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Solid woodblocks for relief printmaking, in various hard & soft woods, hand made using traditional skills using mainly hand planes etc., by David Rodgers in the UK.

Making Solid Cherry Woodblocks

> Blog > Woodblock Making > Making Solid Cherry Woodblocks
Sat 20th Mar 2021

I have worked with wood, using just hand tools, for many years, and done relief print making using solid wood side and end grain.

This article shows I create my Solid Cherry woodblocks, using American Cherry, which is lovely to carve. I sell some of these on my Cherry Relief Printing Woodblocks page; I also make Cedar etc. woodblocks.

Completed board
Board ready for carving and printing

Having recently finished another home schooling session due to a 2 month+ lock down, be great to actually create some prints again.


Purpose & Disclaimer

Page contains my personal working methods, which are not suitable for everyone, or everyone's circumstances, experience or materials. If intending to implement any part of these, assess your skills and situation carefully before had to see if it is suitable for you.

Health and safety aspects are not fully covered here. Printmaking & working with wood is a potentially dangerous operation, you are responsible for assessing & taking all appropriate precautions. Take particular care of all materials, tool usage, wood dust and splinters, as all wood dust & splinters are potentially dangerous. All methods are for adult usage only.

Accuracy & Updating
This page is not checked or updated regularly and may contain out of date information. Verify all facts from alternative up to date authoritative sources.

Starting point

I start from solid boards of Cherry Wood, purchased from a timber supplier. Boards are typically 2.4m long, which I cut with hand saws - either a tenon saw (shown) or Japanese hand saw.

Roughly cut timber
Starting point - roughly cut timber

Wood, being a natural material, retains natural tensions, causing boards to twist/warp/cup etc. when cut - not very helpful when trying to print. I cut my boards to just over size, then rest them for a week in a moderately heated place, out of sunlight.

After this time, I start to plane them. I don't own large planing machines. I don't need them. I can work quickly and efficiently with some simple, quiet, hand planes, using many years of skills & experience, knowing how to use which plane.

Firstly, using a Scrub Plane, a very sharp blade set fairly deep, I quickly remove the rough surface, and start planing out any cupping. Looks a mess, but next planes will start the flattening process.

Initial planing of timber
Scrub plane removing rough cut surface of timber

Next, setting Scrub Plane blade less high, I remove more material, working towards a slightly flatter board. At this stage, I prefer working at right angles to grain - takes degree of skill and sharp tools, and have to protect those edges, but my preferred method. Still looks a mess, but next planes will start the flattening process.

Initial planing of timber
Removing more surface of timber

Constant Measuring

Blocks do not become flat in all dimensions by themselves. I use 2 engineering-accurate tools to check for flatness. A straight edge, then winding sticks, to check for twist in the material.

I must keep checking, right to the end, with these tools to remove errors as soon as they occur.

Winding sticks
Checking with straight edge

Winding sticks
Checking with winding sticks - when used correctly, excellent tools

Smoothing and Flattening

Now board is more or less flat, with no twist, now is time to smooth it out.

Like you might use sandpaper, I start with coarse planes (curved blade set relatively deep), right through to a plane with shallow near straight blade. I keep checking with my straight edge and winding sticks, very easy for a slight error to magnify into a twisted non flat surface.

Done correctly, and with experience, you can print from this. I can, however, wet sand too, to make nearly a glass smooth surface, and more resistant to grain raising (see separate blog entry).

Coarse plane
Coarse plane smoothing out the board, again at right angles to board. This is a very old tool, but it works really well.

Finer planes
Finer plane, along the grain, smoothing out more


Before it is too smooth, I plane the edges, again using a coarse plane, then finer ones.

Planing edges
Planing edges

Final Smoothing

Now final smooth with very finely set plane - ready to print with (unless I want to wet sand it first).

Final smoothing
Final smoothing

Ready for Printing

Board is now ready for carving and printing - with finely set planes it is smooth enough to do this, however I can and do sand it to get an even finer finish, including wet sanding.

Completed board
Board ready for carving and printing

Tags: making solid cherry woodblocks maker printmaking print making printmaker print maker print printing wood cut woodcut wood block woodblock japanese lino relief block supplies supplier buy buying shop online where to purchasing purchase craftsman skills wood worker wood working

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