Anatomy of a Lino Cut


My table at Fire Monkey Arts Collective, Studio 1, Hotwallsstudios, Old Portsmouth Wednesday 21.12.16. I normally work from home to do the preparatory work but once a week the shared HOTWALLS studio becomes my domain and Wednesday afternoons are sacrosanct !

The image to right, at the foreground, is “Woodbridge Tide Mill”, (with at the top : Sutton Hoo burial ground on the banks of the river Deben), in the middle is “St Thomas’s Cathedral, Old Portsmouth” and far left is “HMS Victory, complete with masts and rigging”.

All three pieces are embryo A3 linocuts which take about a month to carve. I use  a selection of specialist lino and woodcutting tools, with the addition of a razor sharp scalpel. I generally work on several master blocks at a time. Once I’ve finished carving the blocks the next stage is to print from them.

Next oil based letterpress, sticky ink is dug out of a tin, then evenly spread over a sheet of glass, using a roller.  Once I’m happy with the consistency of the ink  it is then transferred to the surface of the lino, again using a roller. The highest parts, or raised parts of each image will get coated in ink and the furrows and indentations will remain clean. (The cut lines and indentations are the white areas of the final print).

A piece of 2mm mounting board or card is cut to the size of the paper (500 x 700mm) and using a scalpel, a hole or window is cut in the middle, for the lino to sit in (420 x297mm). The mounting board and the inked sheet of lino are then placed, face up, onto the centre of the tympan (sliding bed) of the Albion Press. Next a piece of Snowdon Cartridge paper is carefully introduced and lined up with the edges of the mounting board – this is to ensure that the print ends up registered in the centre of the paper. A few layers of newspaper packing is placed over the top of the paper to achieve an even pressure when the platen (heavy bit) comes into contact with the embryo print. Next a handle is rotated around and around and the tympan or bed of the press slowly moves along a track until it is lined up underneath the platen (the main body of the press). Finally, a lever handle is pulled towards you, this controls and engages the platen, which comes down, squashing the paper into the inked master to produce a lino cut. The next stage is to wind the handle to reverse the tympan out of the main body of the press, then you can open up the tympan and carefully peel the paper away from the inked master. The resulting prints are then placed in a drying rack and left to dry for a couple of days as the oil based ink is slow drying.




A couple of my animal series of lino cuts drying off in the print rack.

Needless to say this is a very simplified version of events and to achieve a perfect print requires patience and lots of trial and error.

The first print that is made is usually not dark enough or there are parts of the lino that are pale or patchy – this may be due to one of several things, the carved lino may not have been degreased before inking, the pressure exerted by the platen may not have been sufficient, in which case more packing is required for the next print. To ensure that I get a nice even print I slowly peel one corner of the print away from the master and if, on close inspection, inconsistencies are spotted the paper is gently returned to the master and 15 minutes of hand burnishing with the back of a spoon usually fixes the problem. In short producing a hand pulled limited edition print is a labour of love !


The moment of truth ! Amanda Morris gently pulls back the paper to reveal one of her prints created at Omega Printmakers, Portsmouth.

I aim to get at least one of the blocks (at the top) completed by the first week in January 2017 when I’ll print and show the result here. All three of my prints will eventually be available from Jack House Gallery 121 High St Old Portsmouth They stock a selection of my prints which are available from their browsers (print racks).


About chriswoodartist

painter, print-maker and illustrator

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