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Feeling Worn Down ... Again?

Posted by Dave Bull on March 21, 2020 [Permalink]

A few years back, I made a post on this blog attempting to answer one of the most common questions we get asked here: "How many prints can you make from a block before it gets worn out?"

At that time, I answered by showing one of the woodblocks used in the Print Party room in our Asakusa shop. Well today ... I can basically repeat that post, almost word for word!

Take a look at this ...

... and a closeup:

This is the 'yellow' block for the print we have been using in the Print Parties for nearly a year - our famous 'Microwave'. It has been clear for some weeks that it has reached the end of life. It has become so worn that the carved areas no longer reach to the black outlines, and people have been thinking that their registration is off.

But just as with the replacement block for the Momotaro print some years ago, the solution for this is the same - it's just a matter of a couple of hours work (on the back side of the same piece!) to recut it:


Clean and sharp! Ready for another few thousand copies!

Here's another 'before/after' pair for comparison:

And I can simply repeat the same sentence I used to end the previous blog post! "The one I'm dreading is of course the day when the key block for our Great Wave print becomes unusable. We're a long way off that day yet, but given how long it will take to get a fresh set up and running, we had better start planning soon!"




Added by: Marc Kahn on March 22, 2020, 5:28 pm

I suspect that a contributing factor to the speed of the degradation of the blocks is that the printers at your print parties are amateurs. Do you think that your well trained staff printers could make the same number of impressions and do considerably less damage to the blocks?

Added by: Dave on March 22, 2020, 6:09 pm

... amateurs ...

Yes, this is absolutely a factor. Back in that earlier post that I referenced above was this:

... beginners who use it to make prints almost invariably rub the brush over the surface too strongly. We of course tell them "Lightly ... lightly!" ... but what can you do! :-) And adding to this is that the brush is frequently a bit too hard, because it 'waits' between visitors and sometimes dries out a bit too much.

We ourselves have yet to encounter anywhere near as much block wear as this (in our own professional work). Even our most popular prints (The Great Wave, Rickshaw Cart), which are each now somewhere around 2,000 copies published, show nothing remotely like this amount of wear.


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