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woodcuts-msg - 7/5/08


Woodcuts. Printing with carved wood plates.


NOTE: See also the files: woodcuts-lnks, early-books-msg, fabric-paint-msg, paper-msg, inks-msg, Blk-Walnt-Ink-art, wood-msg, merch-woods-msg.





This file is a collection of various messages having a common theme that I have collected from my reading of the various computer networks. Some messages date back to 1989, some may be as recent as yesterday.


This file is part of a collection of files called Stefan's Florilegium. These files are available on the Internet at: http://www.florilegium.org


I have done a limited amount of editing. Messages having to do with separate topics were sometimes split into different files and sometimes extraneous information was removed. For instance, the message IDs were removed to save space and remove clutter.


The comments made in these messages are not necessarily my viewpoints. I make no claims as to the accuracy of the information given by the individual authors.


Please respect the time and efforts of those who have written these messages. The copyright status of these messages is unclear at this time. If information is published from these messages, please give credit to the originator(s).


Thank you,

    Mark S. Harris                  AKA:  THLord Stefan li Rous

                                          Stefan at florilegium.org



From: Jan.Wagner at f56.n105.z1.fidonet.org (Jan Wagner)

Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

Subject: Re: Sources for Medieval woodcuts

Date: Sun, 25 Sep 1994 14:11:00 -0800


You might want to take a look at "the Dance of Death" by Holbein. I

can't remember if it was Holbein or Holbein the Younger who did this

peticular work in woodcuts. Also, Alberecht Durer's "medium" was

primarily woodcuts. He lived during the 15th century. Quite a lot of

scientific journals(especially from Germany) display woodcuts. I think

I remember seeing some in a traveling exposition from the 11th century,

maybe earlier???? Get thee to thy local library and happy hunting!





The technique of making a print from a block of wood sawn along the grain

(the term is also applied to the print so made). It is the oldest technique

for making prints and its principles are very simple. The design is drawn

on a smooth block of wood (almost any wood of medium softness can be used)

and the parts that are to be white in the print are cut away with knives

and gouges, leaving the design standing up in relief. This is then inked

and pressed against against a sheet of paper.


The origins of woodcut are obscure (the principle was employed in fabric

printing in the Middle East at least as early as the 5th century AD), but

woodcut as we know it appeared in Europe in the early 15th century; the

earliest dated print is perhaps the St Christopher (1423) by an unknown

artist in the John Rylands Library, Manchester. It was much used as an

illustrative technique in the early days of printed books, but in the 16th

century it lost ground to line engraving, which could produce much subtler



In the late 19th and early 20th century, however, there was a major revival

of interest in the woodcut as a medium of original artistic expression,

artists such as , and the German Expressionists realizing the potential of

the rugged boldness that is characteristic of the technique. The coloured

woodcut, using different blocks for each colour, was particularly popular

in Japan.


[BoW94] 17 Apr 1995, Nicolas Pioch -



Date: Sun, 08 Nov 1998 00:49:39 -0800

From: Edwin Hewitt <brogoose at pe.net>

To: sca-arts at raven.cc.ukans.edu

Subject: Re: looking for info on woodcuts


Stefan li Rous wrote:

> I only have one brief message in my Florilegium files. Has anyone done any


> Do you have any book recommendations? Did you print on paper? What kind of

> paper and ink did you use?


I've done wood-block prints, but it's been literally decades ago.I would

recommend starting out with linoleum block printing because

linoleum is easier to engrave because unlike wood it has no grain.

With a sharp enough gouge, honed and stropped, the grain isn't

really a problem, but linoleum gives you one less thing to worry

about in the meantime.


I used printers' ink because it was thick and rolled easily.  I don't

recall seeing multiple colored prints in period repros, but I've done

it and it's certainly possible.  Use the same original and trace the

design using carbon paper onto a different block for each color.

The blocks should be the same size so it is easy to register the image.

I used cheap 80 lb. bond if I recall.  If I had it to do again, I'd

probably go for a nice, heavy deArches watercolor paper like

the calligraphers use.


A technique which imitates block printing or engraving without the mess

is scratchboard - but I know of no period reference to that technique.

Scratchboard is basically a white board with a prepared surface

which will accept ink.  You then scratch back through the ink.

Very quick and simple, but you need to find a source for the board.

I believe Aaron Bros and Michaels had it out here, but I haven't

looked for a while.


Edwin, Caid



Date: Sun, 08 Nov 1998 23:57:58 +0000

From: "William T. Fleming" <gorp at erols.com>

To: sca-arts at raven.cc.ukans.edu

Subject: Re: looking for info on woodcuts


My Good Lord Stefan li Rous,


I have made some woodcuts and am working on more but alas I have not

been able to document any of my methods within period. When I made my

first set of wood cut illustrations I used pine planks. The detail was

not high and the ink had a tendancy to absorb into the wood.  I played

around with oak and dogwood but the results were not much better.

Finaly I followed a suggestion from a master woodworker and began to use

endcuts of wood.  I cut my image, apply laquer to seal the woodcut, and

then trim away any laquer buildup with a thin sharp blade.


Good luck and please let me know what you come up with,


Your servant,


Lord Ruaidhri an Cu




Date: Mon, 9 Nov 1998 15:44:09 -0500

From: "Gray, Heather" <Heather at Quodata.Com>

To: "'sca-arts at raven.cc.ukans.edu'" <sca-arts at raven.cc.ukans.edu>

Subject: FW: looking for info on woodcuts


Greetings to the list!


Good my Lord Ruaidhri an Cu,


I haven't been studying this recently, but I hope I have some

information here that may be of use to you.  A book recommended to me at

one point was one by Hind, published by Dover books, called "An

Introduction to a History of Woodcut".  I don't think I've seen it yet,

although I do have a book from Dover that has lots of woodcut prints in

it, in which case this won't help you with your printing difficulties.


I have a lovely book at home that I can send you the information on,

perhaps tonight or tomorrow.  It is a rather thorough history of wood

block printing and also engraving.  On types of wood, the book

specifically mentions Pear wood.  I believe pine may have been

mentioned, but I don't remember at the moment. I can try to find out

more later, but the book is not set up as a technical manual and I

haven't had time to read the whole thing yet.    On pine, perhaps a

printing ink (letterpress or lithographic) might work better, but I

haven't tried that.  Of course, what you use all depends on how period

you wish to be (I mean, I'd like to use the proper wood, but I'm not

particularly interested in making my own ink -- to each their own).  You

might try bass wood if pear wood is unavailable to you; it has a

straight, smooth grain, and you can get it at a number of art supply

places.   As far as I have been able to find out, endgrain is post

period -- 18th century.  The old way can last for quite a few printings,

so I understand, but not nearly as many as endgrain, plus you need to be

good about storing it flat so that the block doesn't do nasty things

like warp.  But unless you're planning on making hundreds of prints,

endgrain probably isn't necessary.  Another claim of endgrain is more

precision in the quality of the line, which is true over time, but some

of Albrecht Durer's prints were on wood and the detail is phenomenal.  I

don't know how many prints were made though, or if they made more than

one master from his drawings.


Elwynne Rowenna of Wentworth




Date: Mon, 9 Nov 1998 19:31:04 -0500

From: Margritte <margritt at mindspring.com>

To: sca-arts at raven.cc.ukans.edu

Subject: Re: looking for info on woodcuts


When I was researching late-period woodcuts, I found the following book

absolutely invaluable. I doubt if it's in print. I got mine through

interlibrary loan.


_An Introduction to a History of Woodcut with a Detailed Survey of Work

Done in the Fifteenth Century_, by Arthur M. Hind , Keeper of Prints and

Drawings in the British Museum; in two volumes: Volume I The Primitives,

Single Cuts and Block Books. Published by Constable and Company, Ltd.,

London, 1935.


The most popular

wood for these blocks was box wood. It has very little grain to interrupt

the flow of the carving. However, box grows _very_ slowly, and is therefore

very expensive and hard-to-get. Fruitwoods such as pear are a good






Date: Mon, 09 Nov 1998 20:14:20 -0800

From: Edwin Hewitt <brogoose at pe.net>

To: sca-arts at raven.cc.ukans.edu

Subject: Re: looking for info on woodcuts


Stefan li Rous wrote:

> Where would I get this (printers' Ink)? Office supply store? Art supply

> store?


I think I used to get it at Standard Brands, but I don't believe they are

inbusiness - at least not out here.  An art store which sells to any printers

and lithographers would have it.  It is quite thick and rolls on with a roller.

One of the other posts mentioned a problem with the wood soaking up

ink.  This isn't much of a problem with printers' ink. I'm not sure how

they would have thickened ink in period.  Perhaps the addition of gum

arabic?  Any suggestions from the calligraphers?


> Do you have any suggestions for books that have lots of period woodcuts

> in them? I'd like to get a better idea for the period techniques or at

> least the end result.


First, a book on making wood blocks (skip down for a book of prints).I only

have one book dedicated to wood block printing but it is fairly

juvenile.  It is "Wood Block Cutting and Printing" by Manly Banister,

Sterling Publishing Co., NY, and Oak Tree Press Co., Ltd., London,



This book says that just about any wood with a fine grain free of knots

and pitch pockets are suitable for block printing.  He says there are

commercially prepared blocks of fruitwoods such as cherry and pear,

but he also suggests the use of pine, basswood, poplar, aromatic red

cedar, north hard maple and others.


Tools it recommends are a skew knife with a double beveled edge,

several v-gouges, and a bent square-ended chisel (to carve away

larger areas).  This would be a basic set and you can go from there.


A lot of this is available from Harbor Freight for very little money

if you have one near you.  Harbor Freight isn't known for quality,

but they can get you started.  I know from experience that you

must keep your chisels sharp.  I take a strip of leather and rouge

the flesh side.  I then strop the chisels and gouges as I work.

There's nothing more dangerous to your work and you than a

dull tool!  A dull tool will cause you to push harder and increase

the likelihood of accidents.


I have a lot of books which include wood block prints.  My

wife has several herbalist manuals with such illustrations.  The

only book I have which has exclusively wood block prints is

"A Pictoral Archive of Quaint Woodcuts in the Chap Book

Style" by Joseph Crawhall, Dover, NY, 1974 (originally

printed in the 1890's). These are not period but they are

of a period flavor.  He patterned his work on the "archaizing,

thick-lined woodcut style" which illustrated the broadsheets

and chapbooks (for children and the semi-literate) in the

17th and 18th centuries.


Edwin, Dreiburgen/Caid



Date: Tue, 10 Nov 1998 11:55:56 -0800

From: Mary Miller Haselbauer <slaine at stlnet.com>

To: sca-arts at raven.cc.ukans.edu

Subject: woodcuts


Woodcuts are one of those projects that I've been wandering toward

for some time.  The books I've collected are


Albrecht Durer part of the Great Masters series published by Park Lane

1994. this book appears to have no author or editor


Early Low-German Bibles by Kenneth A. Strand 1967 Wm B Eerdmans Pub.


Men, Women and God:  German Renaissance Prints from the St. Louis

Collections ed Barbara Butts et al, 1997


The Printed Word of Pieter Bruegel the Elder by Barbara Butts and

Joseph Leo Loerner, 1995


The last two books are from the St. Louis Art Museum and are catelogs of

shows I've seen.  They both have some technical information about

print making.  All four books have many examples of period wookcuts.


I got block printing ink from the local art supply store. They also

had a set of blades made by Speedball specifically for cutting blocks.

I got both for less than $10. (That's really good for Art Mart.)

I lucked out and found brayers (rollers) at a garage sale.





Date: Tue, 10 Nov 1998 16:55:01 -0500

From: rmhowe <magnusm at ncsu.edu>

To: sca-arts at raven.cc.ukans.edu

Subject: Engraving and Carving Wood and Other Materials (Woodcuts)


Stefan li Rous wrote:

> I only have one brief message in my Florilegium files.

> Has anyone done any woodcuts?

> Do you have any book recommendations?


An Introduction to a History of Woodcut, Vol I & II, by Arthur M. Hind

ISBNs 0-486-20952-0 & 0-486-2953-9 Dover, 1963 with a detailed survey

of the work done in the 15th Century by the late keeper of prints and

drawings in the British Museum.


Dover also has out a current work on Illustrations of Medieval Life

(approximate title, someone has mine borrowed) that is all woodcuts.


Wood Block Print Primer by Tomikichiro Tokuriki, Japan Publications

Trading Co., Tokyo, San Franciso, New York. L.of Congress 79-115844,

1970, 61p., Illustrations covering the Japanese techniques, including

multiple block printing techniques.


Moku Hanga, How to Make Japanese Wood Block Prints by Keiko Hiratsuka

Moore, Acropolis Books Ltd., Washington, D.C. 20009, 1973. ISBN

87491-358-6, L. of Congress 73-16597, 143 p. with biliography and

list of suppliers.


Hiroshige's Wood Block Prints, by Edward F. Strange, Dover ISBN

0486-24412-1, 1983, 202 pages.


Block Prints, How to Make Them, by William S. Rice, Bruce Publishing

Co., Milwaukee, 1941. 70 pages, primarily concerned with single block

printing but giving a history. Recommends cherry, boxwood, pear, and

other smooth grained woods. Also recommends red gum-wood.

States the art began in Egypt, and then in China several centuries

before the Christian era, then spread to Japan and the West. States

the process was introduced to Europe about 1423. Names Durer and

Holbein as masters of the art.


Wood Engraving and Woodcuts, by Clare Leighton, How to Do It Series

No. 2, The Studio Publications, London and New York. 1932, -44, -48.

96 pages, extremely broad and detailed range of very fine illustrations,

some looking like metal engravings. This artist uses metal engraving

burins in the book instead of chisels, but illustrates the work of

many other artists.


Burins are obtainable from jewelry supply houses listed in Lapidary

Journal. I've used them for many years in metals, horn, ivory, plastics,

wood. Much superiour to many types of chisels in terms of control.

I recommend sharpening with diamond hones from EZE Lap. I recommend

holding the burin blade across the corner of some solid object above

the table and sharpening by moving the hone vertically against the

face of the burin blade - unless you have an expensive burin sharpening

device that holds it for you to move at a precise angle against a stone.


Never done much wood engraving for printing but did a _lot_ of linoleum

blocks in my teens - animals, club seals, lettering etc. Having used

both chisels and burins (and having similar sets of both) I generally

prefer a sharp burin where I don't have to worry too much about grain

tearing out. I don't do blocks anymore but do various pieces of

jewelry out of solid materials and plastic models for casting patterns.

(I'm not looking for any work either, sorry.) I often scrape to

desired smoothness with honed dental tools, many are like small chisels,

and finally sand to about 400 - 600 grit.


I recommend making multiple copies of your pattern in various sizes.

The multiple copies aid in two things - one being that you can use

different sizes to adjust to different purposes, or improve the lines

on before you cut; two being that the other can be used as a study model

as you work. I find them useful in fitting into borders of various sizes,

or making up patterns for various items like dress accessories. Mix and

match. Modify into new items. Remember your print will come out backwards.

This means doing your letters backwards too. Many copy centers can do

reversed copies for you.


If you get into Japanese multiple block style printing you will need

multiple copies the same size to register and cut a different block

exactly to match the others for each color you will be using. Not an

easy task by any means. Try it, you'll see.


Taking the one you like rubber cement it to your material. Then take

an extremely sharp knife and cut through your pattern leaving the

lines in your material (works on most metals too). Remove the paper

and rub off the cement. With non porous materials (not wood) I generally

use magic marker in the lines and quickly wipe away the excess to

highlite the lines to carve. Then I take a square bottomed engraving

tool usually about 1/8 - 3/16" wide and use the corner to Vee outline

my subject. Once this is done I proceed to detail with any necessary

tools at my disposal. Finally I scrape to smoothness and sand where

necessary. Scraping at diagonal angles aids in smoothing. I do most of

my preliminary carving with the square tool. The engraving burins come

in many patterns from diamonds, rounds, chisels, sharp edged, and even

different widths with many teeth to cut lines.


If you are cutting into wood - especially if you are not using end grain

then you will need to provide some angled relief to support the edges

that you wish to print with. In this case you will need to be very

careful how deeply you cut through your pattern as it could damage

the grain.


I used ordinary block printing inks, inking brayers, and rag paper.

Only had a simple press but it was enough to make and sell cards with.


Magnus Malleus, OL, Windmasters' Hill, Atlantia; Great Dark Horde.



Subject: RE: looking for info on woodcuts - long!!

Date: Tue, 10 Nov 1998 09:16:23 -0500

From: "Gray, Heather" <Heather at Quodata.Com>

To: "'stefan at texas.net'" <stefan at texas.net>


Good morning Stefan,


The book I have is: The Renaissance Print 1470 - 1550, by David Landau

and Peter Parshall.  The ISBN is 0-300-05739-3, printed by Yale

University Press.  Although the focus is 1470 - 1550, there is

information on printing from earlier, as part of the explanation of how

printing came to be where it is by 1470.  Bits of that information are

scattered throughout the book (under general history, history of

formation of guilds, etc.)   I was incorrect on one thing -- it's

pearwood, not pear wood.  This may make a difference in finding it (for

search purposes).  The book covers so many aspects of printing, from

when and where things were printed, to the subject matter printed, the

spread of printing knowledge and trade, development of guild structures

(printers got put in different types of guilds in different places), how

and why printing developed the way it did, techniques, materials, etc.

I bought my copy at the store/textbook annex at Stanford in California

(I was visiting one of my brothers who works there), but I expect it

could be found/ordered other ways. My book cost $35.00, which I thought

was very reasonable for the quality of information (and also a rather

large book), plus it has a wonderful bibliography.


Here is what I've found on wood block materials in the book:

        "Firm documentary evidence detailing the exact sorts of woods used

for blocks is scarce. The earliest reference known to us occurs in Tuscany

in Cennino Cennini's _Trattato della pittura_ or ca. 1390, which

recomends pearwood or nut wood blocks for textile printing. Especially

later on in the sixteenth century one detects a regular preference for

pear and boxwood, the latter brought into Europe from Asia Minor and the

Black Sea.  In 1558 the sculptor Alessandro Vittoria purchased, along

with some drawings, a pearwood block for a chiaroscuro print bearing a

design by Parmigianino. Vasari speaks of both pear and boxwood in his

rather poorly informed discussion of woodcut-making. Jost Amman's

_Panoplia_, or _Book of Trades_, prints a verse by Hans Sachs describing

the procedures of a professional woodcut designer, a draftman or

Reisser.  Sachs speaks of him drawing his designs on a limewood plank."


Originally some of Albrecht Altdorfer's woodcuts were once first thought

to be out of boxwood, then as a species of hard European maple. "Other

woods mentioned by modern commentators on early block cutting include

various sorts of nut and fruit wood including beech, cherry, and apple.

Yet the identification of ancient woods is a highly specialized

undertaking, and none of these initial speculations was substantiated

by sound scientific investiation."  They finally did a lab analysis on

an Altdorfer collection in Berlin and the best they could come up with

was that the blocks were "among the fruit woods in the family Rosaceae

including the common pear (Pyrus communis L.), apple (Malus sp.), and

medlar (Mespilus germanica L.)" -- and they were able to tell that all

the Altdorfer blocks were of exactly the same type of wood, whatever it



The most important thing is that the grain must be regular, free of

knots and splits, and finished to a very smooth, flat surface.

"Imprefections in the plank were frequently overcome by cutting them out

and inserting plugs. (Over time these plugs often contract, making the

slight gap inthe design visible in late impresions.) It was typical for

two or more planks to be joined together to make larger blocks, always

with the graines running parallel to one another. The larger of Durer's

survising woodblocks usually have metal cletes fastening the joined

planks together."  They don't know for sure if the cletes were added

before or after the carving (may have been added later to help the

blocks last longer).  Many Renaissance woodblocks show that the surface

was covered with "a thin ground of white paint, the better to recive the

draftsman's design."  Carboning, incising and pouncing, or pasting a

design on paper onto the block may have also been used (the book has a

descrip. of the last one).


According to this book, endgrain may have been used in the latter part

of the 16th century, but the proper term for working endgrain is wood

engraving, not woodcut.    It's supposed to be easier because you don't

have to deal with the grain when cutting, and can do some really fine

detail.  Boxwood, one of the densest woods used, "approaches this

property even on the plank surface".  However, the book says that if it

was used, it was probably mostly for things like "decorative initials or

border panels used repeatedly by book publishers and conseqently subject

to very heavy wear."  The disadvantage of endgrain is that the pieces

cut are generally smaller than plank cut, and so for a large piece would

have to be clamped together.  There isn't really evidence for endgrain

being used, because different tools are needed for working endgrain

(engraving tools versus carving knives).


On ink: probably usually applied with a dabber (soft leather ball

stuffed with rags).  You dip it in the ink and then apply it to the

print.  Important to make sure there are no impurities in the ink that

will clog the design.  Also the viscosity is important. Must not be too

sticky, or it will clog the design and you'll lose detail. There are

some products on the market for cutting viscosity.  I guess you have to

experiment and find out what works.  Having read the above information

on wood, I suspect that pine may be too open a grain?  But while boxwood

is not particularly attainable (I did see one source on the Net a while

back, at a lumber web site), cherry and maple should be. Basswood you

can get at art stores.  I've never tried looking for pearwood -- maybe I

will this winter.


What is your opinion on starting with linoleum blocks first? I've

>had one person suggest it for beginning and another saying don't

>bother because it carves too differently.


On linoleum.  Well, it is different from wood, but I suppose if that's

what you can get, at least you can learn something about using the tools

and the basics of printing.  But since linoleum generally comes in

thinner pieces, it won't feel the same when you're printing it (learning

the amount of pressure to apply).  While it may not be the best quality

for printing, you're probably better off with a good quality pine.  It

isn't too expensive for learning on, you can get a general feeling for

working with wood, and, if you don't actually print with it or can clean

it really well, you can always throw the scraps on the fire to keep you

warm :)


There's also info on the paper, tools, presses, etc., but I haven't had

time to read all that yet.





Date: Wed, 11 Nov 1998 18:09:30 EST

From: froggestow at juno.com (Roberta R Comstock)

To: sca-arts at raven.cc.ukans.edu

Subject: Re: looking for info on woodcuts


On Wed, 11 Nov 1998 11:57:12 -0500 Margritte <margritt at mindspring.com>


>>Pearwood is one of the woods that was used -- is it fairly easy to





>Well, you probably aren't going to find it at Lowe's or Home Depot,

>but it isn't impossible to find. I don't know where you live. Are there

>any specialty wood or hardware stores around? If not, >woodworking

magazines often have listings for mail order sources, >and many of these

will offer what you need.




I haven't had time to do a web search, but I know Paxton's Beautiful Wood

has stores in other cities besides Kansas City, MO. Paxton's is a

woodworker's dream store (I think it's their equivalent of The Yarn Barn

in Lawrence, KS - a fiber artisan's Mecca)!  I go to Paxton's with my

brother the woodworker when he comes to visit me.  They have an amazing

array of woods, tool, books, finishes, and more woods.


There may be other wood specialty stores, but this is the one I am

familiar with.


When my son & daughter were little, their Grandpa went to a church pew

company in Omaha and bought a gunny sack full of their hardwood scraps

(mostly black walnut) which he made into a magnificent set of building

blocks by merely sanding them and  slightly rounding off the sharp edges

and corners.  You may be able to find a similar treasure trove in your

area by looking for makers of wood products or local saw mills.  I know

Missouri has a number of Walnut Bowl stores and Oak Furniture

manufacturers.  There's also a place near Stockton, MO that specialized

in walnut gunstocks.  Cabinet makers may also have scraps of desireable

woods, such as ash or birch, that would be good for woodcut block



Some butcher-block type cutting boards I have seen might be suitable for

woodcut blocks.  Check out your local thrift stores for great bargains on



In a pinch, see if your local orchards sell the old trees they take out

as firewood.  You could cut decent blocks for end grain carving from some

of the unsplit chunks.  Or watch for neighborhood tree removals, city

park clean-ups of storm damaged trees,  and other serendipitous






Date: Sat, 14 Nov 1998 22:53:12 -0500

From: rmhowe <magnusm at ncsu.edu>

To: sca-arts at raven.cc.ukans.edu

Subject: Woodblocks


A few thoughts here. Pardon the rambling.


Folks are talking about using endgrain and buying scraps to use.


Why don't you just buy a turning square?


A turning square is usually 2-4 inches square and long enough to

make a table leg out of on the lathe. If you have a friend with a

motorized miter saw, or even the supplier of the wood, they can cut

it into a number of pieces according to your preference. Squares are

available in many different woods. Cut to thickness you have your

endgrain in convenient sizes.


As to non exotic, easily found woods:

Poplar is an extremely finely grained wood. It takes the best painted

finish of any wood. It may not carve as easily as Pear but it sure

is more common. (I'm making an assumption here as to what pear may

carve like.) I can tell you pecan is very dense and warps easily.

Some maples are fairly adaptive, although I certainly wouldn't want

Curly Maple to carve in - Soft might not be too bad. Rock Hard maple

is very descriptive. Basswood or most conifers (pines, spruces, firs)

are too soft. You can stick your fingernails in them. Yellow pine

alternates hard and soft grain too much. Stick with (deciduous

(leafy)) hardwoods (a descriptive term, they come in many



I should stay entirely away from open grained wood like ash, or oaks.

Walnut can be either fairly tight grained or somewhat porous. It is

very hard and carves very crisply but it takes pressure and sharp

tools. They sell fillers to fill the pores in such woods for a very good

reason - they suck finish like sponges otherwise. But I don't think

filler is the answer to the problem. It comes like a paste you rub in.

On the other hand sealers aren't either. They are usually a cellulose

filled paint or spray base, soft and made to be sanded before finish

coats. They simply provide a smoother surface for the finishes to

bond to.


I liked the idea of finishing with something prior to inking. Shellac

is usually a good sealer in many woods, for example it prevents bleed

through of resins in coniferous woods, but is in turn easily affected

by alcohol - which disolves it. I should think that a plastic finish

such as a polyurethane might be a good choice - appropriately thinned

before use so that it can sink into the wood grain. At this point it

should be fairly impervious. To prevent warping, I should recommend

treating all sides of your block. If you only treat one side, then the

other will be subject to shrinking and swelling with the weather and

will not remain as flat as you may prefer it. It may take more than

one coat. Please consider this an opinion. My block printing experience

was with linoleum - at the time I did it. However, I have had very many

years serious experience working with various woods. At some point

you are going to have to clean the ink off with some sort of solvent.

Keep this in mind. Wood is composed of cells like a rather square

honeycomb. Unfinished it is going to absorb the solvent and probably

swell, especially if it is water based.


If you GLUE UP blocks into your endgrain piece then I suggest you use

one of the newer _waterproof_ glues like Titebond II. Water resistant

glues _aren't_. Titebond II, resourcinol, or the newest glues (water

activated, like Gorilla Glue) are water proof. Ordinary white or yellow

carpenter's glue is not. Resourcinol is going to take 24 hours to set.

It is also usually purple in color and gets quite hard. You don't want

to get any of the waterproof glues on your clothes, if not washed out

immediately they won't be once they set. Hide glue can harden enough

to damage the edge on your tools once it is set, so don't use it.


I've sealed some molds with resourcinol coats. Probably a bit thick for

woodblocks though. It comes as a powder and a resin and you mix it.

There are also plastic powder glues one can mix with water that become



One way to get things very flat if you don't have access to expensive

equipment is to take a sheet of sandpaper and carpet tape it down to

a flat surface like plate glass or a machined surface (sawtable, etc.)

and carefully move your workpiece back and forth across it keeping in

mind _where_ you are placing your hand pressure (It makes a big

difference). It is quite possible to sand closer than a few thousands

of an inch by hand. (I used to do half a thousandth's as a modelmaker).

Use a reliable surface or straightedge to check by and check often.

You could clip your sandpaper down to a _flat clipboard_ if you have

to and use it on a hard surface like a table. I've seen some folks

use clips at either end of a board to keep the paper from buckling.


Another method to obtain a flat surface is to take a flat and straight

piece of metal (aluminum extrusion) or heavy plastic and tape your

sand paper to it - leaving part of it bare. Then one supports that

bare end on a piece of material as thick as one wants the workpiece to

be and moves the rough end over the workpiece. (There is a slight

difference here to account for in the thickness of the paper and tape

- you can shim your support with tape under it - but it sets you up for

a parallel surface to attain.) Using this method is a bit harder but

more accurate for parallelism.





Subject: Exploding shields

Date: Fri, 20 Nov 1998 09:29:15 -0500 (EST)

From: David KUIJT <kuijt at umiacs.umd.edu>

CC: Merry Rose <atlantia at atlantia.sca.org>


> However, this would have no connection at all with the "exploding" shield

> design -- from memory, those designs have more in common with truck

> leaf-springs and car-door hinges than a glued mosaic of parts.  They

> weren't designed to be ablative (destroyed gradually), either; if hit

> correctly they were designed to shatter dramatically and completely.


> There are a number of books with diagrams of the exploding shields; I

> believe that the most easy-to-find illustrations are by Du"rer.


I was close, but not perfect -- the woodcuts are not Du:rer, as it turns

out, but his contemporary, Hans Burgkmair.


At least two different shields of this spring-loaded exploding type are

illustrated in _The_Triumph_of_Maximilian_I_, 1526, a long series of

woodcuts by Hans Burgkmair and Albrecht Altdorfer (and possibly others).


One such illustration is in "A History of British Wood Engraving" by

Albert Garrett (London: Midas Books, 1978) ISBN 0 859360776, page 57.


There are good pictures of the surviving trigger mechanism in "Arms and

Armour of the Medieval Knight" (don't have a citation with me), and in the

Osprey Elite series 17, "Knights at Tournament" Christopher Gravett, page

29.  The Osprey also has an illustration from The Triumph of Maximilian I

on page 49 showing another type of exploding shield, different from the

one shown by Garrett in "A History of British Wood Engraving".





From: SabineKdL at yahoo.com (Sabine)

Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

Subject: Re: ISO information about hand-tinted woodcuts

Date: 11 Jul 2003 12:23:51 -0700


Gretchen Beck <grm at andrew.cmu.edu> wrote

> I'm looking for information about hand tinting woodcuts in the 15th-16th C.

> I'm particularly looking for materials and colors, but technique

> information would be useful as well.  A google search turned up not much of

> anything.


> toodles, margaret


Bonjour Margaret!


It sounds like you're looking for woodcuts that have been colored

after printing -- is that correct? There was some printing with

colored blocks that took place during the time period you mentioned,

but as I understand it that wasn't as common a technique.


After a bit of searching, I think that what you may want is Arthur M.

Hind's _An Introduction to a History of Woodcut_. Unfortunately, I

only have the second volume handy, and it's the first one that's

described as discussing color.


I can point you to a few examples on-line...

Hand-colored woodcut ca. 1440:



Another, from 1489:

http://www.loc.gov/exhibits/world/human.html     (scroll about halfway



Early 16th-c hand-colored Dance of Death:



Hope this is at least moderately helpful!


-Sabine Kerbriant

Barony of Bhakail

East Kingdom



From: Mike Vincent <matchstc at hotmail.com>

Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

Subject: Re: ISO information about hand-tinted woodcuts

Date: Sun, 13 Jul 2003 10:59:25 -0500


I've done a bit of research on Woodcuts.


It would help a bit to get a little more info in what you're trying

to do? (cards etc) Offthe cuff, prints were hand "painted" as an extra

service. You could buy a b and w print for one price or for quite a

bit more a hand colored one.


paints were simple cheap gum arabic thin solutions. Stenciling was

real common.


mighel of Calontir


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