The act of carving seems to slow my mind and creative process to a more manageable pace.
Carving is the process of removing area of the woodblock that you don’t want to be printed (or part of the final image). Carving the block happens in four phases.
- The first phase is cutting the edges of the image (lines and/or shapes) that are to be printed (remain raised).How you hold the knife is important. The blade of the carving knife has two sides; flat and angled. It is preferable to have theflat edge against the line or shape to be carved. Also, the blade should be used at an angle (about 5 to 10 degrees off verticle) so that the angle is away from what you are carving. The angled side of the knife pushes away the wood to the outside of your drawing. If the angled side of the knife were to face the drawing it would push into your drawing causing the edge to dent and soften.The proper way of holding the knife in our hand is in the first set of knuckles closest to your palm with your fingers curled around the handle of the knife and your thumb on top. This way as you flex your fingers and hand the knife can turn in a smooth rolling motion while maintaining a strong grip. A pencil grip may be used in certain instances which require very little strength. Do not grip the knife with the handle in the palm.Cuts are made by drawing the knife towards you with the knife slightly inclined towards your body and the point of the knife angled so that the cut is away from the image being carved.
- The second phase is to remove the wood from the first cut by cutting along the same course as the previous cut but at the opposite angle as to remove the wood leaving a v-shaped groove. This can be done with a v-gouge tool, but a v-gouge tool will generally not leave a smooth cut across the grain of the wood and also not allow for as much flexibility in movement or detail. Traditionally, no v-gouge was used in cutting the wood block so that all lines and edges remain crisp. Phase one and two are generally done in tandem.
- The third phase is to remove the remaiing wood from the areas not to be printed by use of a u-gouge. First, the u-gouge is used to carve along the same lines originally carved by the knife, widening those areas in the areas to be cut away. Continue using the u-gouge to clear the remaining spaces taking care to cut with the grain and away from your raised areas as much as possible.For most of this work I use a u-gouge and a mallet on a work bench. I try to do as much of this work with a mallet as opposed to my hand to save wear on both my elbow and wrist.
- The fourth phase uses a special chisel called a “bull nose” chisel. Instead of having a straight edge, the front edge of this chisel is rounded. The result is that by using this chisel you can flatten and smooth out all the areas you cleared using the u-gouge.
The last step is to cut out the registration (if any) you’ll be using for the print using a straight chisel