John Jānis Šteins

:: Artist ::

Wood Engravings

For those who are unfamiliar with this medium, wood engraving is a relief printmaking process done in much the same way as a regular woodblock print. The difference is the orientation of the wood grain in relation to the cutting tools.  A woodcut print is made on the long plank side of the wood whereas in wood engraving the end-grain surface is used. And it can’t be just any old wood. End grain boxwood, maple, lemonwood, or other suitable tight-grained woods are prepared to make a larger surface to engrave upon. Handheld cutting tools called gravers are used to cut the design, some of which are similar to those used for metal or jewelry engraving. There are other non-traditional means of incising lines such as a Dremel type engraving tool.

About wood engraving:

Feel free to leave comments, thoughts or advice below.


  1. Mark November 17, 2008

    Wow these are great! Were they all hand engraved or did you use a CNC machine engraver? I’m a graphic designer more of computer and digital media, have not done any engraving. I was thinking of getting a cnc wood engraver a small one. Then I could create the art on the computer and send it to the engraver to engrave it on wood, metal, plastic and things of that nature. I saw a small cnc engraver I think it was on, I just was wondering if that is how most people do the engraving now a days. or if artist are still doing it by hand. and also if there is a market for using a cnc engraver to engrave the art.


  2. John Steins November 17, 2008 — Post author

    Thanks Mark. There’s no way I’ve ever used a robot to engrave my blocks. What would be the point of doing that? All of my engravings are done by hand using engraving tools, the old fashioned way, ha ha.

    There are artists who use CNC machines to carve on a wood surface and then go through the motions of hand printing. But for me, that defeats the purpose of printmaking since most of the enjoyment is the actual tactile experience of cutting away the wood, lino or whatever you are working with.

    It’s also a display of manual dexterity and skill as in ‘hand to eye’ coordination.

    That’s not to say there is no place for CNC generated wood blocks for making prints. An artist should be allowed to use whatever tools and assets are available to make art the way they want to make it.

  3. Mark November 17, 2008

    Wow Im looking at some of your engravings, it’s pretty awsome. The detail is beautiful. How many hours do you spend on them? I think I’ll try makeing some by hand first rather then just buy the VE-810 from vision engravers. Although I’m not sure I have the hand dexterity that is needed. Is it anything like drawing or painting?

  4. Mark de Guzman November 17, 2008

    My favorite one is ELIZA looks like a lot of work went into it.

  5. Mark de Guzman November 17, 2008

    They all look like a lot of work went into them.

  6. John Steins November 17, 2008 — Post author

    Eliza is one of my favorites as well. I was lucky not to make too many mistakes on it.

    Basically, you prepare an end grain block – in the case of wood engraving – and you draw your design on the surface and start cutting away the parts that you don’t want to print.

    It’s probably a good idea to practice on some smaller pieces to get the hang of it. At least then you’ll have an idea of doing it by hand and maybe it’ll appeal to you.

    The Eliza print took a couple of weeks of off and on effort. Not sure of the exact hours.

  7. evelyn September 14, 2011

    I love Copper Joe. So wise, just like me! Thanks Again.

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