Technique: Wood Engraving

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Posted 17th December 2018

Technique: Wood Engraving

John Bryce with words by Howard Phipps

Wood engraving was invented in Britain in the late 18th century, and developed by Thomas Bewick of Newcastle. In contrast with woodcuts (which are made by cutting the soft side of the grain) for wood engraving, artists work on end-grain hardwood such as boxwood, with tools comparable to those used by engravers of metal. This enables artists to create finer images.


The smooth boxwood 'round' is placed on a leather sandbag to keep it steady and burin-like tools used to engrave it – these have intriguing names such as spitsticker, bullsticker, and tint tool; these make possible a wide range of linear and textural marks that will appear as white against the black uncut areas when the relief surface is rolled with ink and then printed. Wood engravers usually darken the block prior to engraving, as the engraved areas expose the light yellow colour of the boxwood. On completion the surface of the engraved block is inked with a roller, and pressure is applied, sometimes using a hand press.


Images above: Howard Phipps, Albion Press and Engraving a Woodlblock

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