May 2024
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Woodblock Map - Final

I was planning on having 2-3 weeks to carve the final woodblock, but of course it didn’t come together until the  last minute.  I had 4 days to carve, but it all came together in the end.

Woodblock printed map

The final print on Arches 140lb hot rolled 100% rag paper.

I can see why pear wood was a popular choice for woodblock carving in period.  In “Il Libro dell’ Arte”, written in  1437 by Cennino d’Andrea Cennini, pear and nut were mentioned as good woods for woodblocks, and many woodblocks that have survived are believed to be made of pear.  The pear wood was a delight to carve and held together very well and supported very fine detail.  The wood did not tend to break at the grain, and with sharp tools I was able to carve as easily with the grain as against it, and make smooth curves.

For the carving, I mostly used a sharp detail knife, a 4mm and a 1.5mm u-gouge, and a 1mm v-parting tool.  I generally outlined the areas I would be carving with the knife, but that wasn’t always necessary, which I attribute to the dense grain of the pear wood.  I was not pleased with the tool I used to clear large spaces.  I had to press very hard with the palm of my hand and I couldn’t carve as deep as I wanted.  I have picked up some new palm tools that will hopefully help.

The carved woodblock and tools

I was not happy with the glues that I used to attach the paper with the image to the block.  I could sometimes carve through the paper without it moving, but not always.  I usually outlines the details with a sharp knife then removed the paper and drew the details in with a fine tipped Sharpie pen so I could carve out the details.

My first test print on regular card stock turned out really nice.  My later prints on the better paper did not come out as well.  I think this is due to several reasons.  After printing a couple of times the block had a lot of ink on it, and the ink was very thick and tacky.  I want to experiment with the water based Speedball ink I used and also an oil based ink from Graphic Chemical to see if I can get better prints.  The paper I used for the final prints was also much thicker and stiffer than the card stock.  I would like to try with some different types of paper.  Since I have some pages from 16th century books I know a type of paper that was printed on.   The pages that I have are on much thinner paper than what I used.

The final woodblock and first test print

Things I learned:

Pear wood was an excellent wood for the purpose of woodblock carving and printing. It allowed for fine detail and easy carving, and did not soak up a lot of ink.  This project was my first time carving words, and while it was in some ways very difficult, it was not as hard as I had feared.  In the future I would use a font that had more space between the letters and more readable and easily carvable capital letters.  Overall, I feel like I met my personal goals with this project, and learned more about the techniques of woodcarving.


This was my first time entering an A&S compeition, and I was pretty pleased with my final product.  I was given some good advice from Iheronimus Bruckner about using a rolling pin to print which I am looking forward to trying.  My documentation was not as good as I would have liked, but I think it hit the main points.  I was pretty pleased with my judging results, but some of the comments from the judges did not make sense to me.  They seemed to think some of the prints I showed images of were engravings not woodblocks, but I don’t know which ones.  I also do not think that they read my documentation since one of the questions was answered in the documentation.  I think I may try including an abstract on the cover so if people don’t want to read my documentation they can still get a better sense of my project.  I was advised by one of the judges that if documentation is too long, judges often don’t read it, but for my own use, I want to have detailed documentation that I can refer to later.  Since I do this stuff entirely for myself, I don’t intend to ever put less into my documentation.

I was super pleased and shocked with the results of the competition.  There were around 50 entrants and 2 different categories, then and now.  The then category was for projects done more than 5 years ago, the now was for recent projects.   There were a lot of amazing projects for both categories.  In addition to the two categories there was also a populace choice award, which I was amazed and honored to win.  The populace choice was decided by the number of beads placed in a cup at each entry.  The number of beads (votes) each person got to place was determined by their level o award in the SCA.  People like me got 1 vote, those with high orders of merit got 2, peers got 3 and royal peers got 4.

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