Part Three - Selecting some Wood

The wood typically used in the traditional Japanese method is the yamazakura (mountain cherry). It is very hard - hard enough to allow thousands of copies of the print to be made from it, even when very delicate lines are part of the design. With your first print though, thousands of copies is probably not what you have in mind, so a material somewhat easier to carve is preferable. Here are some pros and cons of a few common options, at least one of which should be obtainable somewhere near you.

Wood types:

So does that leave you with some ideas on what wood will be best for your first experiments?


Whichever wood you choose, have the woodyard cut it to a size just a bit larger than the print you plan to make. In the case of our example print, which has an image area of 6 1/2" x 7 1/2", we will first need to add 1/2" to each dimension to allow for a white border around the image. Then, extra space will be needed to cut the registration marks - say another 1/2" in both dimensions. So the minimum size for a woodblock for this print will be 7 1/2" wide by 8 1/2" long. (The woodgrain should run in the 'long' dimension.)

We will need five pieces of wood for the print, one for the key block, and four for colour blocks. (There are actually six colours in the print (not counting the black key block), but we will be able to put more than one colour on a block in a couple of cases.)

Another way to save wood is to use both sides of the block, but this is only practical if the wood is reasonably thick to start with. If using plywood, it should be at least 1/2" thick for this, and solid blocks should be around 3/4" thick. If you wish to do this for our sample print, you will thus need only three pieces of wood - one for the key block, and two for the colour blocks (using both sides).

The wood will need no special treatment before we use it - no varnishing or other sealing is necessary. All it needs to be is smooth and clean ...

Once you've got your wood ready, it's time to paste down the tracing and begin carving ...