Wednesday, December 3, 2008

The Linocut Jig

"The Linocut Jig." Sounds like it should be a piece of contemporary Celtic music, eh?

As promised, some pix and descriptions of my high-tech, highly evolved registration system.

When I first tried to make a linocut of more than one color, I used a simple paper registration system: Trace the block squarely onto a sheet of paper, draw some registration marks on the bottom sheet AND on the print paper, line up the marks and drop the paper on the inked block. Okay on unmounted lino, but there was a lot of lip-biting and swearing involved. So....

#1 - The development of the trusty jig. The base is 1/4" masonite. Two pieces of 1" x 2" pine have been attached at a right angle in the lower left corner. (I also do my inking-up here, as you can see. Probably once per edition I drop the brayer. Oops.)

Originally this was the extent of the sytem. I aligned the bottom edge of the paper with the bottom of the 1x2, and used pins on the left edge. It required making holes in the print paper and then reinforcing them with tape. It was a passable system, but the pins were prone to popping out or twisting at the exact wrong moment.

Somewhere along the line a friend suggested affixing corner molding on top of the pine boards. Seemed a reasonable idea, so....

# 2 - A closer view of the L-shaped corner molding on top of the pine boards. The little gap on the left is just a function of being too lazy to miter the corner. It doesn't matter, paper stops just fine where it is supposed to.

#3 - The highly important box of shims in a variety of widths. These are just 3/4" plywood, I think the thinnest is 1/8", the widest is 1". These slide into the lower left corner of the jig to create the desired paper margin.

#4 - Like this. These are the shims I used to create the paper margins on "High Tide Detritus." The shims are the same height as the block on which I mount the lino. This means the lino stands slightly proud of the shims- enough to help keep the paper edges clean if I have an ink smudge, but not so much that the paper bows over the block.

#5 - You can see with the print turned right-side-up how the margins are defined by the shims. (Funny, the lower edge of everything looks bent in this photo. It's not, I promise. Blame the photographer.)

#6 - More shims, fatter margins. Just make sure you get the same ones every time, and that everything is snug to the corner before you put the paper down.

#7 - The paper! It was challenging to get a useful photo of this step, but here's how I do it:

Holding the paper in both hands and suspended above the inked plate, slide the bottom edge until it butts up against the corner molding.

Still holding the paper up, gently slide it to the left until it butts the corner molding on the side.

You can see here that I'm holding the paper a few inches from the bottom. I think by now I have an automatic point at which I grab the paper to keep it off the inky plate as I slide it left. When I'm confident that the paper is snug to the corner molding in both directions, then I lower the paper the rest of the way. There's a definite "feel" to it... a sort of point at which everything feels solid and square.

#8 - So here we are, paper down in the corner, flush with both edges. Typically I put a piece of tracing paper over the back before I start rubbing the print.

With a fairly narrow margin like this one, it can be tricky to get even pressure along the edge as I'm rubbing, so I often slide the block-and-paper sandwich out of the jig corner to work the edges. This can be dangerous! If the paper is going to slidge and smudge across the plate, this is where it will happen. It's imperative to be sure your paper has good contact with the wet ink and that you are delicate about moving everything if you try to move away from the jig.

I generally have really good success with this system. In "High Tide Detritus" I mis-registered one print when I wasn't paying attention to shim position (oops), and one I bent just as I lowered the paper. It's not even off by 1/16", but it's enough in a complex piece like that to make your eyes go funny.

I typically use Hosho paper, which has deckle edges, but I do not usually have a problem, as long as the "feel" of the paper is right each time. I want the paper to feel firm and solid, but not moshed against the jig. Using a paper with cut edges would probably be divine in this system.

So that's it. None too technical, and I hope a least a little bit clear! Now go make one yourself and pull some prints!


moreidlethoughts said...

Lovely show-and-tell! At first, I wondered how you managed to get it under the press without "runners" then remembered you're a baren printer.D'oh!
I do sometimes do monoprints by hand and for these I use the paper registration method. (We use that on the press,too.)
Thanks for this;I'll direct some printmaking friends this way.

Jeff said...

aHA! Now I have your secret! I shall use it to become wealthy and famous...

marissa buschow said...

oooh, lovely step-by-step. thanks for sharing!
I didn't realize you used a baren to print your linocuts, I'm thoroughly impressed. I've never had much luck with getting ink even that way, though I suppose it depends on the paper.

Toni said...

Thanks Sherrie for the tutorial. Great step by step photos. More food for thought for me.

Sherrie Y said...

Hi, all!

Idle, I've never done linos in a press, although I know it can be done. When I was student teaching (a hundred years ago), we had the kids run unmounted lino through a wringer-washer!

Marissa, I use the baren for the first layers and at the beginning of all color runs, but towards the end when I want really solid color I do the painstaking Spoon Method. I can control the pressure inch by inch this way, but it's definitely hard on the hands.

Jeff, beware the hidden digital code cleverly buried in this post. If indeed you follow these instructions with an eye to fame and fortune, a rogue brayer will cover your world in a substance akin to bird poop.

I should write fortune cookies.

Robyn said...

Sherrie - I've read this three times and am thrilled with the amount of detail and the trouble you took to photograph it all. Thank you so much. It is extremely generous of you.

Now I just have to find someone who can cut some pieces of wood - oh, and the small matter of trying to cut the lino in the right order ;) To date I've been printing my mono linocuts on damp paper under felt in an old book binding press at my teacher's studio. Works a treat but I don't have one at home.

Pica said...

Wow, Sherrie, fantastic timing! I'm about to do my xmas cards and risk a foray into linocut, inspired by you... This will work well. For temporary shims & setup I'm thinking of using davey board (the whole thing is small-scale). Can't get organized enough in time with wood.

Thank you!

Ms. Fitzgerald said...

OK I understand the corner mouldings and the shims. I had a similar jig. But it looks in the photos like the shims are a little shallower than the inside edges of the mouldings. How do you keep from having a line there?

Sherrie Y said...

Hi, Ms. F- welcome to BnB! You are correct, the shims are a little shallower than the mouldings, but as the ink is all supposed to be on the plate and not the mouldings or the shims, lines shouldn't be a problem. If you're thinking of a pressure line, I'm rubbing all of these by hand, so not a worry.

Robyn, Pica - expect to see your results posted! ;-) (Pica, clever idea to use Davey board, I think!)

Jeff said...

Does the DM get an royalties from Davey board?

Jeb F. said...

Thanks so much for this informative post. Its the best explanation I've seen on this topic!

Lena Ohlén said...

Thanks for a very instruktional text an pictures. I am not doing linos just now but one never knows when. I like your pictures and will return now and then to look.

LaurelsArt said...

Oh sweet mercy, I know all about the sweating and lip biting.
This is the answer to my question. What a great idea, just like my trusty home made bench hook!

richard said...