Monday, June 1, 2009

Resingrave - a new type of engraving surface for relief printing

The Marsh
relief engraving
block size 3 x 6.5 cm (about 1.75 x 2.5 inches)
Daniel Smith Black relief ink printed onto Somerset 250 gsm rag white

Above is a photo and close up of the engraved surface from my first print created from the surface of a material called Resingrave. This study is from a very small block and required viewing it through the magnifying lens of a swing arm daylight lamp while cutting the surface.
Here is a link to McClain's in Portland, Oregon. They are a relief printmaking supplier/retailer who sell the Resingrave product. They also have a wonderful online gallery of works submitted by many known and unknown artists.

Last year I purchased a starter set of six wood engraving tools from McClains (manufactured by Edward Lyons Co.) and several blocks of a product called Resingrave. This hard resin epoxy material is bonded in a thin layer onto a thicker layer below of MDF substrate base and is a synthetic version of hardwood. Since traditional boxwood is becoming an endangered species this was invented by a printmaker from California as a substitute. The blocks that I purchased are a new formula that has more resistance to chipping, something that unfortunately was a problem with the original formula and turned a few people off of using it. In addition to the resingrave I purchased a small leather cushion filled with sand to set the block on while cutting (this makes it easier to turn the block when you are cutting round lines). First I coated the surface of the resingrave with black india ink and when it was dry then I drew on top using a Sakura gelly roll white pen. When the surface area was cut away (using the white ink lines as my cutting guide) the contrast off white of the resin epoxy material was exposed, so this more or less shows you a bit of what your image will appear when it is printed in black and white (but in reverse).
I was able to locate a cabinet maker locally who possessed a fine tooth carbide blade and a table saw, he was able to cut down the larger blocks into smaller size pieces . I used a small tabletop etching press to print the block. I first created a set of runners made of compressed particle wood material (MDF) with a thin layer of easy to cut vinyl material glued on top. I wanted to make these the exact height as the resingrave blocks as they would be positioned under the roller to keep it level. Then I would set a 1/8 inch sheet of millboard over top of the damp rag paper which was positioned over top of the inked block and passed the works under the top roller with just enough of a slight pressure to allow a good transfer of ink onto the paper. In the photo you will notice that some of the uninked cut areas that define the sky were embossed into the paper creating a very interesting subtle 3D effect that is quite noticable when light hits it at the right angle. This is a technique called blind embossing.
I have also experimented with other papers including Masa oriental paper and Zerkall paper that is made in Germany. These are not soaked and will not reveal the wonderful embossing effect to the degree that a heavier damp paper will.

Below is a photo that shows the block surface with ink rolled on the flat surface and the resulting reverse image print.

The summer months are going to be spent with more exploration of this medium.


  1. That sounds very interesting and a nice print. Do engravers often use the magnifying swing arm lamps? I can definately see how it could help!

  2. Beautiful first print, right out of the gate. I can't wait to see what you make next. Which table-top etching press are you using?

  3. Good Presses:

  4. WOW!!! Its so great to see more people using Resingrave! I've been hooked for about 2 years!!! Keep up the great work!! A little tip, the finer the details (and they can be carved VERY fine) the tougher it is to print on thick paper. If you haven't already, look at Barry Moser's work, which for the past 6-7 years has been exclusivly in Resingrave!!!!! If you would like to see some of my prints,

    Eric Hoffman