Using a Laser Cutter to Create a Woodcut

Printing up train tracks wood cut

An area of printmaking I had always wanted to experiment with was woodcutting - but whether correct or not, I had always assumed it would require a certain amount of physical strength - and it would have required investment in the cherry wood blocks and specialist cutting tools.  The opening of the Famous Grouse Ideas Centre here in Perth changed that.  It is a wonderful, friendly, educational space where you can access a range of digital and technical pieces of equipment which would be outwith the budget of most artists - including a laser cutter. 

Laser cutting a wood cut

After a period of experimentation, I was able to create a wood cut on it:  a train tracks design.  With the assistance of the Technologist in Residence, I learned how to create a vector file, using the software Inkscape.  To create a laser cut, the design must be rendered as a vector shape.  You need to use certain colours and weight of line to produce a cut.  The outline of the train tracks is set at 255 red in RGB, 0.001pt outline.  It creates an incredibly precise cut.  

Laser cut train tracks woodcut

This first woodcut resulted in a helpful, learning process.  You can see the detail above. Tips I would share would be:

  • When cutting, keep shapes fairly simple.
  • Do not cut too fine details as this could result in burning.
  • For an effective print, soak the wood with linseed oil to raise the grain.
  • Place the final woodcut on a piece of mountboard to help while inking and printing it.
  • If you are having problems capturing all the detail on the paper, it can help if you dampen the paper.
Train tracks woodcut

The woodcut was cut from a piece of 3mm plywood from my Dad’s garage.  My father passed away in February 2023, and being able to use materials from his garage brings a very emotional aspect  to this project and print.  Lasercutting, because of its precision, can be somewhat sterile looking.  Using a natural material, such as wood, adds a random element which brings visual interest.  The finished print looks wonderful printed up in deep black oil inks.  You can see the full print above and a close up below.

Close up  of woodcut

This panel was conceived as a tile which forms the basis of a repeat patter.  I used this to create both a black and hot pink fabric design available in my Spoonflower shop.  I really love the simplicity of this design and the detail produced by the woodgrain.  Below, you can see the design sewn up as a baby muslin.

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