Friday, March 21, 2008

Materials & Tools Needed:

Eraser or Eraser type vinyl material - I use Dollar Tree erasers, but they are hard to
find now. I also like the Speedball pink material and the PZKut Material as well as the
Mars Staedtler Grand Erasers (see suppliers listed on previous page)

Speedball Linocut handle with #1 V blade and #5 U blade
Exacto craft knife or Testors Hobby Knife (#11 blade)
Pure acetone (found in hardware stores)

Cotton balls
Good dry toner photocopies of various images to carve
#300 grit wet/dry sandpaper

Dye Ink Pad - I use black, but you may prefer a lighter color
Good light - a separate light right on your work surface is best
Magnifying glasses (if eyesight is bad like mine :-)
Thick book (used to raise work surface)
Scrap paper to do test printing on

Basic Carving Instructions

Step 1
Lay your carving material on top of the 300 grit sandpaper and keeping it flat, rub the carving material back and for to SLIGHTLY sand the surface. Maybe 4 or 5 strokes. This just roughens the surface a bit so the ink will adhere better later when printing.

Step 2
Choose an image to transfer and lay it face down on top of carving material. Dampen the back of photocopy with acetone and a cotton ball. Use good ventilation. While holding photocopy in place gently lift one corner to see if transfer has taken place. If not, lay the corner down and redampen. You may need to rub back of paper slightly with something smooth and firm, like the back of a teaspoon or a bone folder. Remove photocopy and discard.

Step 3
I usually begin carving by outlining the entire outer edge of the image with the #1 V gouge. I was taught that the easiest way to carve is to place your material on a small piece of paper, and place both on top of a thick book to elevate the work surface. The paper will allow you to rotate and pivot the material while holding your carving blade still. Blade in handle should be held in a position comfortable to you. I use the plastic Speedball handle that has a fatter part on the one end. I hold it with the fat part of the handle against my palm, my fingers holding around the knurled fitting, with my index finger pointing down the blade. Do what feels right to you. You need to hold the blade almost
flat to the surface, with just a slight angle. Move the blade around the outline of your image, carving a slight V groove. I prefer to carve around the outer edge two or three times, moving farther away from the outline of the image each pass.

Step 4
Practice a bit with different pressures on a scrap of carving material. Ink it up and print it on the scrap paper.You will find that you need very little pressure to imprint a line. Keep this in mind as you proceed to carving the portions of the image away leaving material only in the places you do want to print.

Step 5
As a rule, it's easier to carve out from an inside angle, placing your blade in carefully at the corner and carving away from the inner point. Return to the corner and place blade again in the point, this time carving away in the opposite direction.

Step 6
You may feel like you have to carve deeply in order to get it to print later, but this just isn't necessary at all. A good rule of thumb is to never carve so deeply that the top of the V blade is buried below the surface of the material. This was the hardest thing for me to learn when I started.

Step 7
If you have any really strait lines to carve you might like to do these with the exacto knife and a straight edge, like a ruler. When using this blade, be sure to hold your blade at an angle so that you enter the material on the outline, but as you plunge deeper into the material your blade should be angling AWAY from the outline. This will keep you from undercutting the image which will cause problems later in the printing if you are not careful. Strait lines can also be done with your #1 V blade.

Step 8
Once all your image is carved, you will need to switch to your #5 U blade. This is what I use to carve away the large background areas around the carving. Some carvers prefer to use the #1 blade to do this and leave "carving trails" that they intentionally print.

Step 9
Ink up your carving and imprint it on scrap paper. Clean up and refine your carving by using the stamped image as a guide for what you still want to remove or smooth. When it satisfies you, ink up your stamp again and make a good imprint of it. I like dye ink the best, particularly, the archival, waterproof types. Many carvers prefer to use the Speedball printing inks. It is a personal choice. Experiment. Have fun. You're now a carver!!! Congratulations!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Transferring Images - Other Options

You can also transfer an image to soft block by ironing it with a warm iron and light pressure. Test your material first.

You can transfer an image from a newspaper clipping by placing it face down on the carving material and simply rubbing with a bone folder or similar tool to move some of the ink from the newsprint onto the surface of the material.

If you don't have confidence in your ability to draw something freehand, you can lay tracing paper over an image (copyright free of course!) and using a #2 pencil, trace the image. Then flip the tracing face down on your carving material and rub the back of the tracing to transfer the pencil lines to the soft block.

Materials You Can Carve

Anything your heart desires and your blade will go through! Some of the ones I have tried are: Speedball pink Mastercarve, Speedball original (crumbly at times - least favorite), PZKut (favorite), Safety Cut (Nasco, Dick Blick), Mars Staedtler Grand erasers, Staedtler Marscarve (formerly sold under name of Uncle Walters- very soft, buttery texture), SoftKut or EZCut (see Dick Blick or Chaselle), novelty store vinyl erasers such as $100 dollar bill, 1" cubes, etc. Check out the links on the left for information on ordering these and other materials and supplies.

Other inks: you can use just about anything you use with regular rubber stamps including pigment inks and markers. Some carvers use acrylic paints and fabric inks to stamp fabric and clothing items. I've even stamped with bleach! The sky's the limit!!