Sunday, February 14, 2016

Carving Material Review: Dick Blick's Printmaking Block

Dick Blick Printmaking Blocks

So this is the first review in a series of posts that I'm doing on all the various kinds of material out there that you can use to make stamps. The first medium was chosen based on its proximity in the pile.  Yep.

I've decided that the series of stamps won't all be identical, but with the same style - an architectural drawing for some nice gouge carving and some text for the knife - along with a dark black box around the whole shebang so we can see how well it inks.

Without any further ado: my review of Dick Blick's Printmaking Blocks (on its website, listed as E-Z-Cut)!  You can buy this stuff at Dick Blick (shocking, I know) for about $5.30 USD + shipping.

Appearance: Okay, so when you buy these, they come in a plastic wrapping - but when I received them in the mail, I had this suspicions that the blocks were going to be essentially the same as Speedball's Speedy Cut (spoiler: I was right).  I opened it up and sure thing, it had the same smell (for those who know what I mean) and texture of Speedy Cut.  It doesn't feel like there is any plastic in the material - it's very gritty feeling (in part because it was actually crumbling on the sides - yuck).

Size and weight: Size wise, the thickness is about 9mm and even all over.  Looking at both sides of the medium, it looks like they are the same and there was no ability to choose which should be carved and which shouldn't.  It was quite heavy.

Transfer: Okay, so I've pretty much converted to a pure heat transfer kinda girl.  So I busted out my iron and did my thing - nada. See the image below? That was after about 30 seconds of heat (which on another medium would have melted the edges.

Attempted heat transfer on Dick Blick Printmaking Block
Since the heat was clearly a no-go, I resorted to an acetone transfer.  In a word: mucky.  The stuff is flaking off and not dealing well with trying to transfer it - it actually was absorbing the acetone, I swear.  All in all, the transfer was very meh.  You can barely see the details of the lettering, and the Parthenon is very muddy.  Not a great transfer for trying to carve.

Acetone transfer on Dick Blick Printmaking Block
Crumble-Factor: Very very high.  Worst of worst.  So bad, that I actually crumbled off some lettering while I carved, but look at this following image where you can see the grit coming off of the sides.  If you try to brush it away, you only succeed in making more new grit.  Not cool.

Grit on sides of Dick Blick Printmaking Block

Carving: I started first on the lettering with my trusty Xacto knife.  The material doesn't just carve like butter, it carved like butter left too close to the stove.  My knife would slide through the material way too quickly.  The carved out pieces popped out really easy - but too easy. I lost part of the letter P - the carving is now of the Rarthenon.

I gouge carved the building and the border using Speedball #1 and 2 gouges.  Again, like half melted butter.  The lines were terrible to carve: the gouge slides so easily that you can't control the separation and it makes it impossible to follow delicate lines - see the steps leading up to the parthenon.

Essentially, as I was getting further along in the design, I basically phoned it in.  Between the muddy transfer and the poor gouge control, I figured it would look like a disaster.

Inking: Okay, so the design actually looked terrible when I finished carving it, so I was pretty surprised at how well the transfers turned out.  Turns out that the material is actually pretty forgiving in the stamp transfer.

Having said that, with how quickly this stuff crumbles, I would NOT recommend that anyone use stamp markers on it which will get gummed up.  I also think the material would be problematic to those heathen inkers who swipe at the stamp with the ink pad (were you raised by wolves?!).

The image below shows the stamp at the top right and the printed image bottom right.  At the top left in blue is the Memento ink and the bottom left is the StazOn.  Interesting that the StazOn is actually as dark as and a little darker than the printer version.

Conclusions: Brutal.  Wouldn't recommend this to an established stamp carver to use.  I think the remaining material that I have I will use for large, non-detailed prints.  I wouldn't want to use it to make a stamp that I would want to keep because of how quickly it degrades in my hands.

(I think this actually be re-branded Speedball Speedy Cut.  I actually wouldn't know the difference, but it's been years since I've tried Speedy Cut - I'll have to get another slab and report back - for science!)

The one use that I might recommend is for children: because it's so soft, I think it would actually work with those homemade gouges I read about on pinterest (taking a standard pencil, removing the eraser, pinching the metal at the top, and using it as a carving gouge).  It's fairly inexpensive and inks well, I think it would be good for that purpose.

I've started summarizing the reviews in a table on this page.

The remainder of my material reviews will follow generally the same format.  If there is information that you'd like, famous buildings you'd like to recommend, or carving mediums you'd like to be covered, leave a message in the comments.

Happy trails!

February 16, 2016 edit: Would you like this stamp?  Okay, so I'm going to end up with a crazy number of these architecture series stamps, so I've decided to make the stamps available to be claimed by letterboxers with more than 10 plants of their own.  If you would like to claim this stamp, send me a message on Atlas Quest with your mailing address - first come, first serve.  For this stamp, I will likely carve out the lettering because of how brutal they have turned out.  I will come back and note something here if/when this particular stamp has been claimed.

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