Woodblock Music Printing Process

Printing Music With Woodblocks

Below is the process of wood cutting using modern tools. Music that was originally printed with a woodblock was used. A copy of the music was taken in the original dimensions. The music was scanned and printed on transfer paper, which was adhered to the wood in reverse. The music that was selected for making the following woodblock is called Practica Musicae by Gafurius.

Carving the music in a woodblock

Scanned Music Is Transferred

Once the music was acquired, a scanned copy was printed onto transfer paper in reverse, and pressed onto a blank piece of wood.

Carving the music woodblock

Carving The Music Symbols

Wood carving tools are used to cut into the wood leaving the acutal music higher than the surrounding area. Chipping away at the wood takes precision. One small mistake and the wood is damaged.

The completed woodblock with the music carved in reverse

Completed Music Woodblock

Note that the finished wood block is in reverse. This will allow the music to be printed in mirror image, and allow the performer to read it correctly.

Inking The Music Woodblock

Inking The Music Woodblock

Black oil paint is thinned using paint thinner. An ink roller is rolled through the ink and used to lightly ink the wood block.

Pressing the paper against the inked music woodblock

Waxing The Paper

Wax is applied to one side of a high quality paper to aid in printing.

Printing The Music

The paper is carefully placed over the inked wood block, wax-side up. A spoon is used to press on the back of the paper, and the wax allows the spoon to glide evenly. The paper is carefully removed and allowed to dry, and the woodblock is ready for another printing.