Saturday, January 21, 2012

Size Experiments: some results

Sized Paper: Lite size Left/Heavy size Right

I'll lead in with the results and discuss the nuances after.

I can detect very little difference in the prints printed on my heavily sized vs. lightly sized paper. The bigger surprise was that there was little difference on the paper that had NO size.

My experiments are with a paper called Hosokawa and is imported in Europe by Japico ( a wholesale paper importer). The booklet at the store where I bought it lists it as: 90%Kozo 10% pulp and weight 39g/M2.
(However--different sources list the same paper as having 20%-40% pulp and I expect the proportion has changed in the last years.) There are other papers listed in their catalog with heavier weights and higher kozo percentages that weren't available at my local store but would be worth trying to find or convince them to add/order. (I'd rather try sizing a 70g/m2 100% kozo paper...).

The store-side sizing test...( a small amount of saliva placed on a corner of the paper) shows that it is rapidly absorbed into a big wet spot---showing that the paper isn't sized. (Do this discreetly--the owners aren't keen on you touching the paper much less spitting on it...).

My first sizing attempt of this paper: 40g glue and 20alum to 1L water was unsuccessful. The paper stuck to itself and dried wavy, puckered and uneven.
There were however some decent pieces within the whole sheet and these I cut out and have used for this trial.
This is called HS (heavy size). There is a slight sparkle/glisten to the paper which means there is a little too much alum or it wasn't fully dissolved.(New Hosho paper--available from Woodlike Matsumura in Japan has similar sparkle).

My second sizing attempt used 14g Glue and 5g alum per Liter water.
Because in the second try I didn't size all the way to the end I have some strips that are partly sized on one half and unsized on the other.

HS is heavy size; LS is light size; NS is NO size.

Sized Paper LS Left/HS Right: light betaban block and bright yellow (2 impressions)

Sized Paper: NS (no size) Left/Light size (LS) Right (see arrows)

Multiple impressions(10?) Each sheet is 1/2 LS and 1/2 NS (see initials/arrows) Since these were registration mishaps--I printed them a little more aggressively after--darker colors/more layers to see what would happen.

Results Comments:
While printing, the unsized portion did tend to pill/pull up a little bit but as I continued printing this was less of an issue and by the end at 10-11 impressions it was still printing ok. The unsized portion is perhaps a little less brilliant/vibrant. In the half LS/half NS you can see a line of demarcation so there is a difference but it would be hard to tell which was which if they were unlabelled.
In the top photo; the dark cherry red background has at least 5 layers of printed pigment--that is a fair amount of printing for a light-weight paper but it tolerated it well. (light yellow beta ban;carmine twice;cad red/carmine mix once; pale green wash once;keyblock).
The heavy sized paper seemed to allow the pigment to rest a bit more on the surface but that was more noticeable in the first few impressions (see the yellow arrows) but there was little difference at the end. It didn't resist the pigment at all and I had no trouble printing on it (there was no resist).
This is a lighter paper than I usually use. At 39g/M2 it is fairly transparent and soft and in the first impressions it was probably a bit too damp. I'm not sure if I could handle a bigger sheet when damp. The small size of this sample and the small paper size (4" x 8") and the fact that I was intermittently switching from different sized papers may have altered the results; a bigger sheet might have revealed differences not visible on small printed surfaces. The unsized paper printed surprisingly well and I expect it would be serviceable if I keep the board/printing fairly "dry".

P.S. I did the saliva test again once the paper was little gob of spit didn't absorb at all in the LS and HS portions of my printed paper--but got soaked up instantly in the NS portion.
P.S.S. I also sized a piece of Japanese Hosho (probably 100%pulp) from a different store--it tried to fall apart as I was sizing it but once sized (LS) it printed ok too. See photo below:
LS Japanese "Hosho" content unknown but looks like 100% pulp/sulfite

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Glue and Alum, sizing paper at home; round two

Emboldened by encouraging words (and detailed instructions) from accomplished printmaker Paul Furneaux (who sizes his own paper) I decided to give it another go.

I'm using his Winter recipe; 14grams of animal-skin glue (rabbit) and 5 g of powdered alum to 1L of water. I soaked the glue in 1/2 the water overnight, then added another 1/2 liter of boiling water in the morning, stirred it all up (it dissolved nicely) then turned up the heat and added the small amount of alum, that I had already dissolved in a small cup of very hot water. I kept all this on a warm stove/flame in a make-shift double boiler to keep the glue mixture from getting too hot.

The interesting advice I got from Paul was to use an old blanket under my work station to act as a size catcher--and to move the brush slowly across the width saturating the paper with warm size (it will soak thru to the blanket). He doesn't stack it but then picks it up carefully and hangs it up to dry sheet by sheet. He urged to leave the last few centimeters unsized so as to have a dry, strong edge to lift it up.

I'm trying to size a fairly thin paper but that was available down the street at the local art-supply store and was practically the heaviest they had, the rest of their stock is used by bookbinders and for restoration work.
It is a handmade Japanese washi, 45g/M2 weight and 90%Kozo(mulberry) and 10% wood pulp.

Here's the table. Blanket is down, sheet of paper on top, smooth side of the paper (the printing side) is UP and will receive the size brushed out.

What I noticed:
This paper is strong enough that I didn't need to leave the unprimed edge. The one sheet I sized right to the edge was just as easy to handle and didn't tear.
This paper is pretty thin and I got some buckling where my thumb was used to hold it down to allow the brush to go over the paper.
Extreme care has to be taken to try to get the edges of the strokes almost touching as if they overlap and xtra layer of size goes down.
A bigger brush would be good. I thought of buying 2-3 of these and making a jig to hold them all together so they'd function as one big brush....but I decided to wait and see how these trials go.
Hung up they looked smooth and pretty good. There were some areas of skipped or double size but not too bad but in my Winter climate the rooms are all very dry and trying to place them in the one unheated room with the windows open (Damper outside than inside) still caused the paper to dry too quickly--they were dry to the touch in 30-40 minutes.
And I think the slight puckering/unevenness is due to the drying.
But this is much better than my first try and I think all the paper is useable.
The professionally sized paper I've been able to buy online still looks better and more uniform than these sheets that I've managed to produce at home. But this is much better than my last try so there's hope?

I need to let it rest/cure for a few days before I print on it.
The paper is still hanging in the room to rest/age/cure/loosen up.
It feels stiffer and has more body than it did unsized.
I sized BOTH sides of one sheet and will pull a few proofs of a small print from each of these trials later this week and I'll post pics of those once they're done.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Maple Proofs

Well my first creative act of 2012 was to scrape the year 2011 off the keyblock for my slow-to-move-forward Maple branch print. I have been working on it but it just seems to be taking longer than it should. I did go ahead and carve a new 2012 on another block.

My first attempt at proofing was a disaster as my keyblock shifted on all 3 copies making it impossible to see if the registration of subsequent blocks was on.
So last night I had another go.
2 pieces of shin torinoko, one fabriano artistico, one Magnani watercolor paper.

Registration is decent but not perfect. The leaves are too orange/red and not variegated enough--I'll need to play with them during the actual printing.
And I'll need to trim down a bit some of the blocks and adjust at least one kento.
Here are the two variants that look ok.

The biggest problem is with my Shina plywood blocks. My Italian "white glue" didn't completely wash off the block and there is a thin layer acting as a partial resist. This is pretty evident here where the brush strokes are fairly visible (and wouldn't be exactly reproducible) but worse, as I continued to print the seams began to print quite visibly. Not sure yet what to do about this. Ignore it or try and work around it. The same board on the other unglued side also was starting to show the seam when printed too so it is not just the glue.

The atmosphery speckling of the darker copy is due to the watercolor paper. It can be printed more evenly by pressing harder with the baren but I was mostly checking registration and trying to get an idea of color fields. I like how it looks but it really is a defect of printing.