Recently, a viewer on our Youtube channel asked about taking care care of the wooden blocks. And as promised in the last video on Block Printing that we published over our Youtube channel, today we are going to talk about how can we preserve our wooden blocks and keep printing using them year after year.
Before we share care instructions, it is important to understand the composition of these beautiful pieces of wood. In India, wooden blocks are made using Teak, Oak, Rosewood and sometimes using the wood obtained from Pear and Pine tree. Teak is the wood of choice since it is strong, seasoned and waterproof.
A suitable piece of wood is chosen to make a block. Before starting the carving, this piece of wood is planed and smoothened using tools. To get a good pattern on the wood after tracing, it is very essential to make the surface smooth and flat. After which the pattern that is usually traced on paper, is transferred on to the piece of wood using lampblack oil and chalk. With the use of chemical or chalk, the portion of the pattern, that has to be left out during the carving, is highlighted. Usually, the whole piece of wood is painted White before transferring the pattern on to it.
During the process of carving, the wood piece is kept damp using damp clothes, the reason behind carving only the damp wood piece is that it doesn’t break at undesired parts of the pattern as dry wood will.
Various tools such as a hand drill, a range of chisels are used to give the block the perfect shape. Sometimes, several forms of a single block are prepared based on the number colors to be used. For example, the artisan would make a wooden block for outline of the pattern, another block of the same pattern to add background color and a couple of more to fill the various areas of the motif. All these blocks must be used with correct placement in order to form a flawless print.
After the carving is done, the block is then dipped in the oil overnight or for couple of days.
What Happens When You Don't Clean Them Properly:
If you don't clean wooden blocks properly, very soon termites will make these blocks their home and then they will start eating them. Making your beautiful blocks die a slow, painful and ugly death (sorry for being dramatic but this is more or less what happens)
Post Printing Care:
After you finish the printing process, it is very important to clean and dry your precious wooden blocks before storing them in the boxes.
Just remember to follow these steps every time you are cleaning the blocks after printing:
1. Make a solution of soapy water in a bucket and dip all dirty blocks in it. After dipping them in the soppy water for considerable time like an hour or so, start scrubbing the blocks with a soft brush that doesn’t harm the pattern (preferably a used toothbrush).
2. After you scrub the block, immediately dip it in another vessel filled with clean water. Repeat the same process for all dirty blocks.
3. Now fill a vessel with enough water to dip all your wooden blocks and make it boil on medium flame. Once the water comes to boil, empty all pre-scrubbed blocks into it and let them stay in the boiling water for sometime. Decrease the flame to minimum while you doing so. After 15 minutes take them out and wipe with a dry cotton cloth.
4. Put the blocks under the sun for drying. Once you are sure that blocks are perfectly dried, store them back in a clean box, wooden or plastic.