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February 21, 2006

The exhibition is over, all the left-over work from last year's projects is cleaned up, the first print in this year's other project - the Small Print Collection - is finished and ready for shipping ... it's time to get started on the long scroll project!

There is so much work to be done! Of course any number of blocks have to be carved, and the printing itself will take many many impressions, on multiple copies ... but before any of the actual printmaking work can begin, there is a lot of planning and preparation that must come first.

Where to start? How about here?

Before I can print, I need carved blocks. Before I can carve the blocks, I need to work out how many there will be, of what sizes, and where the colour areas will appear on each piece. Before I can get the images onto the surface of the wood for carving, I need to have some way to align the woodblocks on my workbench, in order that they will all register properly in the same alignment.

So ... one of the first jobs will be to build a jig that will hold the blocks snugly in place while I work on them. Here is a sketch of the kind of thing I am planning:

The coloured areas show the different sizes of blocks that will be used, and now you can see what the little wooden pieces are for - they are 'cams' that will act as clamps to hold the blocks in place on the jig.

The green outline shows the largest blocks: these will be used for the background colouring of the print. The pink colour shows blocks that will print the figure itself, and the smallest blue size will be for the multitude of blocks that will be used for the kimono patterns. Good quality cherry blocks are very expensive, and using smaller pieces this way will save a huge amount of money (and a lot of wasted cherrywood too!)

So after an afternoon of thinking, sketching, erasing, and re-drawing, the basic plan for the jig is done, and it's time for some actual woodwork to begin ...

I'm using a sanding machine that I made many years ago, shortly after I arrived in Japan. We had no money, and the kids had no toys, so I built some simple tools like this and started a small business making wooden toys. But since I switched to being a printmaker around 17 years ago, I haven't done any of that kind of work, so it was with quite a nostalgic feeling that I brushed the dust off this old tool and put it to work again!

Unlike the sander, the table saw I made has been getting plenty of use in recent years, mostly for construction of the workroom down in the basement. There are plenty of left-over plywood pieces stacked up here, so I'm using as many of those as I can for this project, too.