Wood Engraving

A wood engraving is made by cutting with specialist tools into the end-grain of blocks of wood.

The wood is hard and close-grained enabling very fine detail. The wood must be seasoned and sanded to a highly polished glass-like surface.

I buy mine from a specialist blockmaker who is skilled at producing beautifully smooth blocks , often made-up of several pieces jointed or glued together. Blocks are still made ‘type-high’, even though there is no longer reason for them to be.

The best of these is box, because of its very close grain, but others can be used such as lemon, pear, cherry, or holly.

Boxwood was first used in the 18th century by Thomas Bewick who developed the art of wood engraving for illustrating books.

Wood engraving declined with the advent of photography in the late 19th century, but a revival occurred in the 1920’s and 30’s, when an interest in fine book production took place in the UK.

The Society of Wood Engravers was founded in 1920 by the artists whose names are now famous in the field: Gibbings, Gill, Raverat, Nash. It was then refounded in 1984 due to the renewed interest of contemporary artists wanting to use the medium.