What is the Art of Wood Engraving: How-to-Guide

A wood engraving or a woodcut is considered as a relief printmaking technique quite similar to that of potato-printing or linocut. It is one of the hardest techniques to lay your hands on. Because the wood to be used is resilient, you can possibly run several numbers of prints.

That makes it perfect for creating greetings cards or Christmas because once the block is cut, you can make use of it year after year. The art of wood engraving is a complex process. A wood engraver has to tackle this art with the use of sophisticated tools. Continue reading the post for a more detailed view.

What is the art of Wood Engraving called?

The art of wood engraving is called relief printing. The art is similar to that of potato-printing or linocut. But, it is not just a sculptural process. Wood engraving is popular for its fine line and small scale work. An engraving is created when an artist makes use of specific engraving tools called burins.

The tools help to make incisions on the surface of a polished end-grain woodblock. To take a fine print from the woodblock, ink is rolled on the surface of the hard block evenly. After that, the paper is placed on top of the block. The pressure is applied gently by a press, or by rubbing with the help of a burnisher by hand.

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The cuts that were present on the woodblock don’t receive any amount of ink. As such, the final impression on the paper comes out as white. And, the surface that receives the ink comes out as black on the paper. The image on the block is reversed when the impression is made on the paper.

The art of wood engraving was widely used in the 19th century for reproducing pictures in journals, newspapers, and books. This technique was used before the photo-mechanical methods came into existence.

What is a wood engraver called?

A wood engraver is basically called an artist who makes one of the exquisite forms of printmaking. At first, the print is made by engraving the design or picture in a reversed manner on a smooth surface of a woodblock. A wood engraver chooses boxwood for making the engraving.

what is a wood engraver called

However, cheaper alternatives like synthetic materials and lemonwood are used by engravers these days. The image that comes out is only made by this process, as photographs can be made only with a camera or paintings with paint. Printmaking by wood engravers is regarded as a potentially creative process.

Once engraved, many prints could be made from the block. Each of those paintings is original and made by the same process, not copied. Most wood engravings appear to be relatively small and closely worked because the tools used for this purpose are finely pointed.

Because of this fineness, wood engraving produces a kind of rich tonal range. Wood engravings appear both in books and as prints. These are showcased in galleries as a part of the artists’ exhibition prints taken by themselves. In books, there may be parts of the art in the form of original prints. Many artists who make illustrations regularly tend to send their work to many societies to be displayed on their annual show.

How to engrave a wooden box:

Basically, when designing a wood engraving on a wooden box, you may want to ensure that the design on the box consists of a mixture of dark areas (the surface left untouched), light areas (the surface that has been cleared), and mid-tones. The mid-tones could be achieved in several ways.  Don’t forget to plane down your wood project with a jack plane to give it a nice smooth surface before engraving.

Almost every engraver uses parallel lines thinly-spaced widths to stipulate flat surfaces. Thicker the lines, the lighter will be the tone. Another option is to have the area covered in stippled dots. The larger the dots, and more the number of dots, the lighter will be the area.

how to engrave a wooden box

While designing a wooden box, there are a few ways you can engrave on it. But, the simplest way is to draw the image on the wooden box itself. For better results, you can separate each section of the wooden box side-by-side. While drawing, you don’t have to worry that the resultant image would be reversed when printed.

A stiff ink specifically designed for letterpress printing is rolled on the surface of the woodblock. Make sure not to roll too much ink. Carefully place the wood block onto the surface of the wooden box where the impression is to be made. Give a gentle push and then remove the block.

How to engrave words into wood

Designs on wood can be mesmerizing and create unique gifts and items. It has become a popular choice for personalized keepsakes and decor. For engraving into woods, you may need some specialized tools. These include chip carving, Dremel, lasers, and wood burner. Each of these tools is meant for different skills.

If you want to make a design that involves dates along with other fine details, you may need to hire experts from a laser company to craft your masterpiece. Modern machines can create delicate, deep marks that result in impressive pieces that you can keep for generations to come.

how to engrave words into wood

Softwoods are best to work with as compared to the harder ones. The sharp edges a hand tool can create give the engraved letters a different look rather than modern hand-held tools. If the letter is smaller, you have to do more work to get the precision design right.

It won’t matter what kind of tool you use, the angle is much important for the design to have a concise design. An angle between 20 and 30 degrees is perfect to approach the wood. The right kind of wood is important to engrave letters, as well.

How to engrave on wood by hand

Take a piece of soft wood that you intend to engrave on. The first step is to make the wood dry if you feel that it may have some moisture. You can let it dry for about two days. Once done, you need to make the surface smooth so that the engraving can work out fine.

For that, you need sandpaper. Polish the surface so that it becomes easier to draw the specific image of your choice. When the surface becomes smooth, it is time for you to start drawing the image on the surface. You may find it helpful to fill in the borderlines.

how to engrave on wood by hand

You have to make them thick so that you could know exactly where to burrow out, or not. Once you are done with the outline, it’s time to trace it. Holding the Dremel at proper angles may appear difficult if you are new in this area. But, you will get along with it in no time.

You can now begin to make the shading deeper and smoothing the lines as you go along. When most of the pencil marks are gone, you can use an eraser to remove the remaining, or you can give a quick polish with the sandpaper. If you want a different look, you can paint the wood before drawing the outline. By doing so, you can have an impressive result.

How to engrave on wood with a soldering iron

how to engrave on wood with a soldering iron

Engraving on wood with a soldering iron can give you a good start, but remember that you should expect fewer results while using it. If you want to use a soldering iron to create wood art, you have to follow some guidelines for a better result.

First, lay the script on the wood. Grab a pencil and draw whatever design you want, or you may try some letters. After that, it is time to fire up the soldering iron. Soldering irons have sharp and pointy tips that give control and effects depending on what you are making.

When the iron is hot enough, slowly and gently make the tip of the iron touch the outline in the wood. Remember that there are no erasers. Hence, work slowly on the designs. For better results, you can experiment on scrap wood before trying on the final one.

What tool is best for engraving wood?

what tool is best for engraving wood

The tools that are the best for engraving designs on wood gives a distinct look to your piece. Here are some tools that can help you in engraving.

Dremel – These rotating tools have the capability to make deep and delicate marks in almost every kind of wood without any trouble.

Chip carving – It is a sharp chisel that has two angled lines intersects at a point in the middle. The tools are used to carve divots in the wood. You can have full control over how deep the designs can go.

Lasers – These machines are responsible for making etching a part of any sculpture or home decor. Lasers can easily make small plaques that depict a name on a board, personal achievement, or a family crest.

Wood burner – Pen shaped wood burners give distinct color and shape to the engraved designs or letters on the pieces of wood. Apply enough pressure so that it doesn’t skip off the surface.

The Art of Wood Engraving: Bottom Line

Wood engraving is an art that dates back to several thousands of years. Letters and pictures were engraved on wood with the help of sharp hand-held tools to denote a memorable event or passing along important information to a group of people.