Today's postings

  1. [Baren 23662] carving (Charles Morgan)
  2. [Baren 23663] Re: ZInc blocks (David Bull)
  3. [Baren 23664] Re: New Baren Digest (HTML) V25 #2481 (Dec 16, 2003) (Sharri LaPierre)
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Message 1
From: Charles Morgan
Date: Tue, 16 Dec 2003 14:23:40 -0800
Subject: [Baren 23662] carving
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Hey Dave,

You will like this.

George Jarvis kindly sent me a scan of an illustration from "Encyclopedia
of Prints"( by Murobushi Tetsuro,
Tokyo Shoso 1985 isbn4-427-73144-1 CO571 Japanese), illustration on page
315. It shows the blade to the right of the fist, back of the hand visible,
as in flat side against the line. However, he did not send any accompanying

Once again, I could not find the book on World Cat nor on Abe Books. These
Japanese books are almost impossible to obtain here.

Anyway, this illustration and your illustration got me wondering if this
really marked some bizarre split between East and West ... just joking ...
Anyway, I began searching my general print making books and came up with
the following:

"Printmaking" by Gabor Peterdi, pages 270 and 271 ... does not explicitly
talk about the bevel, but shows two photos with the knife to the left of
the fist, front of hand visible.

"Complete Manual of Relief Printing" by Katie Clemson and Rosemary Simmons,
pages 78 and 79, shows both positions and advocates shifting from one to
the other to avoid having to rotate the block

"Printmaking Today" by Jules Heller, p 145 ... shows a photo of the knife
to the right of the fist ... text does not describe the hold, says you can
rotate the block, but also says you can avoid rotating the block by
rotating the fist through 90 degrees

"Wood-Block Printing by the Japanese Method" by F. Morley Fletcher, p. 29,
says the flat part of the knife should always be against the line to be cut
... then on page 32 he says "a shallow cut is made along one side of any
form in the design, with the knife held slanting so that the cut slants
away from the edge of the form. A second outer parallel cut is then made
with the knife held slanting in the opposite direction form the first, so
that the two cuts together make a V-shaped trench all along the line of the
form." He does not suggest rotating the block for these two cuts, but he
does not suggest not rotating it either.

So with our previous references we now have all the various recommendations
expressed !!!

My proposal is the following: On Monday and Tuesday, we all carve with the
blade to the right of the hand, and rotate the block when necessary to
carve the other side of the line. On Wednesday and Thursday, we all carve
with the blade to the left of the hand, and rotate the block when necessary
to carve the other side of the line. On Friday and Saturday, we do not
rotate the block at all, but rather use both carving positions as
necessary. On Sunday we should not carve at all but take a loooong rest. ;-)}}}

Cheers ........ Charles
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Message 2
From: David Bull
Date: Wed, 17 Dec 2003 09:07:43 +0900
Subject: [Baren 23663] Re: ZInc blocks
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John wrote:
> I just wanted to point out that someone (Dave?) actaully brought a zinc
> relief plate to the summit

Yes! I had completely forgotten about this! This is _exactly_ the kind
of plate that we are talking about. It wasn't mine, but belonged to Gary
Luedtke. It was part of a set of 'blocks' (a zinc keyblock, and a number
of thin plywood sheets for colour) that had been made for one of Gary's
designs by a Japanese contemporary printmaker living in America. I'm not
sure of his exact name, but it was something like Keiji Shinohara. Gary
commissioned him to produce an edition of prints for that particular
design some years back, and Shinohara used the techniques that he had
learned while in the Yoshida studio.

As for printing it, I didn't have a clue what to do with the keyblock. I
messed around unsuccessfully for a while, then we turned it over to
Barbara, who (I didn't see this part) rolled something on it and was
able to take a few impressions. Gary then brought these across the room
to me, and I had a go at printing the colours from the plywood. We
didn't have much time - we were just playing around really - but we did
end up with a rough proof copy of the design.

Jim Mundie pondered:
> I presume that if the zinc key were all one piece nailed or screwed
> onto a
> board that as one printed the edition, the keyblock itself would remain
> the same, but subsequent color blocks in wood would expand with the
> prolonged moisture, so that later impressions could wind up quite out of
> register.

Even in the 'pure' traditional technique - no metal blocks, everything
on cherrywood - this is a problem. Heavy, hard, and dense wood is
selected for the key block, because of course it holds fine lines well.
But for colour blocks, if very hard wood is used, the moisture does not
sink in to the proper degree, and the paper is also 'pinched' too much
between 'a baren and a hard place'. Softer cherry is used for colour

Even if the wood is _very well_ dried before carving - really given time
to become stable - this is no guarantee that things won't change over
time, and change they do. As the years go by, blocks dry further and
contract, all at different rates of course. In addition to this, the
colour blocks - being lighter and more ready to 'drink' than the
keyblock - expand and contract much more than it does. The net result of
the fact that we are working with such 'living' material is that during
the course of printing a typical edition of a couple of hundred prints
from a set of cherry blocks, adjustments _constantly_ have to be made to
the position of the kento. The printer keeps his 'kento-nomi' (kento
chisel) right at hand, and uses it frequently. The position of the
register marks is _not_ immutable, but very flexible.

So using a zinc block instead of a hard cherry block would not pose any
special registration problems at all to the printer; actually, it would
make registration easier. At least with the zinc, the printer knows that
all the prints in the edition are the same size. When working with
cherry, the early prints from the block are one size, but then as that
plank absorbs moisture from the printing, it expands little by little
and the prints at the end of the run are sometimes measurably larger.
This is the reason that traditional printers _never_ mix the order of
the sheets during the printing of any batch. Once they get scrambled,
you can _never_ figure out where the registration should be when doing
the colour blocks. It's also a major reason why you should _never_
interrupt a traditional printer when he is doing the printing from the

Story time? :-)

Back a zillion years ago, I dropped in on Keizaburo Matsuzaki one day. He
is one of the printers here who has been most open and friendly to me over
the years; I can't even start to add up the different things I have
learned from him. I usually call him first before visiting, to make sure
I won't be interrupting important work, but on this occasion I just
dropped in. Mistake. He was printing a keyblock.

Even back then I had learned something about how critical keyblock
printing is. Later on, during the colour printing, the registration can
endlessly seem to be wandering around as blocks expand/contract, or the
paper gets stretched, or your attention wanders ... whatever. But if -
if - you know that you printed the keyblock in _perfect registration_,
with the paper slotted 'just so' into the corner with just the same
pressure each and every time, and if you know that the moisture level
was 'just so' throughout the _entire_ batch of paper, and if you know
that the overall humidity in the room was 'just so' during the time that
each sheet was exposed for taking the impression ... and etc. etc.
etc. If you know these things, then you also know that _all_
registration problems encountered down the line are _not_ the fault of
the key impression, but must be something to do with the colour blocks.

But if you were not careful during the keyblock printing, then all is
lost. When the registration starts to wander halfway through, you
perhaps trim the kento back a bit, but then, eh? .. the next sheet is
the _other_ way off ... You are lost at sea, you haven't the slightest
idea which way to move the kento. You push it out, you pull it back, but
because each sheet is different from its neighbour, you are lost,
absolutely lost. Do you think I exaggerate? Not a bit.

Anyway, back to Matsuzaki-san. Of course he is a normal polite person,
who follows all the basic social conventions. When a guest arrives, the
brush and baren are put aside, he turns to face you, calls his wife to
make some tea (she was of course already headed for the kitchen as soon
as she saw you), and receives you properly. You may protest until you
are blue in the face "No please, don't interrupt the work! I won't
disturb you; I actually would just like to watch for a while ... Please,
please continue!" It doesn't work. His block sits there, quietly
expanding bit by bit from the moisture that has been splashed over it
during the work so far, and his paper sits there, quietly giving up
moisture bit by bit ... And perhaps clouds start to pass over the sun as
the weather continues to change slowly ...

So when you (finally!) leave and he turns back to the work, tries to rub
out the crustiness that has built up in the brush, and tries to
re-establish the rhythms of the printing, you can bet that there is one
thing he will _not_ fail to do. He will insert a tiny slip of paper into
the stack at the point where he was interrupted, so that over the course
of the next few days as he is printing colours, he will be able to
recognize the place where 'things are probably going to start to go
wrong'. He will thus have half a chance to make the adjustments
properly, and boy oh boy, adjustments there will be.

So anyway, more than you asked for, but no Jim, using a zinc block
doesn't pose any particular registration problems! :-)

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Message 3
From: Sharri LaPierre
Date: Tue, 16 Dec 2003 17:20:20 -0800
Subject: [Baren 23664] Re: New Baren Digest (HTML) V25 #2481 (Dec 16, 2003)
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My experience has been, and I have a bit of it, that if ones leaves a
zinc plate in the acid a mite too long the lines will undercut. It is
the nature of zinc and nitric to do so. Zinc bites under the line,
Copper with mordant will bite straight down, which is why most etchers
prefer copper. In order to bite the plate deep enough to ink with
pigment and paste I would think you would end up with undercut lines
unless you use copper.

Methinks Barbara and John C. are talking about two very different kinds
of zinc plates. The plates made for letter press and commercial
printing are quite different than the plates we make in our studios.
Someone did have a zinc plate at the summit and I can place the face,
but the name is off running about someplace other than my head. The
image was of a palm tree, I think.....................