Endgrain Wood Engraving Blocks

Boxwood and Lemonwood Blocks

Although engraving on endgrain wood with burins or gravers predates the work of Thomas Bewick (1753 – 1828), he is generally regarded as the father of wood engraving because of the unsurpassed mastery of his engravings. Bewick used endgrain English Boxwood, still used by many modern wood engravers.

The wood engraver requires quite different qualities from the woods used by the woodcut printmaker. The latter will often exploit the texture and grain pattern found in a multitude of timbers used as a long or side grain surface, which are cut into with gouges and knives. The approach to engraving on endgrain is quite different and necessitates both different tools and wood. Surface irregularity, often a virtue for the woodcutter, is anethema to the engraver. The blacks in a wood engraving will be dense and pure and the engraved work as fine and sharp as possible with no interference from wood grain whatsoever. For these reasons only wood cut and prepared from the endgrain of a surprisingly small number of species will be suitable for wood engraving.

Such a wood will be very dense, yet not brittle or gritty, and exhibit even hardness across the annular growth rings so that the graver passes smoothly through the fibres. It will also need to be of a light colour so that the engraver can see the work progressing through a prepared darkened surface. Over time a small number of choice timbers have emerged as being the best for the technique.