It's amazing how quickly weekends go by. Specially when you try to cram as much as possible into them. Yesterday, being the first really nice Saturday all spring, I couldn't procrastinate away from the gardening anymore. It was definitely time to remove the last signs of winter still laying around here and there and R and I worked hard at it. So it starts again; next weekend we'll be blowing money at the garden centre.
But, half a day of housework and the other half of yard work, last night I almost didn't touch the Firebird block to get it ready for printing today. Guilt finally drove me to it, the thought of a Sunday going by with nothing printed wouldn't let me relax until I sat down to work, chisel in hand.
I also spent a good half-hour making three very clever little masks for the block so that I wouldn't have to do so much wiping today, particularly around the tail feathers, but when it came time to actually print, the masks were just as much hassle. I did use one of them, something I should have really thought of the last time already given how rough the tail feathers are looking right now. I'm really hoping the rough bits will even out once the other colours and the key block come into play.
After I finished printing the Firebird, I turned to the MDF town scene and the dancing girls I worked on last week. Hugely ambitious, I got my paper ready for both and got ready to print, and that's when my ambitions snuck out the back door. My DS black water soluble ink, barely used in the last year and a half, was a huge problem. It had developed an odd rubbery and slug-like quality and it rolled out into dozens of tiny jelly-like blobs instead of velvety ink. It wouldn't take to the block so I misted it a bit with water which made things marginally better but still not good enough; none of the proofs I pulled gave me any reason to go on with printing onto good paper.
The images show the poor ink results and this is clearly a big problem I have to solve soon; I planned to use the same ink for the key block of the Firebird print eventually.
My next step will be to e-mail Daniel Smith and ask for advice. Depending on what they tell me, I might try using my black oil-based ink next Sunday.
Ink issues aside though, I'm really not happy with the actual print I carved out of the MDF either. It's probably a learning curve; the lines aren't as clean as I'd like them to be. I'm not used to the material and its quirks, one of which is that it tends to crumble a bit. I'll try using a V-gouge for my lines on the next block I do and see it that'll help.
The other experiment, oiling the MDF with mineral oil to make the block more resistant to water and cleanup, seemed to work OK. The oil soaked in well enough, but since my image was two-thirds carved already when I oiled it, I had to work around the relief bits and didn't really get the oil to penetrate as deeply as I wanted to. Consequently, as per below, once I began clearing some unwanted parts of the block, I also ended up clearing away the oiled parts.
The next block I work on will need to be oiled before I begin carving.