Lesson #15: The sandpaper baren ...
(contributed by David Bull)
Experienced printmakers working in the Japanese method acquire quite a large collection of barens during their working life. It's not that they are simply acquisitive, but that a professional printer needs a wide variety of barens on hand to be able to select one suitable for whatever job he is doing at the moment. A list of available barens from a supplier usually includes 8-strand, 12-strand, 16-strand, etc., but there are some barens in common use that are never included on such price lists - each printer makes his own. One such common type is the 'sandpaper' baren.
Some printing jobs require a very 'weak' baren. Perhaps the carved area is extremely small, as when printing the lip colour on a portrait, or perhaps the colour impression desired is one with no 'body' in the tone. In both these cases a normal baren, even a delicate 4-strand type, can sometimes be too strong; the 'bumps' of the coil bash into the carved area, or perhaps leave lines in the colour. For such jobs, a baren with no coil inside works very well.
Cut a disc from thin plywood or stiff cardboard; about 15cm is a good size - somewhat wider than a typical baren. Sand the edges smooth. Cut a matching disc from a sheet of rough sandpaper, say a 60 grit, and tack it to the plywood with a light glue. Cover this combination with a bamboo sheath just as though it were a normal baren - with the sandpaper taking the place of the bamboo coil.
This baren can be used in many ways; lightly and delicately, as when printing those lips, or with full pressure on areas of wide colour, producing an interesting mottled effect.
That's it. For an investment of only a couple of dollars, you've got a new 'professional' tool in your arsenal! Who says barens are expensive!