes them quite a bit harder to sharpen, and also they tend to dive into the carving block rather than rising out of it — something to watch out for.

Next Day...

Starting to play with colour blocks now.

The registration isn't great, but that's not hugely important for this purpose.

Next Next Day...

I decided that I want the body of the king to be a different colour than his crown. But rather than cut a whole new block, and cut out the body area on the crown block, I just cut out the body with a jeweller's saw to make a sort of jigsaw arrangement.

This way I can ink up the two areas separately and then reassemble them and print them simultaneously, or else I can glue the body bit to a piece of paper the same size as the other blocks so that it will fit into the registration jig and be printed separately.

The jeweller's saw gives me a kerf of about half a millimetre, which would be enough to show up in a print as a perceptible white line, but it will be underneath the key block so it shouldn't be too obvious.

I transferred the image of the key block to the colour blocks by means of the offset transfer method, which is quick, easy, and effective. However, the black ink I used for the transfer is reactivated by the coloured inks on top of it, and a shadow image of the key line is printed along with the colour.

I expect that if I waited long enough the ink would cure enough to not be reactivated, but that would be a faff. Alternate strategies might be to do the transfer using a very light, transparent mix of ink, just visible enough to act as a cutting guide, or else to do it using an oil-based ink that would not be affected by the water-based inks going on over the top.

In truth, the shadow printing shouldn't affect the final print to any great degree, since the key block will be printed over the top of it. But I would quite like not to have it happen at all.

Sunday, July 9, 2023

Brayer Rack


I have half a dozen Speedball 3-inch brayers, in varying stages of abuse and degradation, and up until now they've just been knocking around wherever they might come to rest. I like the consistency of the Speedball brayers, though in truth the little 3-inch ones are really too small for most work, and the diameter of the roller will only give you a roll-out of about 90-95 mm.

It's not good for them to be left with anything pressing against the rubber of the roller; you can end up with dents and flat spots that may never come out again.

So today I've cobbled together a stand for them out of bits and pieces of plywood. It'll do the job, and eventually I'll probably get around to making a box to put it in.

Friday, July 7, 2023

Pfeill #11 Try-out


This is 75x105mm (in fact it's the back of this one:)

It's been cut entirely with the Pfeill #11 sweep/veiner I showed in my last post.

As you can see, there's almost no variation in line weight, as you would get when using a vee-gouge. It's kind of the block-printing version of a technical pen.

As an aside, clearing out the pure white areas with a #11 is a real pain. It's not something I would have done if I hadn't vowed to use no other tools on this piece.

Pfeill Modification


This is a Pfeill lino or woodcut gouge, made in Switzerland. They are excellent chisels, good steel, good ergonomics, and well made. There are cheaper ones available for sure, but with this sort of tool you tend to get what you pay for.

This specific one is a #11 sweep or veiner; it's a tiny U-gouge that creates a very regular fine line. It's not impossible to modulate the line, but there's not much scope for variation in the line it creates.

It's held with the mushroom-shaped handle against the heel of the palm, with the fingers wrapped around it and the index finger right out near the tip for accuracy of steering.

The flat on the bottom, as well as keeping the tool from rolling around all over your workbench, provides a place for the last two fingers to rest. It's a comfortable grip, developed over centuries, and it's my favourite style of grip for block cutting.

My only issue with it is that the hard edge of the mushroom can start to dig into my little finger if I'm using the tool for long stretches.

Fortunately, the fix is very easy indeed.

I just knock off the corner that my finger rests on by scraping and sanding it with very fine sandpaper. Not a lot of material needs to be removed, just enough to get rid of the hard corner on that side.

The tool handles are made of pear wood I think, and they work very easily.

Wednesday, July 5, 2023

EssDee Soft "Lino" Test


EssDee SoftCut

First test of the EssDee SoftCut lino-like carving block stuff. The image is small, only 105x75mm, printed on 90gsm copy paper with Five Star water-based sepia ink.

It's very easy to cut, that's for sure. You do have to make sure your tools are very sharp (as always) as its rubbery texture is a bit resistant to any hint of bluntness, but then that's true of any carving medium.

The softness of the block does create an issue in printing: you can see, in the detail image, that there's a sort of halo line around the edges of the clouds and the tree where they are unsupported. That's due to the block being squished under the pressure of the press. It's not a huge problem though, and you'd probably never notice it on the print unless you put it under magnification — and why anyone would want to put a linocut under magnification I don't know.

Note: Five Star ink is not the best, but it is about the cheapest I've found in NZ.

The material has a slightly textured side and a very smooth side. Neither side responds at all to the solvent transfer method of transferring an image to the block.

You can draw directly on the block with a pencil or Sharpie, but in the case of the Sharpie you must clean off the block before inking up or else the Sharpie ink will also be printed.

Next Day

I've learned some more about handling this block material by cutting this little 75x105mm doodle.

I can make the cutting more obvious by scribbling over the block with a Sharpie before I start drawing, and then wash it (incompletely) with meths or isopropyl. This creates a stain on the surface of the block, so that the fresh cuts stand out a lot more.

Note: the before drawing is important, as otherwise you'd be likely to wash off your drawing at the same time.

Another thing, an annoyance, is that the action of the cutter through the rubbery material creates a static cling, and the swarf tends to gather in the hollow of the cutter and obscure my view of just where the edge is. It won't just come out by tapping, as the bits are all electrostatically attracted to both the cutter and each other, so I keep a brush handy to brush them out.

Yet another thing is that, unlike MDF, this rubber block is absolutely unabsorbent. That means that with repeated inkings, ink will tend to gather in the edges of cuts and will fill in very small hollows. It's easy enough to mitigate though, once you know it's an issue: a blind pressing or two on some very absorbent tissue (toilet paper is ideal) will help, and if worst comes to worst the block can be washed out before proceeding.

Tuesday, July 4, 2023

Ouroboros Centipede


Ouroboros Centipede

This is a state proof of a little woodcut, only 60x120 mm, cut into a fragment of MDF.

I was originally planning to cut away the background, but now, having seen it sitting in its black block, I'm not so sure about that.