Printing woodblocks in an etching press
(Entry by Ruth Leaf)
- An etching press (the roller must move up to encompass the block).
- Woodblocks for color (as many as needed for the print). The best wood would be a maximum of 3/8" high. To do color woodcuts on higher blocks you could use a register called a chase (a four-sided frame the same height as the block). Your paper would have to be taped to the chase, which wouldn't leave you much of a border.
- Strips of wood, 1 1/2" wide and as long as the press bed. Height must be slightly higher than the block you are printing)
- Several sheets of chipboard or cheap paper boards (slightly bigger than the paper you will use)
- Masking tape
- Registers - I use old mat board corners (two pasted together one on top of another), or any right-angle pieces of metal. Place two of these registers (or four if you're insecure) around the block to be printed. Tape them to the bed firmly (see illustration). The printing paper should be large enough to tape to the bed without compromising the print.
Before drawing the image on the block a very thin wash of india ink and water can be brushed on the block (lots of water with a little bit of ink). This allows you to see where you have cut. The image can then be traced with carbon paper or drawn directly on the block.
After the first block is cut, prepare for printing by turning the the roller down to touch the thin strips on either side of the bed - tight enough to keep the strips of wood in the press but not so tight as to make a mark on them. Ink your block and place it in the registers. Put the paper over the print. Place the chipboard over the paper, and roll the print through. If the impression is too light you can add another board and roll through again.
It's better to use more boards than to make the press too tight. The pressure should not be so tight that the block jumps when the roller moves off. Lower the roller or add boards and print until the the ink is properly distributed.
If your press has adjustment dials note the numbers after you are satisfied with the print, so that you don't have repeat the testing.
To transfer the image of the first block to the second block:
- Print the block, being sure the paper is securely taped down.
- Roll the paper back and remove the first block.
- Place the new block in the registers.
- Lay the paper back down and print, thus transfering the image to the new block.
- If you have a third block wait until you have cut the second block and repeat the procedure.
This page Copyright Ruth Leaf 1999