Printing BIG – Ben Muñoz Box of Mistakes
Printing BIG and learning from my mistakes
by Ben Muñoz
I recently carved and printed six blocks that were eight ft high and four ft wide. Throughout the process, I learned a lot about printing BIG, mainly through mistakes that I would like to share with you now. Some are obvious while others may come as a surprise to you so please bear with me as I go through them.
Ben’s Box of Mistakes
Part 1 (Printing)
Carving big is fun but if you can’t find a press large enough to print when the time comes everyone will hate you including yourself.
After you’ve made the decision to carve something of ridiculous proportion do yourself a favor and find the largest press in your area, measure the press bed, take an inch or two off of the width and and height, and that’s the size of your block.
If you have a completion date in mind see if you can book the press time now, that way you don’t end up running some handprint sweatshop made up of your use to be friends powered on the false promise of fun and stale pizza.
Not to mention if this is your first time carving something of this size a deadline is definitely a must. As the world’s leading expert on missing deadlines, I can tell you that if you PAY in advance for nonrefundable press time it will get you carving quick. Deadlines without consequence rarely have an effect on me but hey maybe you’re a better person than I am, if not put some money down.
If your ambition outgrows the presses in your area and you just have to carve something massive call me and I will do my very best to talk you out of it.
If I am unsuccessful then you need to think about people, barrens, and space. With my blocks, it took a minimum of three people to print. You need a minimum of three just to lay the paper down and that’s still an inconvenience because if you only have three people that means everyone handling the paper was also just inking so we now have to stop and wash our hands.
When you have the same three people doing everything it’s a lot of stops and goes which is super frustrating because you’re up against the clock of spritzed paper and premium ink on that block.
At the same time, I would say that you don’t want too many people. For my project, I needed no more than six people including myself after that people would just be in the way. Even when hand printing the block you can only fit a few people around it before you’re bumping into each other knocking everything over like one of those weird infomercials with the suburban dads.
Ben’s Big Box of Mistakes
Part 2 (Think Things Through)
Remember that preparation is everything. There are a few things to keep in mind and check on before you start carving. You can find the time to do these things in between your mental breakdowns.
First, if you’re drawing with the block laying down on a flat surface make sure and stand it up every once in a while to get a better look before you begin carving. Chances are that your perspective is off because of the length of the block. Standing the block upright will give you a better understanding of how it will look when you print. Do that before you start carving to avoid the type of surprises that ruin a week.
Let’s talk paper, so obviously, you’re going to want to pick a thick or thin paper based on how you’re planning on printing these but keep in mind that if you go over seven feet high you’re in for a roll. You could still get sheets in that size but it gets very expensive and usually comes from another country so get ready to wait. I bought the Lennox that I used to print from Paper Arts, a paper store in Dallas, Texas. They had a few types of paper in that size to choose from and Terri Thoman (the owner) is very helpful and can get you almost anything you’re looking for.
The problem we ran into was that we had bought Lennox for printing on a press, but when the time came we couldn’t find a press large enough to print them. At least not one that was close and would work with our timeline. We ended up running the edition by hand which was as fun as it sounds.
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If you find yourself hand printing a big block with a thick paper by hand get yourself some Print Frogs. They’re heavy glass barrens that make the whole process way easier. Overall the ink density was pretty solid using only those frogs. Some sections of the block had large areas of black that I felt sure we wouldn’t be able to get by hand but those sections printed great! They looked fuller than a Walmart on the first of the month.
In conclusion, remember to have fun it sounds cliche I know but there will be a halfway point where you think “wow this sucks why did I think this was a good idea??” at that moment I want you to remember two things.
The first is why you started this whole project to begin with, for me it was to tell the story of my family and that was worth the minor inconvenience of hand cramps and late nights carving monotonous textures.
The second thing that I want you to remember is that there are very few things as sexy as the sound of that paper being pulled back off of a woodblock that size. If for some crazy reason your block just burst into flames immediately after pulling one print it would still be worth all the work if only for the satisfaction of peeling back that sexy beast of a print off of the block.
If you’re thinking of printing BIG learn from my mistakes and have fun! You won’t regret it.
Stay beautiful and keep slinging ink!
This article was written by Benjamin Muñoz and all images and videos copyright © benmunoz 2019
You can get to know him better on his website.
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