Monday, February 27, 2012

"Hey, can you move over just a little bit?" --Adjusting a kento.

This is the first time I've done this so I post these photos and my comments as an invitation to any who have done this before, often or just better to comment below on improvements.

As I mentioned in my last post I was pretty precise in cutting my original kentos.
I either use a Kento-nomi ( a flat chisel used just for this purpose) or the hangi-toh being carefult to split the black line that is my guide.
But sometimes, despite being careful, or if the wood shifts or expands more on one block than another one has to adjust the kento to allow for this shift.
This is the problem.

I'll let the following photos explain things but here is a summary.
A flat chisel is used to cut a groove next to the existing kento.
Using a slender, wedge of hardwood, tap it in with a hammer. Cut it flush with the kento and get back to printing.
As this was the first time I try this. I cut a sample kento on the edge of the block to try it out.

Above is the drawn "test kento" and the registration guides I cut from them.
Below are some cherry wedges I split off from a small block with a wood chisel and then sanded into a wedge shape with a sanding block and some 220grit paper.
(Ignore the Aisuki chisel which is just there for scale).

These were tapped in with a hammer.

Next was to trim it flush without having it pop out.
Here are the finished corner and edge kentos with the trimmed plugs.

Testing the kentos:

These are a bit ragged as my cherry blocks are a little thin (1cm thick) and the groove I cut next to the existing kento with a chisel seemed a bit too shallow. Tapping in the wedges was harder than I thought and some of them split or broke and had to be resanded and replaced.
Cutting them off also was harder than it should have been. Several popped out from the leverage of cutting them.
But if imperfect these do what they are supposed to.
As you can see from the last photos, they hold the paper edge a good 1-2mm off the old edge and should fix the problem.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Lizard color proofs

I managed to print a few more color proofs of my lizard print.
The red and yellow blocks are indeed a bit out of register; but as there is a bit of play to the color blocks--I have several overlaps--by just moving them over a smidgeon (about 2mm) to the side and 1mm up on one corner they fill in pretty decently and I think I'll have a go at a proper print run this week if I can carve out some time instead of recarving the blocks.

The lizard is too blue-green (it is a really vibrant yellow-green in real life) and I need to distinguish the lizard from the background a bit more (there are separate blocks for this so it should be easy).

Still a small amount of clean up to do though. Some stray edges,unwanted embossing, spotting, low spots and filled-in gaps to tidy up with the chisels before printing the first batch.
The pebbly skin was lost a bit from overprinting; I'll try to open up the holes a bit more and print it last to give the skin visible and raised texture. As it is now a bit too subtle.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Lizard Skin

Two quick shots of the proofs of yesterday's block.

The block prints pretty well; I used just a bit of Payne's Gray and Pthalo blue and paste to test the holes.
Registration was on for this block and the keyblock.

No more shots of this print for a while:
Two of my color blocks are off-register by about 1/8th of an inch.
Too much to be just cutting error on a small print and I was VERY meticulous to cut all the Kentos exactly the same. I think wood expansion is the culprit as I pasted two of the hanshitas down two weeks later than the first two.
I'll try to adjust the kentos and trim first but I may have to recarve two blocks.

This looks pretty good like this but it's pretty far from the intended print.
This texture would be more appropriate for a Gila monster or Beaded lizard and less so for the small, green anole I have in mind.
I'll have to see if the other blocks can be salvaged and suspect/hope the final work will be quite different.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Scales (using a rotary drill for woodblock)

Well, I had been looking for an excuse to use this tool.

My neighbor is a dentist, and when I asked to borrow a drill to put up some picture frames, he apologized saying all he has at home is an old foot-controlled, rotary dental drill; "like a Dremel", he added.

Oh, really? I asked.
I never did get around to hanging the mirror but I've had his drill with a small box of assorted bits for two weeks now (I promised to bring it back soon).

I like carving by hand but there are some jobs that I am still too inexpert to do well or quickly.

When I decided to do a lizard the idea of the scales presented itself. Either to carve individual scales or what I've done here,
Remove the scales with a rotary tool.

There is a base color for the lizard carved on another block (it will be yellow-green) and this block will be printed over it with a darker shade creating the shadows and spaces between the scales. Or, that's the idea.

Washing off the hanshita/drawing will cause the wood to swell and some of this detail will vanish and a trial proof will tell me if I need to reopen or remove some areas.
Proofing and printing will tell.

This may be another case where the block is just way more interesting than the resulting print.

It's a noisy tool and spits little bits of wood/dust pretty much everywhere. I was using a very small, conical dental burr and it made pretty small holes but it is not a tool I would enjoy to use very often.

(P.S. sorry about the yellow photos--the flash made all the detail vanish so I did it with just the late afternoon light and the desk lamp--causing the yellow cast.)

Tuesday, February 14, 2012


I drew these sketches from memory before going to the internet to find photos to reference and before I had decided to sprint over to Florida for a brief family visit.
I did find and take this photo of the lizard in question, the green anole,
anolis carolinensis and was happy to see it again in it's natural habitat.

The multicolored dewlap, the flap of skin that the male can extend to attract females and dissuade other males from entering his territory is a prominent feature among most anoles and can range from pale, creamy white to bright orange/red.

Here is a close-up of the printed keyblock (won't be this color but I had a tube at hand while I was proofing) before color blocks have been cut.

I'm using Italian Cherry for my blocks this time around and it is good to be cutting a nice hardwood again. Cherry polishes to an almost glasslike shine and while this is not very densely grained and is a bit coarse, it is taking pretty good detail and resists chipping or splintering.

Friday, February 10, 2012


I had a brief trip back to South Florida getting out of Europe before the terrible cold snap of last week and returning just in time for a new one.
It is always odd getting off an airplane from a cold climate into the nearly tropical damp air of Florida. I fled Florida when I was old enough to legally do so and I hate what much of the completely uncontrolled growth and development have done to the natural environment but I always loved the natural side; the Everglades National Park is a truly wondrous place and I find in even the small corners often a sliver of wild left in a highway median or storm drainage all sorts of animals/plants and insects that refuse to be developed out of existence.

Family health issues took up most of my time but my mother lives in a community that developed around the existing wetlands, interspersing houses and golf courses between the ponds and creeks, grasslands and dry, piny scrub. I could sit on the back patio and watch cranes, grebes, ducks, egrets and ibis and many other water birds as well as lizards, frogs,alligators, snakes, armadillos and even a fast moving bobcat during the few days I was there.
And at night, the powerful smell of night-blooming jasmine and the incessant chirping of small frogs, hissing of crickets and occasional deep bass calling of the bull frogs kept me up and soothed away the feelings of aging and mortality that seem to accompany me more frequently now that I am almost 50 and near ones are falling ill or just falling down.

I was looking for one old friend in particular.
When I was young my brother, sister and I would regularly try to find and catch lizards and frogs.
My favorite was the Florida Chameleon--really an anole, a lizard capable of turning from bright green to brown.
They are reportedly much fewer now, outcompeted by the introduced and more aggressive brown anole and the ferocious appetites of the now numerous escaped green and red iguanas.

But I eventually found what I was looking for. If you stop and look and wait, the shy things will eventually move and can be seen; and even the quiet, unmoving things seem to slip out of their cloak of invisibility.

Home again, a suitcase full of tortillas, spices, baking and cooking necessities and a few woodblocks and printmaking supplies and a backlog of mail, prints to finish and the sound of frogs still in my ears.