Lesson #31: Some 'bounce' in the woodblocks ...
(contributed by Dave Bull)
In order that the printing process can proceed as smoothly as possible, the woodblock must be placed in a firm stable manner on the bench. But as the reverse side of the block is frequently used for carrying a carved design, something must be placed on the bench to protect the wood.
It may seem easy to simply place a cloth pad on the bench and then put the wood on top of this, but this is unsatisfactory for a number of reasons. To stop the block from slipping around, the cloth may be dampened, but having the wood surface in contact with this moisture for hours at a time may result in the block warping, and will certainly result in the wood surface becoming a bit 'saturated', and difficult to print with later.
More imporant than the moisture problems however, is the fact that a block placed on such a cloth loses all its 'bounce'. It becomes 'hard' and 'heavy', and one's arm soon becomes tired printing on such an immobile piece of wood.
If however, the block is supported on the workbench not by a flat pad underneath, but by four small pads of cloth placed at the corners only, then it retains quite a bit of 'bounce'. You can actually feel the movement as the baren moves over the surface of the paper while printing, and the work is much less tiring, over the course of printing a large edition.
Of course, the small pads must be moistened so that the block will not slide around, but this small amount of moisture will not affect the block significantly.