Monday, April 26, 2010

Back home and as promised, registration details

Back home again, oh boy do I have pictures!!!
I decided to play with my digital camera and push the features a bit and I fell in love with the "stitch" feature. I mean when you travel the West US all you see are HUGE panoramas...anyhow, we save that for a later post. For now, here are the promised detailed pictures of the registration board thinguie, nicely annotated for your viewing pleasure.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

More tid bits about registration boards

I can't post any additional pictures until I get back to the ranch, but I thought for those of you who have asked and are currently running out to the home-improvement store to purchase materials and make your own forever-registration-board, I would point out some details:

  • The brass corners sometimes have a rounded inside corner. I found that this interferes with placement of the paper. To be safe, I filed the inside corner with a standard fine metal file to allow the corner of the paper to fit unhindered. This is sort of visible on the picture in a previous post but I will be sure to post a detail pic when I get back.
  • For those who are used to the "open corner" arrangement so that the thumb can hold the paper down "through" the corner piece, an easy remedy is to use straight brass pieces rather than the pre-made corners and arrange them perfectly squared but leaving the corner open.
  • And finally, for blocks that are a bit taller, a paper "shelf" made of a layer (or two or three) of matboard can be lightly glued next to the kentos so that the paper is supported. This works well when the kentos are raised due to a thicker block.
  • Pictures next week, promise. 

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Registration Simplified

Being an over-efficient maniac, one of the things that has always bothered me when printing a la Japanese, is the registration method used in moku-hanga. Don't get me wrong, I have faithfully cut kentos in every block just like the old methods explain. But I believe this way of doing things introduces a margin of error for every single block that is cut. I'm sure the masters, er, mastered this kento cutting so that they were identical for every block.

In Western printing, long ago I started using registration boards. I've made them mostly of foam-board so that they could be fed through the etching press (or hydraulic press). A registration board is simply a "movable kento" system of registration. Any two pieces of material glued together as a square corner, then another piece of material as a paper guide glued at some pre-determined margin. Not really a complicated device. There is some error introduced in that the block has to be placed exactly in the same place every time, but in my experience this is less prone to error than having to cut exact kentos in as many as a dozen or more blocks. Seems that every kento in every block could introduce some error into the registration process and I would rather spend a little time upfront into building a semi-permanent movable kento.
With a well-built registration board, the only but very important requirement is that the blocks have to be cut perfectly square, the paper has to be cut perfectly square and the placement needs attention, but no more attention than if placing paper on a standard cut kento.

When I started printing with waterbased pigment, the dampness of the whole process was not compatible with a foam-board registration jig. So I made a prototype of wood with a 1 inch margin wood paper guides built in. If I want other margins, as for the tiny tigers, I just glue kento-mat-board to the board at the appropriate distance. You can see the margins of the tiger prints in burgundy matboard. They are glued with paste so they just come off by a bit of soaking and scraping. The wood guides are glued with white glue, also steady but removable with a bit more effort.

I used cheap wood and simple staples to see if the board worked okay for printing but I was careful to use a square at every step to make the board corner and the kentos a true 90 degrees. Also, the "ruler" is just cheap wood I had around the studio; I used it because it is slightly lower in thickness than my blocks, allowing the baren a free "ride" over the printing area without fear of catching on the registration guides. After a few prints, I brushed the whole board and mat-board kentos with clear acrylic to make it easier to repel water and clean pigment and paste off (not that I'm messy or anything).

Once I was satisfied that this was a suitable movable kento for woodblock, I made myself a slightly fancier board. This time I used a nice board for the backing and brass corners and straight pieces for the "kento". I brushed it with polyurethane again to make cleaning easier and installed semi-permanent one-inch and two-inch margin kentos. Despite the polyurethane, matboard still sticks to the wood, so I can still temporarily "install" a shorter or longer margin. Also the screws can be removed and the kentos moved according to my next project demands. I screwed the brass pieces quite firmly so that there would be absolutely no gap between the board and the brass kento where the paper could slip in. The whole board sits on a sheet of slip-proof drawer liner, which I also use sometimes directly under the block.
And again, I emphasize, the corners must be perfectly square, as the blocks and paper.

Much prettier, easier to clean.
Perfect registration is now a breeze, no need for cutting kentos on every block and wasting all that time and wood. Baren glides over the board without problems, cleanup a mere wipe with a damp towel, can life get any better than this?

Monday, April 12, 2010

The Printing Desk and Registration Boards

One of the things I'm enjoying most about doing moku-hanga is the "compactness" of the whole process. I thought I'd share the arrangement of my printing desk (also doubles as mat-cutting desk, framing desk, doodling surface, cat bed and various other things).

At the left top, the Valley of Fire II blocks all cut and ready for me to get the courage to print bokashis. Just below, one of my registration boards, close ups and more details below. Front, center, the brushes and ceramic cups I just used to print my tigers; blocks laying on anoher registration board.

Just to the right, bottom, that blue cloth is an auto drying cloth (faux, synthetic chamois) which I dampen and put inside a Tupper-ware (plastic with tight-cover) flat container. I keep printing paper in there throughout the printing process and stays nice and evenly dampened for as long as I keep the lid closed. During printing, I take the entire stack of paper, place in a plastic bag with another of those dampened synthetic chamois. I then pull out a sheet at a time, print, and then place in the plastic container. Works well and I have had absolutely no registration problems...well, other than "operator error" when placing the paper down on the registration board.

Behind the whole setup, to the right of the paper towels, a set of small stackable plastic drawers. There are four drawers in all and I keep pigments on the larger bottom drawer, paste and brushes in the next one up, barens and more brushes next, and miscellaneous printing containers and other paraphenalia in the top drawer. My entire supply of woodblock printing "stuff" right there in that portable little set of drawers and they are see-through plastic so they are protected from dust and cats and I can readily see what's in them.

Registration boards in the next post!

Sunday, April 11, 2010


I had all intentions of finishing my Valley of Fire II print before I left on a little trip across the West US, but I decided I needed more bokashi-practice. So my blocks for that print are all cut and ready to print when I get back.

Meantime, I actually got my Chinese Lunar New Year 2010 Tigers all done!
This was a fun little print where I wanted to push the Shina ply a bit and see how small I could go before cursing and throwing my tiny blocks out the window. Luckily, none of that came to pass and my proud little tigers are all ready to travel.

The three blocks needed to make the tigers, key printed in sumi ink, green/yellow mix and bright orange and just below, the two first stages of the print:

I must say there is something immensely satisfying about seeing a whole lot of prints drying on the desk (or hanging, depending on size). I think this is the part I like most, all those near-identical prints...

In any case, the tigers will fly off tomorrow. I'm still debating whether to buy actual Tiger stamps or use up the Ox stamps that I overbought from earlier this year. I guess you'll see when you get them!
Oh, I didn't include an official info sheet with these, they are going as First Class postcard mail, so:

Title: 2010
Woodblock on 3 Shina plywood blocks, Akua inks, key block black Sumi ink
Paper are ready cut postcards from the Baren Mall

Happy Year of the Tiger everyone!