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Baltic birch can be obtained usually as paneling at a good lumber yard. The
Luan mahogany that backs most paneling gives a lovely veiled almost
transparent quality. I use it a lot for layering color. What's good about
birch is that it is very clear and it is easy to cut across the grain. So is
aspen if you can get it. Having a variety of same-size boards around just
for layering grains / experimenting is fun. Plywood is good because it is
thinner and less prone to warping. If you remove LOTS of surface and it
warps, then remove lots of surface from the back as well, and it should be
If you have a wood with a heavy grain (seaswirl fir is fantastic), hitting
it with a blowtorch and/or a wire brush will enhance the grain. I think some
people sandblast it also. I've kept the same ten blocks of seaswirl for a
decade, and use them over and over, since I never cut them, I just stencil
an area to ink.
some people (Karen Kunc being a notable) like to do their drawing, coat it
with damar varnish, then lightly sand (the varnish brings up the grain, you
know). That way the ink is lots easier to clean off, and your drawing stays
put. Other people, like Ray Gloeckler and Mary Dryburgh, coat their blocks
with India ink first so they can see where they've cut. I just cut.
Shina plywood is the best but a little more difficult to come by. I can't
find McLain's on line, but they're who I have always ordered from. I hope
they haven't suddenly disappeared.
For hand printing I use two wooden drawer pulls glued back to back. One
round, one square.
Good luck. Woodcut is addictive.