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Woods Glossary

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A glossary of the woods outlined on the printmaking side of this site, based on the particular tools, printing processes and inks I've used. All comments are based on personal experience.

Categories: Price List | Wood Blocks for Relief Printmaking (8) | Wood Engraving Blocks (4) | Printing & Letter Press (2) | Tool Sharpening (9) | Woods Glossary

Beech Wood

As a harder and fine grain wood it is possible to get some nice carvings on this and some nice prints, however it needs some sharp tools. I have used it a little and would like to try some more.

I have both Plain Sawn and Quarter Sawn in restricted widths of boards. Quarter sawn tends to have medullary rays, which are slightly lighter coloured flecks of wood that can either add texture or harm a print depending on which you way you look at it.

Cedar Wood

I like cedar wood as it is a relatively easy to work timber, with a close grain. It is a lighter yellow in colour, so can take a black surface so you can see what you are carving away to create a print block.

I have some available in quarter sawn, which is locally sourced and air dried by myself.

I have some fairly wide boards of this too - the maximum width is dependant on the thickness mainly therefore, too wide a board wouldn't be stable.

Cherry Wood

Cherry was traditionally used by Japanese printmakers with their own rice based techniques, but ideally using special Japanese varieties of Cherry wood. In my experience, it is a nice wood to carve and print from, and for me it doesn't show the wood grain. Look all wood, it is different to carving Lino, but with experience that can be an advantage too.

I have both American (Plain Sawn) and English (Quarter Sawn usually) Cherry wood. Both are red in colour - the American more so.

The American is slightly softer than the English, but both are a tight grain which you would not normally see show through when printing.

I have wider boards of the American (up to 19cm) available compared to the English, however boards that wide are likely to warp especially when type high - I can make them up to nearly 30mm thick usually though.

Chestnut Wood

An open grained wood, like Ash & Oak, but not as hard, so a little easier to carve - should be able to do it with sharp Pfiel tools (unlike Ash/Oak where more likely to need wood carving tools & mallet). The open grain means the wood surface is not flat - there are indents where the grain is, which will not be covered with ink in printing, and show on the print. This can lead to some very interested effects (see my Penguin print in Ash for example), but does mean a careful design & carving.

My Chestnut is locally sourced, and available in limited quantities.

Holly Rounds

Selected from the stems of Holly Trees for Wood Engraving - they are generally oval in shape, and usually with their bark left on, and make interesting shapes for engraving. White colour and fine grained so good for putting a black wash on block before engraving.

I have limited amounts in smaller sizes. I have some unusual grained versions in rounds too which some might find interesting to engrave with.

These are from the trunk of a small holly tree from the garden of our old house, cut down some years ago, and carefully air dried by myself. I then cut these, then finish to a very fine finish.

Holly Wood

Great for Wood Engraving, and available in both rectangular and round/oval form - I like it. White colour and fine grained so good for putting a black wash on block before engraving.

I have limited amounts of both in smaller sizes.

Maple Wood

Great for Wood Engraving, available in rectangular form - I like it, although I prefer Holly. White colour and fine grained so good for putting a black wash on block before engraving.

I have limited amounts of both in smaller sizes.

Oak & Ash Wood

I have used Ash on my Penguin print, and like the open grained texture on the timbers (providing background grain texture on prints), but are harder to carve than Chestnut, and more likely to need wood carving tools & mallet to create images, but as a hardwood probably more resilient to printing. Although a harder wood and harder to carve, the grain is stronger and it is possible to get a little more detail than say Chestnut due to it softerness.

I have both Plain Sawn and Quarter Sawn in restricted widths of boards. Plain sawn had rounded grain patterns, Quarter Sawn generally more of a straight grained pattern but usually more stable. However, Oak Quarter Sawn tends to have medullary rays, which are slightly lighter coloured flecks of wood that can either add texture or harm a print depending on which you way you look at it.

Pine Wood

Used traditionally by some for relief printmaking, it is a coarser grain than other woods like Cherry but is fairly easy to work, especially if quarter sawn. It is a light colour so can take a dark ink so can see what you are carving.

I have both Plain Sawn and Quarter Sawn in restricted widths of boards. The Plain Sawn is in particular susceptible to warping etc., it isn't so stable, however some can use the grain patterns to good effect in the prints - but note that I have plane my surfaces to a good flat surface, so if you are wanting a good pronounced grain pattern to show through for a background, your DIY store might have better rougher pieces.

Due to the courser nature of pine, I expect that you can only get coarser carvings from that in prints, whereas some other finer grained hardwoods would allow more detail to be carved.

Tulip Wood

Fine grained and white or light pinkish in colour, soft enough to carve with Pfiel tools but hopefully hard enough to print from, this is something I'd like to try and print with.

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