Inking the print block

The Steamroller Project

Each year the North Texas Printmakers Group sets up a steamroller event.

Participating printmakers carve a large woodblock and print by driving a actual steamroller over the inked plate in May. Then the print is exhibited at a local venue. It is my first year participating in the event. My first carving of a large 2′ x 3′ woodblock. I had no idea the amount of work involved and I am glad I did not choose a larger block to carve my first go around. If you haven’t done a large print block before be prepared for serious hand cramps.

Then Covid virus hit. The steam roller event was modified and moved to Terri Thoman’s Dallas Artisan Fine Print Studio for everyone’s safety. Terri is an experienced printmaker who provides creative time and expertise in her Studio on Peak street for a moderate fee. Terri even dressed up her “big mama” printing press out of cardboard boxes to look like a big old yellow steam roller. The Studio is such a laid-back, lovely place to work and be with other creative folks.

Drawing on onion skin before transfer to print block
Drawing on onion skin before pasting to print block with methyl cellulose
Carving of image
Carving of image through the onion skin drawing
Carving detail of image
Carving detail of image – this is a real workout for the hands
Carving detail of image
Carving detail of image – shaping the cloth around the heart. Shavings end up all over the studio workbench and floor.
Sealed print block
Sealed print block with a mixture of shellac and alcohol to prevent the ink from being absorbed into the plate. Makes ink cleanup so much easier.
Inking the print block
Inking a large print block requires a lot of stamina. First you charge the ink roller with the ink to get an even coverage. It is important not to bear down as you roll across the plate. It is quite a workout, especially with a mask on – hits the weight and cardio categories.
Print block positioned on press
Print block positioned on press to align with the registration template block at the top. This helps aligning the paper on top of the plate so it has even margins.
Rolling the press
Rolling the press. It just glides through Terri’s “big mama” press disguised as a yellow steamroller.
Pulling the print from the press
Pulling the print from the press and getting my yoga stretching in at the same time. Trick is not to get dirty finger prints on the final print or smear the wet ink as you place it on the drying rack.
Pulling print from press
Pulling print from press. Looks like there is good density and ink coverage on the print. Happy with the texture and line quality. There’s a great feeling of accomplishment to see the print come off the press. 
Final print titled The Beekeeper
Final print titled The Beekeeper

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