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F. Morley Fletcher

When the prints are finished they should be put to dry as soon as possible. If they are spread out and left exposed to the air they will soon dry, but in drying will cockle, and cannot then be easily pressed flat. It is better to have a number of mill-boards or absorbent "pulp" boards rather larger than the prints, and to pile the prints and boards alternately one by one, placing a weight on the top of the pile. The absorbent boards will rapidly dry the prints and keep them quite flat.

In issuing these volumes of a series of Handbooks on the Artistic Crafts, it will be well to state what are our general aims.

The cutting of a line block needs patience and care and skill, but it is not the most difficult part of print making, nor is it so hopeless an enterprise as it seems at first to one who has not tried to use the block-cutter's knife.

In Japan this work is a highly specialised craft, never undertaken by the artist himself, but carried out by skilled craftsmen who only do this part of the work of making colour prints. Even the clearing of the spaces between the cut lines is done by assistant craftsmen or craftswomen.

Next in importance is the preparation of the ink for printing the key-block or any black or grey parts of a design. As a rule the key-block is printed black, more or less diluted with paste; indeed the key-block is often printed very faintly by means of paste only just tinged with a trace of black.

Until one has become quite familiar with the craft of wood-block printing it is not possible to make a satisfactory design for a print, or to understand either the full resources that are available or the limits that are fixed.

This little book gives an account of one of the primitive crafts, in the practice of which only the simplest tools and materials are used. Their method of use may serve as a means of expression for artist-craftsmen, or may be studied in preparation for, or as a guide towards, more elaborate work in printing, of which the main principles may be seen most clearly in their application in the primitive craft.

The few wood-block prints shown from time to time by the Society of Graver Printers in Colour, and the occasional appearance of a wood-block print in the Graver Section of the International Society's Exhibitions, or in those of the Society of Arts and Crafts, are the outcome of the experiments of a small group of English artists in making prints by the Japanese method, or by methods based on the Japanese practice.

A set of blocks consists of a key-block and several colour blocks. The block that must be cut first is that which prints the line or "key" of the design. By means of impressions from this key-block the various other blocks for printing the coloured portions of the design are cut. The key-block is the most important of the set of blocks and contains the essential part of the design.

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