Tool Bench

Richard Steiner.net
tool bench of Richard Steiner's studio

Over the years I have experimented with new tools and techniques, some by others, some of my own invention. Several have proven worthless; a few have served their purpose quite well. On these pages are listed the tools and modifications I have played with to the satisfaction of my students and myself. It seems only natural, then, to share these with other woodblock printmakers, like you. If you have questions about any tool, or want to know how best to use it, or want to know why you need to have it, do not hesitate to contact me.
If you would like to order some tools, please send its number and name, how many you want, your name, mailing address, and e-mail address on the Contact Page. I or my studio manager will reply with methods of paying. The best way to send funds is by PayPal. Bank transfers are too costly in Japan to be practical and so are discouraged. Writing checks is unknown in Japan.
These tools are mainly for sale in Japan. The prices stated here include a 10% consumption tax and handling charges, written in Yen. They have increased slightly due to the cost of materials and labor. They do not, however, include shipping. Shipping to foreign countries would nearly double the cost, depending on the country. Many of these tools can be ordered from McClain's in Portland, Oregon, U.S.A. (mail@imcclains.com)
Thank you for your questions and your orders.


Tool - No.01
Kento Knife
The Kento knife is similar in some ways to the traditional tool. Itfs made of wood and high-quality steel, with a brass knurl. It is used only to cut the registration marks on the blocks. It is 15cm long, 15mm wide, but thinner than the traditional one. It has a stylish design and because it is thinner, itfs lighter, easier to use, and much sharper.

5,000 yen (incl. 10% tax)
kento knife-use kento knife-1
kento knife-2 kento knife-3
Click on the photos to see them larger.

Tool - No.02
Circle Carving Knife
The Circle Carving Knife is an original knife available only from Steiner Print Studio in Japan and McClainfs Art Supplies in Portland, Oregon, USA. Invented in 2009 by Mr. Steiner, it can carve small circular holes in the blocks without leaving dents in the edges of the cut as the other knives tend to do. It is 14cm long with 4.5mm-wide blade. (The handle, as the photo shows, sides open to extend the blade, or to replace a short one with a new one. All square knife handles work this way.) You can carve perfect round holes, slightly round ones, egg shape, and even straight lines.

3,500 yen (incl. 10% tax)
kento knife-use kento knife-1
kento knife-2 kento knife-3
Click on the photos to see them larger.

Tool - No.03

A Traveling Set

Tosai Knife Set
Reasonably priced and useful original set for making a lightweight, traveling, working woodblock print. It is composed of the tools from No. 4 to No. 10 below. All knives are professional level. The set price is slightly reduced.

  • Gouge: 18mm wide
  • Gouge: 9mm wide
  • Gouge: 6mm wide
  • Gouge: 3mm wide
  • Basic Knife: 4mm wide
  • Aisuki Clearing Knife: 15mm wide
  • Square Knife, 6mm wide

  • 25,000 yen (incl. 10% tax)
    kento knife-use
    Click on the photos to see them larger.

    Tool - No.04
    Gouge 18mm wide
    One of the widest knives available, the 18mm gouge is mainly used for the initial clearing of a block. It is 22cm long. It is the most essential carving blade, used for quick and sure control when beginning to carve. It removes the amount of wood unneeded to print in that area, if the printed parts are large. Smaller areas are worked with the smaller carving knives. All the surface of a block is not carved; only 3cm to 5cm is removed from the printing areasf edges. Outside those areas and their carved portions, no wood must be carved. When printing the block, the uncarved, un-inked surfaces are merely used to hold the washi paper up on the block surface. This is called shima (an island) in Japanese.

    3,000 yen (incl. 10% tax)
    kento knife-use kento knife-1
    Click on the photos to see them larger.

    Tool - No.05
    Gouge 9mm wide
    The 9mm gouge, usually the second knife used after the 18mm, is for clearing away any remaining wood around the areas to be printed that the 18mm was too large for. About 14cm long.

    4,500 yen (incl. 10% tax)
    kento knife-use kento knife-1
    Click on the photos to see them larger.

    Tool - No.06
    Gouge 6mm wide
    The 6mm wide gouge is used for clearing smaller areas. About 14cm long. Like all square handle knives, it swings open to allow changing blades or making the shorten blade stick out more from the handle.

    4,000 yen (incl. 10% tax)
    kento knife-use kento knife-1
    Click on the photos to see them larger.

    Tool - No.07
    Gouge 3mm wide
    The 3mm gouge is used for clearing the smallest areas. About 13cm long; same handle as 6mm and 9mm.

    3,500 yen (incl. 10% tax)
    kento knife-use kento knife-1
    Click on the photos to see them larger.

    Tool - No.08
    Basic Knife
    The basic knife is used only for carving exactly around the shapes to be printed, not any clearing away. About 14cm long. Blade can be slid out of the handle for replacement or making longer. Basically, 2 sizes available, 4.5mm and 6mm.

    6.0mm - 4,000 yen (incl. 10% tax)
    4.5mm - 3,800 yen (incl. 10% tax)
    kento knife-use kento knife-1
    Click on the photos to see them larger.

    Tool - No.09
    Aisuki Clearing Knife
    9mm wide
    The 9mm-wide Aisuki clearing knife, with slightly rounded blade corners, is 22cm long. Used for narrow bokashi fades; must be used for softening cut, non-printing areasf edges; making shallow cuts for texture; and flattening widely-cut gmountainh grove areas. Narrower Aisuki are not to be used except by the professional printmaker.

    4,500 yen (incl. 10% tax)
    kento knife-use kento knife-1
    Click on the photos to see them larger.

    Tool - No.10
    Square Knife
    6mm wide
    The 6mm square knife is 21cm long. It is used mainly for carving very narrow carved-out lines, or colored printed lines. Inked using sponge rollers, not brushes. A much narrower knife is available, but mostly for the professional printmaker.

    4,000 yen (incl. 10% tax)
    kento knife-use kento knife-1
    Click on the photos to see them larger.

    Tool - No.11
    Tosai Color Set
    The set has 10 tubes of gouache colors and one bottle of pure sumi; the tubes are 15ml, the sumi bottle is 100ml. The box cover is an original woodblock print. The 10 colors are: gcarmine,h gburnt umber,h giris,h gaqua blue,h gultramarine deep,h gpermanent green deep,h gleaf green,h glemon yellow,h gpermanent yellow orange,h and gyellow ochre.h Using these colors with water or drops of black, one can make approximately 1,455,376 colors.

    4,000 yen (incl. 10% tax)
    kento knife-use
    Click on the photos to see them larger.

    Tool - No.12-A, B, C, D
    Mixing Brushes
    TThese brushes are patented; used to mix very evenly two or more colors together in Cupper containers, then putting the color on the block for printing. Made of pig and horse hair. Two designs in two sizes: round brushes for mixing colors only; flat brushes for black or sumi only. Wash in warm water thoroughly. Donft use any soap.
    Size #20 is 14cm long; size #15 is 13cm long.

    A. #15 Flat:      1,200 yen (incl. 10% tax)
    B. #15 Round:  1,200 yen (incl. 10% tax)
    C. #20 Flat:       1,400 yen (incl. 10% tax)
    D. #20 Round:  1,400 yen (incl. 10% tax)

    kento knife-use
    kento knife-use kento knife-1
    Click on the photos to see them larger.

    Tool - No.13
    Cupper
    The cupper is used to mix and store pigments. Totally airtight caps on strong, clear plastic containers. Diameter is 10cm, height is 4.5cm. They will never, ever weaken with age. Orders are only for boxes of 10 cuppers.

    2,200 yen for box of 10 (incl. 10% tax)
    kento knife-use kento knife-1
    Click on the photos to see them larger.

    Tool - No.14
    Tosai Moistening Pack
    Using the Japanese water-based printmaking method, the washi paper must be slightly and evenly moistened before printing. Many printmakers use moistening packs of newspaper; others use a partially thick cardboard. However, we have found the ultimate material for moistening the print paper. It is a man-made, slightly thick, ehard clothf that can be sparingly and evenly moistened. It will maintain the papersf optimum degree of moisture for long periods of time, from overnight to several days. Very light weight, easy to cut with textile scissors, or the larger cutting knife and a steel ruler for cutting. The pack will last for many years under normal use. It will never mold.
    kento knife-use kento knife-1
    kento knife-2 kento knife-3
    Click on the photos to see them larger.
    Order the sizes you need for each size of print dimensions you make, or order only a large size to use for all your printing needs. (Orders will include advice on how to use the packs in details.)
    A pack consists of three sheets. Between the top/bottom two, there is a third layer, the same dimension as the other two plus a one-centigrade bigger at its lower edge to facilitate easier handling. The moistened washi paper to be printed is laid face down between the bottom and middle layers. After each sheet has been individually printed, it is placed face up between the top two layers.
    The packfs maximum dimension of lengthwise or widthwise is 91cm; the other dimension can be whatever you want. We will cut to your size or mail you one piece rolled up for you to cut by yourself. Two clips come with the large packs.

    5,000 yen (incl. 10% tax) for one nearly square meter (91cm X 91cm) pack.
    If we cut to your sizes, we will calculate according to this basic cost.

    How to use and care
    Mokuhanga Tools
    YouTube Channel Richard Steiner Mokuhanga Teacher
    ©Richard Steiner 2020