As many of you already know, one of the most recent set of sample blocks was mailed to ElectricMedic and they did a fabulous job of carving and chronicling the adventure, comparing the sample to a piece of PZ Kut they still had on hand! Electric carves with knife and gouge and was able to test the properties of both methods for me. Medic acted as chronicler so that all impressions were captured as they occurred. This whole blog post really should have been on their blog, but they sent everything back to me so quickly that they didn't get pictures of the carvings or the prints and they told me to go ahead and post about it.
Comments about the carving experience are based in part on a list of questions I sent so that Electric could be thinking about certain properties as carving progressed, and the responses that are italicized in quotation marks are lifted directly from their report to me.
So, without further ado, here are the results.
First, the Transfer - they took the photo before carving began and uploaded it so that I could see (they knew I was on pins and needles!).
Their comments, "Transfer Method: Epson Atrisan 800 ink jet printer, then made a copy on a toner copy machine. Used a blender pen for transfer. No prep to the rubber. The sample material does not seem as porous as PZ but still transferred well. Need to be careful to not get as wet with the transfer liquid. The sample surface is slightly slicker but the level of detail transfer is better (the pic that I sent). Sample also dried faster than PZ and was not as tacky."
On to the carving!
Questions under consideration: How does the material feel under the tool? How smooth does the tool go through the material?
The response: "Knife: If your blade is not a new blade then it takes a bit more effort to go through the material. Movement is smooth once started. Can’t go too deep in the material giving the carver more control. If you have used a new blade, it moves very nicely. You have more control over the blade, it won’t get away from you when cutting a long line.
Gouge: Very close to PZ, slightly stiffer but gouge goes through the material very easy. If I had to guess, the sample needs a smidge more increase in pressure on the tool but I feel that is a good thing. The gouge moves smooth and straight. It’s good, I like it."
I wanted to know about the break away characteristics and here's the response:
"Much like PZ, no rubber band feel. The sample tears cleanly with no ripping. Pieces pop out nicely, does not crumble with small detail like eyes. This is the same for both gouge and knife."
Cleaning up cuts:
"Gouge: Very well. Tool will grab to do a thin shave to clean up the line.
Knife: About the same, gouge is a little bit easier to clean with."
Level of detail held:
How well does it print and which inks did you use? For this, I'll let the wonderful carvings and prints speak for themselves.
The PZ Kut sample carving -- very small and detailed and I'm in awe of the teeny tiny fox that sits on top of a quarter with room to spare.
Black ink print is done with VersaFine and the red ink print is done with Staz-On.
Finally here's the Sample block - size is approximately 1.75 x 1.5 inches.
I asked for both a picture of some sort and letters on the sample so that I could get a feel for how well it did for another carver. Electric got fantastic detail, with tiny letters and lovely, clean lines. Again, black ink is VersaFine and red ink is Staz-On.
Final summary was:
"This new material is a gougers dream come true. I carved this stamp 60% gouge, 40% knife and I am mainly a knife carver. I used the basic X-Acto #11 blade and Steadtler #1 V gouge with no modifications."
Many, many thanks to ElectricMedic for agreeing to help with this test and for doing it so quickly and thoroughly. It really helped me a huge amount. I had carved far too many samples in succession and needed some unbiased and fresh hands and eyes. I couldn't have asked for better.
What's next? I would like to try and make the knife move just a little easier than it seemed to for Electric. I'm working on that and am going to see about getting another lab sample made up with a slight formula adjustment. Depending on the results of that test, I will be ordering a trial batch to make sure that everything works together in production as well as it does in the lab samples. Stay tuned....