View Full Version : Should I carve THIS material? or THAT material?

winking cat press
07-27-2015, 12:07 PM
Reading all of the posts here at WC Printmaking for quite a few years, it never fails to surprise me how much discussion there is about what sort of material is "best" for carving relief printing blocks. (this does not apply to etchings, by the way)

Those of you who know me can attest to the fact that I've been doing this for a long, long time.... starting out as a street-punk artist in the 1960's, using home-made silk screens to print posters, then gong to a prestigious art school (which I really disagreed with), and then on to a very positive career as an artist / publisher / rabble-rouser / and general scoundrel. Here is my opinion as to the "Best Material" from which to carve relief printing blocks:

It does not matter one bit what material you use, as long as it will hold the required level of detail and you have sharp tools.

There... I said it. :evil: :D

I do realize that this opinion may come from my starting out as a Guerrilla Artist..... but the fact remains that one does not need just the "right materials" to make exquisite relief prints. Some of my best work was carved onto blocks made from Aspen wood that I got scavenged from a cabinet shop..... and others were done from scraps of cherrywood that I recovered from a destroyed piano shop after Hurricane Katrina. Still others were done on plain old Speedball lino.... or Shina plywood... or nylon cutting boards, or.... or... even soap blocks, or potatoes.

The real secret to relief block carving is not in the materials. Scrap wood, fancy wood, plastics, and so forth are all easy to come by and they all carve well once you learn how to handle them. Some are easier than others.... but sometimes the difficult materials can add a whole new dimension and feeling to your work.

No.... the REAL secret to relief block carving lies with the chisels and gouges you use, and how sharp you keep them. If you use junk tools, and fail to sharpen them, then all you can use is soft material from which to carve your blocks. BUT if you ditch the Speedballs, buy a few good tools, and learn how to sharpen them.... then suddenly you can carve a whole plethora of materials. The subject of "which material should I use?" becomes a moot point. You can then use all SORTS of materials, and spend your time thinking about what to carve, rather than what to carve it on.

07-28-2015, 05:46 PM
agree with you Winking C

experimentation and mastering the materials one has available are key
but indeed the tools will make all the difference

thanks for your opinion
this will aid many others