I thought I would post a video today showing the process I use to cut a plate for a woodcut. The print in question here is a two plate, pseudo reduction print. The image is one I was reworking on a smaller scale from a previous print. I talked about the logic behind that here.
The plate material here is 1/2″ MDF (Medium Density Fiberboard). The surface was sealed with a coat of thinned shellac and then a very thin coat of acrylic gesso was brushed over it. This gesso layer helps provide some tooth for trapping ink when I print the finished plate and it also provides a little texture, which also prints. A template is then glued down to the surface using rice starch glue. The template was printed on a laser printer, so the ink doesn’t run when it gets wet.
All of the carving here is done with pneumatic (air driven) die grinders using solid carbide router bits and end mills. Think of them like a Dremel hobby grinder on steroids (I burned up a couple of those before I started using these air driven tools). They run much cooler and the bearings are rated for continuous duty. They do use a lot of air, however, so you need a 6 HP compressor or so to drive them. They are also loud, so I use ear protection and, of course, safety goggles.
Total elapsed time for this movie is probably about 7 hours.