Wood engraving is a commonly practised form of printmaking and letterpress printing. This technique of printing was developed and introduced by Thomas Berwick during the 18th century in Britain. At the time of Berwick, the only method of engraving wood was with the use of knives or by using the soft grain of the wood for craving.
PURPOSE OF ENGRAVED WOOD
The main purpose of engraved wood at that time was for the conventional printing press in which equal height blocks were used to ensure consistent low pressure to be applied. Currently, wood engraving artists use an image or a matrix of images to create patterns within the block of wood. The engraved wood is then used for printing the image onto other surfaces, which is done by coating the wood with ink and pressing it onto the surface. This is the low-pressure printing which is widely used in block printing of textiles.
The selection of the woodblock used for engraving needs to be done very carefully. Traditionally, the woodblocks with soft grain ends were preferred since they required lesser force and pressure however, they tend to break and get damaged easily. Hence using the soft grain wood might make the engraving procedure easy however they are not long-lasting and do not perform well under high pressure. Furthermore, using an extremely hard and solid wood can also cause problems to the wood engraver since the hardwood requires a lot of force to be engraved. This prevents the wood engraver to add high-level details to the image. Boxwood and related hardwoods like cherry and lemonwood are usually used as the wood engraving blocks. These hardwoods are widely preferred since they have the end grain present in the trunk of the tree which is essential for the engraving process. The fact that hardwood is scarcely available makes the woodblock extremely expensive, hence many kinds of wood engraves tend to use resin or PVC mounted on wooden fibres.
HOW TO ENGRAVE ON WOOD
In order to engrave the woodblock, it is treated in a sandbag which allows the engraver to add intrinsic details and lines easily. Like any form of wood art, wood engraving also requires special kinds of equipment which include lozenge and V-Shaped graver. The Lozenge graver is the main tool used for wood engraving since it is available in many shapes and sizes. Different structures are made using different kinds of lozenge grazers. The V-Shaped grazer is used for hatching and flexible undulating. Spit sticker is another commonly used tool which enables wood engravers to form fine lines and undulating patterns along the length of the woodblock.The process of engraving is usually a black and white process in which the engraved pattern is dipped into a single dark coloured solution
However, some wood engravers tend to add colours to different features of the pattern, making the end result more appealing and aesthetic. The parallel four-colour method is common in textile printing in which the pattern is divided into 4 parts, each part gets a different coloured ink. This produces colourful patterns being imprinted on the surface. In recent years, wood engraving has gained significant popularity and many wood engravers have emerged. Although the wood engraving is usually done by hand and physical tools, however, laser wood engraving has also been introduced in recent years. The laser wood engraving is much more precise and flexible as compared to the traditional wood engraving.
Wood engraving is a form of art which originated from Great Britain and has had a number of notable workers who have produced many exceptional pieces. Traditionally the wood engraving has been used for printing presses and textile block printing, however, it is also used for making scriptures and figures. Huge sculptures and figures made from wood require extreme finesse and patience since they are extremely time-consuming and a laborious process. The basic sculptures can be made using the minimum number of tools like Lozenge and V-shaped grazers however for a more specific feature, use of different tools are recommended.
WOOD ENGRAVING VS WOOD CARVING
Wood engraving is often confused with wood carving. Although, both are used for making sculptures and figures from wood, however, the tools used for both the processes are fairly different and serve various purposes.