Thursday, March 22, 2018

Final Round #1 Tester

This is the final response to the first (very thin, gray) sample. Thanks to RavenWolf for putting this stuff through some seriously detailed tests.

Splitting the sample into two pieces, she lightly sanded the block before doing the parchment transfer and didn't do anything to the wintergreen transfer. Both types of transfer worked well and there was no problem seeing the images against the gray material background. 

Using modified gouges and needles, she thought the material held on too much with needle carving and didn't pop out as easily as she would have liked. She didn't think this would be a problem for gouge carvers, but thought it made carving take longer than it should with needles and knives. Overall, it was a less difficult to cut than OZ, but not as smooth as PZ.

Gouge carving was pretty smooth, but she still had some difficulty pushing through the material, especially noting that if she stopped in the middle of a long, sweeping curve, the material pushed back against the gouge. (We'll see if this is partly due to the thinness of this particular sample, when we get the results on the thicker one.)

Ink did seem to bead up a little on the blocks, even on the sanded piece, but she didn't see much difference between pigment vs StazOn ink. 

Though this would not be her ideal material, she thought that it worked well for detailed carving, making beautiful, tiny lines and holding them well, allowing her to go back and shave off little bits without bending, and allowing for precise corrections.  

She thought it was a marked upgrade from OZ, but still not up to PZ standards.

Once again, feel free to chime in, if I've over or understated, misunderstood or simply blundered somewhere along the way. :)

Thanks again to all the wonderful first round testers. Amazingly, every single one of them signed up for more punishment and will be reporting in round two, as well, along with a few new intrepid testers who joined the merry band.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Webfoot's Tan Sample Material Test #2 - Text and Knife

Once again, I sanded the surface before doing a toner-based heat transfer to the sample.

The transfer went pretty well. I didn't worry about getting the transfer past the point where I could see everything well enough to carve it. I think the contrast on this color is much better than it was on the gray sample.

I did my first test print with my cheapest dye ink on a fairly porous piece of scrap paper - I didn't think of it at the time, since I was sort of focused on the carving part of the process, but I should have used the same paper I sent out to all the testers. D'oh! So, the ink coverage wasn't great, but that's not what I was looking for at this point in the process. I wanted to see if the letters looked clean or ragged. They looked pretty clean. 

I found that the fresh, sharp Testor's knife carved through the sample very nicely with good control in little corners and interior spaces, as well as 's' curves and other areas that can be challenging for me. I also tested the block with a well used, dull knife that I had sitting on my table and it didn't carve nearly as well as it did with the sharp one. I discarded that knife as a tool pretty quickly. So, for me, the sharpness of the blade made a clear difference.  

Another test print on another scrap with the same dye ink. Even unmounted, I didn't have any trouble with stray carving marks being printed where I didn't want them, so the material was firm enough to withstand a decent amount of pressure. 

Here's the final print on the nicer index paper using Brilliance pigment ink. I mounted the carving on a small acrylic block  For size reference, the acrylic mount is one by three inches. 

The sample was sent to me curled up in a tube, so there was a bit of concavity to the carving surface. It didn't bother me while carving at all, but it might have been a problem for printing, without the acrylic mount - of course, an eighth inch is still too thin for me to manage without a mount anyway, so I'd have had trouble in either case. If my tester results come back positive enough and I decide to have a run of this material made, I'll have to make sure that it comes out flat.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Webfoot's Tan Sample Material Test #1

The new samples arrived and I spent a couple days in the basement playing with various tools and techniques to put this stuff through its paces. I thought it had a pretty good gait, as it turns out. I scheduled this post a few days after testing the material and writing my results up, to give my testers a chance to do their own trials without seeing what my opinion was. 

Here's the actual block, glued to a piece of acrylic so that I could print it easily, without getting stray ink from my fingers all over the paper. This sample block was about 1/8" thick. I did not mount it to carve, but I'm good at making messes with ink, so printing was another matter entirely.

I sanded the block to prep it before using the heat transfer method with a toner-based copy of the art work. I used Staedtler and Speedball gouges, modified and unmodified and a Testor's hobby knife, though the gouges worked better in this application. My next test will be with knives and text, just to see how it compares to PZ and OZ for detail and carvability when doing letters.

Here's the final print, on white index paper with Brilliance Coffee Bean ink. I was pretty pleased with how it came out and happy with the level of detail the block allowed me to get. I'm going to be really interested in what my merry band of testers thinks of this stuff. 

By the way, this is Ollie - he's a friend's new puppy and I think he's way too cute.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Frozen Tundra Redux

I know, I know. Winter frequently hangs around here through March and snow is not as uncommon in May as one might hope. I do remember hunting for Easter eggs in the snow a number of years during my childhood. Still, it seemed for a while that the cold was losing its grip. 

Baloo didn't mind the new coating of snow at all - on him and everything else.

He had fun listening to meadow voles scuttling around in their tunnels while we walked around the field on our morning outing. Sometimes he would stick his nose right into the snow to smell their trails and emerge with his wet nose looking like it was completely covered with powdered sugar. I tried to get pictures, but before I could get him to look at the camera, the snow would melt - or he'd lick it off.

It really was quite pretty and I'm not really complaining about the new snow. One of the things I like best about being here is the full spectrum of seasonal experiences. There's something to appreciate and enjoy about every single day. Although, I have to admit that I could have enjoyed a bit less wind this week...

On an afternoon excursion, the harbor ice still stretched across to the opposite shore. Walking into the wind, and seeing this flat expanse of white is what clinched the frozen tundra title for the day.

Finally, while continuing our walk along the bay, we found this little ice formation standing just off shore. Nothing like the spectacular ice caves or anything, but a fun nature sculpture in its own right. 

Sunday, March 18, 2018

A Bit of Sweet in the Bitter

Bitter cold, that is. Our morning walk was a bit on the brisk side with the wind making the ten degree temperature feel a lot chillier. 

There wasn't much color to be found, with new snow and the birds taking refuge in whatever sheltered spot they could. That's probably why the bright bittersweet berries captured my eye. 

These do qualify as an invasive plant, but the flash of brilliant orange had its appeal on a cold, gray day. 

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Curls and Lace

There is an interesting phenomenon that occurs as Spring approaches and the frozen bay begins to turn to water again. Sometimes, on cold, clear, still nights, a thin layer of new ice forms on the surface. 

Baloo and I had our attention caught by some very odd cracking and tinkling sounds coming from the shore as we were walking and went to investigate (we belong to the ranks of the terminally curious).


I will now do my best to describe the delightful little spectacle we got to witness. When the sun begins to warm the newly frozen surface and the currents start to move again beneath it, that thin sheet of ice slowly breaks up into little panes of ice that look a lot like broken window glass.  

Look carefully at the sequence of photos I took of this partially submerged bush. Movement started toward shore and branches that were frozen into the thin layer of ice began to move with the currents, causing shards to heave up at the base of the bush. You can see that a big piece has pushed up against the center left section in the second picture. 

Then, the branches would sort of spring free, sometimes flinging, sometimes pushing these panes of ice across the still frozen surface, where they slowly slid along like curling stones being thrust along the ice. (Thank you to a friend of mine for coming up with the perfect curling analogy there, when I described what I had seen.) In this third picture, you can see that the big pane from the previous picture has been tipped over and is slipping toward the beach.

Finally, these panes of ice pile up on the shore looking like big stacks of broken window glass, glimmering in the early morning sunlight, before melting away with the warming of the sand. 

Another thing that's always fun to see on a cold, frosty morning is the ice lace that forms on puddles during the night. I used to love sticking a toe through the intricate webs when I was a child, just to hear the 'tink' sound it made.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Crabby Appleton

The cedar waxwings flew into town with hearty appetites. They never hang around for long. They just pass through the area, eating everything they can find and go their merry way.

There's a crab apple tree next door that they took particular interest in this year. Last year, they all feasted on the one in my yard (and they completely left it alone this year). Who knows what the difference is from season to season? I certainly don't. 

They were in the tree, under the tree and eating all the fruit the deer and rabbits hadn't already consumed. 

In years past, they have typically stayed in the trees, eating crab apples, mountain ash berries and high bush cranberries right from the plant. Having them on the ground made it easier to get pictures of their beautiful, sleek plumage. I just love the bright red wing bars and yellow tail stripes - not to mention the great masks. It's easy to see how waxwings got their name.

It was fun to watch them munching apples that looked too big for their beaks. I look forward to their travels - they've been a favorite of mine since childhood.

By the way, does anybody else remember Tom Terrific, Manfred the Wonder Dog and Crabby Appleton (rotten to the core)?