Sunday, February 20, 2022

Linocut Tools - Linocut Plates

I thought I would share with you my experience with the various tools I have tried since I started linocut printing five years ago, in an effort to help you, if you are also interested, in giving linocut printing a try.     I'm going to do separate blog posts for inks, papers, other tools, etc., this way you can decide what you would like to read about.

The material you carve your design into is called a block or plate.  I have used 6 materials and they all have pros and cons.  Here is my take:

I started out with Speedball Speedy Carve - this is the pink, soft, eraser like block  It is soft and easy to carve.  And if you want to make a multi color "puzzle" type of print, this cuts apart easily with an Xacto knife.  It's a good block to start with to see if you like this art form.  The one down side I see to this carving material is it is difficult to get fine line detail.  

Then I tried Essdee's White Soft Carving Block and Soft-Kut Printing Blocks.  I wanted to see if I would like these soft blocks better.  The Soft-Kut does come in sizes up to 12"x18." It is 1/4" thick and you can cut on both sides, giving you two carving surfaces.  It made for water based inks. Solvents will ruin the block.

Both blocks have characteristics very similar to the Speedball block.  Easy to carve and they cut apart easily, but they are difficult to get fine details in your line work.

Gray battleship linoleum is my favorite, and Golden Linoleum, which is very similar to the gray, just a tad bit softer.  You can get really fine detail, and the carved lino pieces just seem to snap off the block.  If it seems hard to cut, you can warm it by holding it next to a heater, which will soften the linoleum.  

I have found, when it is cold and damp in the winter where I live, that it is hard to keep the linoleum flat.  That makes it difficult to ink the lino before taking a print.  And if you want to do a multi color block using the puzzle method, of carving the block apart for separate colors, like I do, because the pieces bend, you cannot get them to fit well together to print.  

Another block material that I have found that works really well at staying flat is the Gombuchan, or Japanese Vinyl (green block).  This is also a favorite of mine.  It carves, inks and prints well.  The only down side to this material is that because it is vinyl, the carvings do not just snap off as you carve, you have to cut them off.  It slows the carving a bit, but because of all the positives to the block, I still really like it.

Where to find Printmaking Supplies:

In the US:

Dick This is where I find MOST of my printing supplies.

Possibly Michaels, Walmart and Etsy

In the UK: