How to make a wood engraving

How to make a wood engraving


The image that I’m engraving is an image of a little town in the Marches region of Italy, called San Severino. I particularly just liked the fall of light and dark on the buildings. So the first stage is that I will choose a block that is the right size I start off by painting the block black so that I can see a contrast between the marks that I engrave and the pale wood surface of the block. The next thing that I do is that I I will make a tracing of the section of my drawing that I want to transfer onto the block. And then I only trace the outlines, I don’t try and trace any of the detail of my drawing just the structure. So for instance, I wouldn’t even begin to try and trace all this detailing in the roofs of this building. Because the act of engraving should be another creative process so that you’re making something new. The next thing to do is to trace it onto the block, and the vital thing to remember is that you have to reverse it. So you have to turn it over because otherwise the engraving will come out back to front! You just very carefully trace it without using anything harder than an HB pencil, because you can actually bruise the wood. I’m transferring the pencil mark onto the block because the pencil mark is on the other side of the paper. It’s faint, but it shows up as a slightly shiny mark against the black block. Right, today I’m going to start engraving on this block, but before I do that I’m just reinforcing the tracing that I made last week, with a pen. Wood engraving tools really have their origin in the copper and metal engraving traditions, going right back to the time of Durer and much earlier. The most traditional tool today is the lozenge graver, also sometimes known as a diamond graver or a square graver. It’s a tool designed for making a straight line because it has this sharp straight back it helps you to keep going in a straight direction. Another tool that I use a lot is this one, called a spitsticker. It’s got these rather curved sides to it and a slightly less sharp back. the resason for these curved sides is to enable you, as you’re engraving to make curves. And this tool, like very many of the other tools I have, they come in different gauges and they just make slightly thicker or thinner lines accordingly. Another tool that I use a lot of is this one, which is a tint tool. This is like a cross between a spitsticker and a lozenge graver. It comes to this very fine tip as the name would suggest, they’re for making tints. So, often, if you look at old Victorian trade engravings, and you see imagery of sky and clouds in particular, you often notice that those details are made by lots of fine parallel horizontal lines. Visually, you perceive that as shades of grey. With the lozenge graver, you can change the angle at which you’re cutting and you’ll get a thicker or thinner line, whereas this tool, you get a very consistent line of just one thickness. The other tools that I use frequently are the scorpers. Rather than coming a fine point, these tools come to a squared-off cutting tip. The main use for these tools is for clearing out large areas on your block that you want to be completely white in the finished image. And the last type of tool that I use frequently is a round scorper. and they’re like the square scorper in that they don’t come to a point but unlike the square scorper these come to a round cutting tip rather than a square cutting tip. You can make straight lines, in the same way as you can with a square scorper, but you can also make dots that have a round profile to them rather than a square-shaped dot. So this is my printing studio and this is my lovely Albion printing press that dates from 1859. You only need a really small amount of ink to print these blocks. Then I take the roller and I have to roll it till it’s really smooth and making a kind of hissing sound rather than this sort of “schlurrp” noise that you can hear at the moment. When t feels like it’s a nice even smooth layer of ink then it’s ready to print. OK, so now I need to roll the block with ink so it’s just the roller’s own weight that I’m rolling across the block I’m not trying to push ink into any of the marks I’ve made because the marks I’ve engraved want to be the white in the final image so I just want my ink to sit on the uncut surface. And you know when it’s got enough ink on it when you hold it up to the light and it sort of sparkles all over which… it’s doing. We open up the tin pan of the press which is this part and place the block on the press bed I’ll just try with a little spot of Japanese paper for now … Now I wind the whole press bed underneath this part which is the platen of the press and this provides the pressure. So then I pull this arm which causes the platen to lower and then pull that handle back turn this handle open the tin pan again and then we’ll see what we’ve got… That’s not bad.

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54 Replies to “How to make a wood engraving”

  1. Do you have any tool and/or tool size recommendations for someone who is interested in getting started with wood engraving?

  2. if you want to know more about wood engraving there are free old  books ,manuals,on internet. I have upload a list of them in my channel

  3. Wow, I just can't say thank you enough for creating and sharing such a wonderful video. I am searching for as much information as possible that I can find on the art of wood engraving; and this video is by far the most comprehensive and helpful video I have come across. Wonderful video and spectacular wood engraving created. I would love to see more videos on wood engraving as well as other traditional printmaking techniques from Royal Academy of Arts in the future.

  4. i thought of an idea earlier that lead me to this video, i have already learned so much valuable information. thank you 🙂

  5. Wow! Wonderful to see someone who has really mastered their art and can pass it on in easy to understand language and an excellent demonstration.

  6. Thank you so much for this outstanding video. I'm trying to learn endgrain woodblock engraving, and I know of no one who does it. Proper woodblock material to engrave and information about tools and engraving technique are in short supply. This brief video is the most helpful resource I've found anywhere. Please produce more like this. Hearing the artist's voice describe what she's doing as she works is wonderful.

  7. Whoa, that was amazing from selecting the image, to carving to printing. I enjoyed knowing about the tools as well. Thank you.

  8. Receive Greetings…!!!
    Beautiful art and work process too.want to know about type of wood,this black colour,tools and all the process.hope I will receive the knowledge from all of you…
    Regards,
    Mahesh(Mumbai)

  9. these little samples are nice but why are they always simplistic ornaments or architecture? How did Dürer or Doré make the hyper-realistic nature, portraits and fantasy scenes made of millions of impossibly tiny arrays of dots and lines?

  10. "Not bad" typical English understatement, I think it is excellent. Very nice work. Thank you for posting this video I found it very instructive.

  11. Just a question: What if you painted the wood block in white ink instead of black so that when you traced onto the wood, the graphite would show up without having to retrace over it?

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