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Work begins on the New Year print ...

Posted by Dave Bull at 9:38 PM, November 28, 2012 [Permalink]

Judging by our silence, you might suspect that nothing much is going on here these days ...


I have no way to 'measure' it, but for these past couple of months, I think I've been busier than I probably ever have been up to now. Taking the decision last year to expand my business has turned everything completely upside down, but it seems that there is no turning back now. In any case, Mokuhankan business belongs over on the other blog; here on the RoundTable we should stick to news about my 'own' work.

Of which there is still none at the moment!

Actually, there is. I have now begun work on my studio new year print, and this might be of interest. As regular followers know, I do nearly all my carving on yamazakura, the Japanese mountain cherry. It's hard wood that allows fairly fine lines to be cut, but not so hard that it won't absorb water properly at printing time.

But I occasionally want a wood that is capable of finer work, and for those times, I use tsuge, boxwood. If the area in question is small, I inlay a piece of boxwood into a normal cherry block, but I sometimes want to cut an entire design in boxwood. In that case I use a piece like this:

I get these blocks from Woodlike Matsumura, who makes them for me kind of under protest. The boxwood is very difficult to work, and they end up tossing out many of the blocks before they can even get them shipped to me. And once I get them here, I don't dare use them straight away, because at least half of them develop a fatal defect of one sort or another during their settling period.

Here's an example; this one - which is the usual laminate of box and plywood core:

... began to come apart after a few months on the shelf:

The internal stress in the boxwood is so strong that it has separated the layers of the plywood itself.

Matsumura-san and I discussed ways that we can reduce the waste (and minimize the risks of this happening to a block after carving, which would be a disaster), and for some blocks that he sent to me recently, he tried thinning the boxwood layer to around 2mm:

The thought is that the thin layer won't be able to develop enough strength to pull itself off the core. We'll see.

Anyway, after a few months it seems fairly stable, so I decided to use one of these test blocks for the upcoming new year print. As always, I can't show you the design for this before the release date of the print (Jan 1), but here are a couple of closeups. The wood is not as hard as I would have liked, but it is very smooth indeed, and carves to a very nicely dressed edge ...



Following comment posted by: Charlie C. on November 29, 2012 7:09 PM

Dave - What kind of wood is used for the "core" plys?

Following comment posted by: Dave on November 29, 2012 7:44 PM

For the previous blocks that Matsumura-san prepared for me, he used a cheap Luan plywood core. I don't like that stuff at all, and for my recent orders (for the cherry blocks too) I have asked him to make all my blocks with a fine-quality shina plywood core. (You can see it in the photo above ... larger number of layers, each one quite thin). This is very fine stuff, and he complained to me that it is a 'waste' of good plywood to use it this way.

I don't see it that way, as I want ultimate stability here!

Following comment posted by: Ken Morgan on December 30, 2012 3:48 AM


I only wish I had the talent too produce a self portrait that so accurately shows my true colors.
Jed has done a super job getting you on paper.
My wife knew you immediately.
What a year for you and your staff. It shows that the things we enjoy will be with us much longer than expected.
Thank you for another interesting trio, can't wait to see where we go in 2013!!!

Following comment posted by: Dave on December 30, 2012 7:40 AM

Ken, you got it already? That's pretty fast ... Im not able to post the image here yet, because that print is our 'new year card' for Japan, so it can't be shown until the 1st ...

Glad you liked it!

Following comment posted by: Margaret Maloney on January 10, 2013 12:23 AM

Happy New Year! I think this is my favorite New Year print yet; I'm always a fan of original designs, and this one's a winner.

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