After deciding to attempt a woodblock print from scratch, I took a look in my garage through the wood pile and found the remnants of a sheet of plywood that I had used to make a cabinet. The surface looked quite smooth so I cut the sheet into four 7" x 9" pieces on my table saw. These were given a little sanding around the edges to clean up any rough spots then the top surface was lightly sanded with fine sandpaper and dusted off.
I scanned my original image of the tiger into my computer then resized it to about 5" x 7". This was printed out onto 4 sheets of white tissue paper that I had taped to regular printing paper sheets. I should have used Japanese Gampi tissue paper to print onto as it is much stronger but didn't have any so the domestic tissue had to do. This was then pasted face down onto one of the plywood blocks. I tried to get is as square as I could but wasn't too worried as I would cut the registration marks according to the print and not to the edge of the block. I didn't have the proper tools so had to make do with a x-acto knife and a few linocut carving tools that M gave me.
Not really knowing what I was doing, I proceeded with cutting the two registration (kento) marks on the lower right and bottom left, then began cutting away all of the wood around the areas that I wanted to print black. This took quite a long time as although the image looks quite simple, there was a lot of detail that I wanted to capture in the print.
Slowly getting there! The plywood was quite soft so it came off quite easily, the problem was making clean cuts so as not to flake off any of the wood that had to remain on the block. I used a gouge to remove the wood in some of the larger areas but had to be very careful not to slip and make any mistakes.
Finally all the carving was finished for this block. I left a ridge of wood that extended up somewhat between the eyes as this would support the sheet of paper when it came time to print. This would stop the sheet bowing down and picking up any stray ink from the block and ruining the print.
Next I took the finished block to the sink and gently washed off the tissue paper using a toothbrush. I was careful not to scrub too hard as the glue used on plywood sheets is very thin and doesn't hold the layers together that well. I didn't want any of my carved areas to come off.
I inked up the block then made a few test prints on ordinary copy paper - not bad so far. The wood held the water-based ink well and with enough rubbing, it transferred to the paper quite well. I know that the printing process will get better as I practice and using better paper when printing will also help. Most of what I have learnt about woodblock carving has been from the incredible David Bull. See much more on his multi-faceted website - www.woodblock.com. Next onto carving one of the color blocks.