The best of times, the worst of times…

That pretty much describes this year, but with a month of cold and flu behind me, I have inked up the press and begun work again on the wood engravings. I began work on the block I titled ‘School Days’ showing a boy on his way to or from the local school house. Or perhaps he was taking some time off from school, heading for the local fishing hole. He strikes me as more of a Huck Finn type than a Tom Brown. Although his reading on the way might suggest a studious bent….

Whatever his story, I began the tedious makeready and began to have some trouble about the middle of the block, along the line of the bottom of his coat. After a great deal of fussing with not satisfactory results, I unlocked the form to discover that this wonderful block was now in two pieces, making it the first and hopefully only victim of production amongst these old blocks. I always thought if I would have any breakage, this lad would be a prime candidate.

First, it was a thinner piece of wood, requiring a lot of card beneath to build it up. In retrospect, I should have mounted it on another piece of wood to give it more support. The victim is shown at right, beside a block closer to type high (.918 of an inch)

Second, the engraver of this block worked along with a very definite natural flaw in the wood: a natural crack or break in the trunk. It may be that this was a discarded portion of a larger and more solid section of wood. In the proof above, the area to the left of the figure’s waist is the beginning of the fissure, shown better below:

Here’s a close-up of the where the block broke:

It is now glued back together, but the clamping process followed the natural curve of the wood, and there is a faintly detectable ridge now which will show clearly in print. Besides, I’m not going to risk this block again. Because this is fairly straightforward line work, I may have a magnesium plate made to include this block in the portfolio. Otherwise it will have to be a laser print, which I’m not that keen on.

In better news, I printed two other blocks on the same day, neither of which required any make-ready.

Probably one of the most detailed blocks in the entire edition, I had struggled with proofs of this a few weeks ago, finally deciding that less emphasis on crisp blacks showed off more the awesome skill of the engraver, and presented a better tone.


And what can I say? Perhaps after breaking a block, I’m feeling a bit like the fellow taking the tumble. But I carry on….

Explore posts in the same categories: Block Printing, Wood Engraving

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