The anticipation that goes alongside cutting a highly polished pristine piece of wood is hard to convey, imagine the first blank page of a sketch book, the virgin weave of canvas yet to be marked…
My friend and Master printer Justin Sanders who works at BC, across two schools lent me sharpened tools, which made so much difference after having used relatively blank implements. The names spitsticker, scarper, multi tool…what on earth do they do, its hard to explain the precise marks as each individual uses the tools in their own way. Many how to books try and explain, they talk of angles, how to handle tools, pressure but these fade into insignificance when you actually start to engrave.
I sometimes refer to the recognised masters of 20thC engraving such as Ravilious, Paul Nash and John Farleigh, its useful to study their graven marks. In fact Farleigh’s auto biography was called ‘The Graven Image’ and has plenty of useful insights, I particularly admire his book ‘The Black Girl in her search for God’ by George Bernard Shaw, at one time it was possible to find this book but like so many, relatively scarce now.
Advice to novice engravers, try the tools out on a piece of lino first and then move onto wood, lino being softer is more forgiving but does not convey the experience of actual hard wood