John F. - Re: the fineness of lines

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Posted by Marc Kahn on May 28, 2002 at 03:23:03:


Regarding the fineness of lines, as keyblocks "wear out", you wrote:

"Typically, the older the block, the weaker the line, but I've seen late impressions with darker lines of greater "depth" when produced by a printer who was trying to extract every bit of "strength" from worn-out woodblocks. In these cases I assume there was some combination of denser colorants, greater pressure exerted during printing, multiple printings of the same colorant, or less dôsa in the paper. I've also seen early impressions of such fineness that, at first glance, one might wonder whether the blocks were already showing wear, until it became obvious the fineness of printing was uniform and intentional. Facial lines, even in unworn impressions, can be very fine."

All this time, I have assumed the opposite to be true. In my mind, very fine lines are created by delicately carved, sharp ridges on the woodblocks. Over time, because of the pressure exerted by the printer, the sharp edge of the ridge is degraded and it becomes thicker. I have seen this thickening of fine keyblock lines (on shin hanga prints) over time and verified the timing independently with printer seals and such.

Please explain how it is possible that a worn out keyblock would produce a finer line than a new one.


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