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Woodblock Printing Technique

An important dimension of my work is its size. Unable to follow traditional woodblocking procedure for work approaching 36" wide I have had to develop a technique which overcomes the problems of size and weight of materials, paper sagging over a wide print area, and mounting of the final print.

Woodblock

I use 5/8" plywood for the block itself, cutting with hand routers of various sizes. Small areas are removed by chiseling, and broad areas are chiseled and then peeled away, a layer at a time, from the laminated strata of wood.

Printing

I ink the wood blocks with a brayer, using woodblocking inks and adapted oil paints, and then lay strips of 36 inch wide nylon-orlon across the block, overlapping them at the join. These strips are stapled at the base for stability and registration during printing. The ink is then transferred to the strips by burnishing with a rod and each strip is then peeled back. The block is then re-inked or changed, depending of the number of colors, and the printing process repeated.

Lamination to Canvas

Uniform tensions of the materials, both to avoid air bubbles while drying and to achieve permanence of bond and of the work, is accomplished by soaking the stretched canvas before laminating the printed strips, and by the use of wheat paste, rabbit glue, glycerine (to keep the work from drying completely), and formaldehyde to neutralize mildew. Primer is white, oil-based paint. Retouching with the original inks is then done.