Some notes on wooden graving. The main characteristic of a wood engraving is the white-line. It is produced by drawing with an engraving tool onto the end grain of hardwood, preferably boxwood. The tool removes slivers of the wood depending on the tools used corresponding to the whites in the drawing. The remaining surface of the block is inked with a roller and paper laid on the surface. Pressure is applied either by hand or press and an impression is taken. The whites of the impression correspond to the parts of the wood removed, hence the ‘white line character’ of the design.
The work is exacting, the image being perceived in reverse and also as white against black, in the negative as it were!
Wood engraving is a relief print process, but it should not be confused with wood-cutting which is produced on softer wood using chisels on the plank of the tree.
Prints tend to be produced in a limited number although the medium itself is capable of producing thousands of impressions.
Wood-engravers are a peculiar lot but lack of tenacity is not one of their failings. Isolated in their ways, with an inside-out, back to front, negative and a mainly monochrome vision of a world in miniature it needs patience and optimism to arrive at the final result.
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