Testing A Laser Carved Plate

While I’m catching up on old stories, let me tell you a little more about my trip to Seattle in May. I was selling at the Northwest Folklife Festival and having a great time. Just down the row from me was a vendor I had never seen before. His name is Scott Alberts, and apparently he’s quite a fixture in the Seattle art scene with a permanent store in the Pike Place Market.

 
[Scott Alberts]

When I saw his work I realized that I could use this technology to carve much more intricate plates than I can currently produce with a router. (Of course I know that other people are doing this. It just never seemed like *I* could do it.) I asked if he could carve me a plate overnight and bring it to the last day of the festival. He did it! Since I’m familiar with a lot of the parameters of carving wood with machines, I knew how to choose the art and prepare the file for him. I emailed it on Sunday and walked over to his booth Monday morning to pick up the finished piece, still smelling of smoke from the laser.

 
[Cedar silhouette artwork]
 
[Cedar silhouette block]

It was amazing to get this piece of work from him so quickly. After the show on Monday, we tore down and I started my drive home. The first thing I did when I got back was to test this laser carving for ability to print detail, and for the ability to hold those details over multiple runs through the press.

Since I’d asked him to carve it at the same size as the blocks I’ve been using, I can use my existing jig for registration. I just need to bring the surface up the the exact same height as my other blocks. I used some old wood that was laying around the shop and planed it down to the right thickness.

 
[Glue sandwich]
 
[Sun drying]

Then I clamped them together and put the clamp contraption in the sun to dry faster.

[Mounted block]
 
[Correct height]
Once the glue was dry I cut off the edges, ensuring that the finished block was exactly 5″ square and exactly the right height. Then I started rolling ink and doing tests.

 
[One print]

The detail rendered perfectly!

 
[Many prints]

So then I did a bunch of tests, partly to see how these shapes overlap and partly to test the block’s detail holding ability. I was impressed! There may come a time when I add one of these devices to my workflow to give me a lot more detail in the finished work.

 
[Compare the detail]
Really, the difference in image detail is astonishing! Especially when I want to do multiple layers of color separation with tightly registered details, this type of detail could really come in handy.