Which Carving Block is Best for Textiles?

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Hello! My block printing obsession continues…and in the process I have been trying to figure out which carving block I prefer. I have some very definite opinions, so I figured that I would share them and perhaps save y’all some time and money. 🙂

Block printing goes WAY back and it was originally done with wood. I carved and printed with wood blocks in college and it’s a tedious and painstaking process. Fortunately there are a multitude of options today that are much simpler and easier. So far, I have tried six materials. They each have their pros and cons but ultimately one product edged out the others.

Highly Recommended:

Soft-Kut Printing Blocks – These are my favorite blocks and here’s why. First, they cut like butter. Second, they’re thick enough to be carved on both sides. Third, I’m able to get fine details and good prints on fabric. Last, but not least, they are very reasonably priced.

The fact that they carve so easily is actually both a pro and a con in that you have to be very careful not to over shoot your lines. It’s quite easy to use a bit too much force and skid outside of your lines. This can be overcome with practice and a gentle touch. I have also found that holding my carving tool in a more horizontal plane in relation to the block gives me a bit more control. $1.70 for a 4 x 6″ block. Here are a few examples:

Conclusion: The combo of easy carving and value for your dollar makes this carving block a winner!

Recommended with Reservations:

Speedball Speedy Carve Blocks – For many folks this is their “go to” carving block. For me this block is just a bit too firm. Although the firm texture helps me to feel a bit more in control while carving, it’s also possible to over compensate and push too hard. Again, this is something that improves with practice. It’s easy to obtain fine details with this product, however, I have noticed that my prints aren’t quite as solid or “filled in” when I use these blocks on textiles. So, perhaps this material is better suited for use with paper? These babies are also on the pricey side which is another con in my book. $5.33 for a 4 x 6″ block.

Pink Pearl Eraser – I know that this is a bit off the beaten path…but these are wonderful to carve! They’re sturdy and they cut beautifully. They are a “just right” combination of soft and firm and they print crisply on fabric. I truly wish that they made these in larger sheets because I would be the first one in line! The biggest and really the only con is that the size of these “blocks” limits their usefulness.  63 cents for one eraser.

Speedball Speedy-Cut Carving Blocks – These blocks carve easily but the material is a bit crumbly. They print clearly on textiles. This product is on the more affordable side, so all in all it’s a decent option. $2.68 for a 4 x 5.5″ block.

Richeson Clear Carve Linoleum – The product information on these says that they carve like butter. Really??? Okay, maybe if your butter is frozen solid, but even then! While these are definitely easier to carve than traditional linoleum blocks, they are by no means easy. I really like that they are clear which allows for easy design transfer and block placement. However, the clear surface also makes it very difficult to see your carved lines and this product seems to grab onto the carving tools making smooth, even lines difficult to obtain. The print quality for these blocks isn’t great on fabric. That being said, I was able to get an interesting effect that I ended up liking a lot. $3.29 for a 4 x 6″ block.

Conclusion:  If I had my druthers, I would pick the pink pearl eraser, but since this isn’t a practical option for most block printing needs, the Speedy Carve Blocks get the silver medal.

Not Recommended:

Battleship Linoleum – Just don’t bother. It’s super hard to cut and the print quality on textiles is terrible. I dove in head first and carved the image below three days ago. It was a total waste of my time and my hand is still sore. 😦 $1.49 for a 4 x 6″ block.

So there’s my two cents on the matter of carving blocks for textiles! I hope that you found it helpful!