New 999 Model II Etching Press and IKEA Hacked Bench

2018 Update - I now have a review of my Blick 999 Model II Etching Press and its smaller cousin, the Blick Econo Etch Model II Press after using them for over five years.

My printmaking world is getting bigger and better. A new etching press was delivered last week by truck freight and the deliveryman was nice enough to wheel the crate directly into the garage (the shipment weighed about 200 lbs).

The first step was to unscrew the top off the crate so I could take a look at the press. It's a Richeson / Blick 999 Model II. What this all means for me is that I'll be able to make prints up to about 17" x 35" - much larger than my existing press allows.

I spent a lot of time looking for press benches and had trouble finding one that met my space, functionality and budget requirements. Having used an IKEA kitchen cart for my smaller press, I immediately looked back to IKEA for options. I found my solution when browsing through their Emeryville store and stumbled upon the HEMNES coffee table. It's made out of solid wood, measures 46.5" (L) x 29.5" (W) x 18.125" (H) and has a shelf underneath the main table surface.

I decided to do an IKEA 'hack' by stacking and attaching the two tables and adding heavyweight casters to the bottom. The tables were easy to assemble (less than an hour each) and were connected together with metal corner braces. The trickiest part was attaching the casters I got from a hardware store. The legs didn't have enough surface area to screw in the casters so I had to widen the legs by about 3/4" by screwing in a small woodblock on the outside of each leg. If I want the bench to be a little lower, I could saw off a few inches from the four legs.

Overall, the bench's benefits are that it's tall (I'm tall), mobile, less costly, and has three flat surfaces underneath the press. The shelves will be perfect for storage and large sheets of paper used during a print run. Two of the shelves can be taken out without taking apart the bench. Now I need to put it all to good use!

New Blick 999 Model II Etching Press and IKEA Bench

New Blick 999 Model II Etching Press and IKEA Bench

New California Prints: Oakland Port, Mt. Tam, Half Dome and a California Map

This is a new Mt. Tamalpais linocut made using both the reduction and jigsaw methods. It's a limited edition of 16 prints. For those interested in geometry, its composition takes into account the golden ratio. And, yes, I know everyone's eyes glazed over that last part...

Mt. Tamalpais - Linocut Print

I finally finished this 12" x 16" linoleum block print inspired by the view of San Francisco across the bay from Oakland.

Oakland Port / San Francisco - Linocut Print

Half Dome is one of the iconic sights of California's beautiful Yosemite National Park. This is the second woodcut print in my Yosemite series - the first being El Capitan.

Half Dome - Woodblock Print

At first glance this might not look like a map of California. It's a linocut print showing the busiest airports in the state. I also have a U.S. version and some people have told me that these map prints remind them of chemistry and biology.

California Map - Linocut Print

New Camping Linocut & Drying Rack

Several new print projects are in the early stages, but here is one that is now finished. It's a linocut titled "Solitude" and it's hanging from a drying rack that I made this morning.

Printmaking Drying Rack - Hoisted Up

The inspiration for the rack came from printmaker Maria Arango, when I saw a print hanging from an ingenious rack in one of her Facebook photos. I spent several weeks contemplating the design with my wife's help and then researched online how people construct similar racks for drying clothes.

Printmaking Drying Rack - Hanging Down

I came up with a two-pulley design to fit my studio's needs. It can be lowered to about head height so I can easily pin my wet prints as I pull them off my adjacent etching press. When the print run is done, I can hoist them to the ceiling to get them out of the way, which is invaluable since my studio space is small. It can be built for about $35.

You might notice the middle rope hanging down...I should explain. It doesn't provide any support for the rack and isn't under tension, it's only for emergency. Should the rack system fail and drop from the ceiling, the middle rope would catch the rack so the prints don't drop to the floor. The pulleys are rated to 420lbs so I think I'll be ok!

Studio Update and El Cerrito's July 4th Festival

It's been an exciting, busy June. I took a little time off but am slowly getting back to work. A couple prints are in progress - Mt. Tam and Oakland Port linocuts. It was also fun tinkering with my studio setup and was able to double the amount of bench space and set up some pegboard for tools and a long shelf (see the photo below).

I'll be vending at El Cerrito's July 4th Festival where I'll also demonstrate carving at my booth. I hope to see you there.