Printing and stenciling are good crafts for campers to use in creating arrangements for logbook covers, end papers, and invitations; in making nature recordings; and in developing insignia for camp equipment and gear. Natural materials form an excellent base for many of the arrangements that can be made, or for designs for block print or stencil. Experimentations with all kinds of materials found on the campsite will stimulate creative, imaginative activities as campers look for shells, acorns, grasses, or leaves to be used for printing.

Block printing is one of the oldest arts, wood blocks having been used by the Egyptians and the Chinese as early as the fourth century. The variety of methods that can be used and the simplicity of beginning steps make it an interesting present-day camp craft.

The materials and equipment used are simple and inexpensive, and much of the equipment can be adapted from tools and materials found in all camps.

Block printing with vegetable, eraser, stick, or linoleum blocks and stenciling with various types of stencils are described in this chapter.


Block Printing Equipment

Designs For Block Printing

The design is cut into the block so that what is left of the original surface will print on the paper or cloth. Everything else is cut away, and will not print; this background part will be the color of the material on which the block is printed (Fig. VII-2). The block is inked, and turned over on the material to make the print.

When making a design (Fig. VII-2), consider the place in which it will be used, and make it fit the border, corner, or over-all plan of the printing on the particular material. Unless the design is symmetrical, it must be planned in reverse. Experimentation with the cutting tools and bits of linoleum or other block materials will show the variety of textures and lines that may be obtained. Straight lines are good for beginners.

Light lines or spots on the material will guide the placing of the block during printing.


Designs Suitable For Block Stick PrintingDesigns For Block Printing


Techniques In Printing. Potato Or Eraser Prints

A design cut on a firm vegetable is the simplest type of block to make; it may be made on any vegetable that has a firm surface, such as a potato, carrot, turnip. The design is cut on a piece of raw vegetable; this cut surface will change as the piece of vegetable dries, so it must be used for printing immediately after it has been cut. For a more permanent block, a piece of artgum or a square eraser may be used.

Equipment needed: jackknife; stamp pad or poster paint and brush; bench block; working surface for printing.

Techniques In Printing

Materials needed: material for block-vegetable, eraser, etc.; material for printing-paper or cloth. Steps

1. Cut vegetable into cube-shaped pieces, with end the desired size for the block.

2. Cut design in end with jackknife (Fig. VII-2).

3. Use "stick" like a rubber stamp; press design end into stamp box (Fig. VII-3) ; or apply poster paint to design with brush (Fig. VII-4).

4. Press design end of "stick" into place on paper or cloth (Fig. VII-5). Hold stick straight, press firmly, do not wiggle it, and try to make the impression the first time. Repeat step 3, then 4, in a new spot.

Make and use blocks made of erasers in same way.

Variation: Interesting patterns can be made with cross sections of things found on the campsite-acorns, nuts, weed stems, etc. Experimentation will bring delightful results. Combine prints and colors for variety (Fig. VII-6 a). For easy handling of the cross-section pieces, mount on small sticks with glue or household cement, or with a point on end of stick (Fig. VII-6 b and c).

Stick Printing

This method uses a design carved on the end of a stick; it is a step in progression from potato printing, as the block is more difficult to cut. Since the block is more durable and lasts indefinitely, it is better than vegetables and erasers for repeated use.

Equipment needed: very sharp knife or wood-carving tools; sandpaper; vise to hold stick while carving; inking equipment (see above).

Materials needed: piece of branch, kindling, or any wood; paper or cloth to be printed; printing materials (see above).

Steps To Make Block

1. Sand end of stick very smooth to prevent the grain of wood from printing too.

2. Plan the design on paper, and either transfer it to stick with carbon paper, or draw it free hand (Fig. VII-2).

3. Put stick in vise to hold while carving; cut design. Cut or sketch same design on other end of stick, to guide the placing of the stick while printing.

Print in same manner as for potato print (Figs. VII-3-5).

Linoleum Block Printing

For this method, linoleum is the material for the block. Linoleum blocks are long-lasting, and may be used over and over in printing. This is a good method to use in group projects, since once the block is cut, any number of people can use it for printing. Cabin or tent ties, camp kerchiefs or bandanas, invitations or programs, camp stationery, and insignia on equipment may all be printed with blocks.

Linoleum blocks are usually made on battleship linoleum, or similar material; remnants are usually available at floor covering stores. Commercial blocks of linoleum mounted on wood are available from craft supply houses.

Equipment needed: for cutting-linoleum cutting gouges, bench block; for making design-pencil, paper, carbon paper; for printing-brayer or roller, piece of glass, big spoon or rolling pin, hard surface for working, newspapers or magazines, kerosene and rag for cleaning.

Materials needed: linoleum blocks; material to be printed -paper, cloth, etc.; printer's ink in desired colors.


1. Practice cutting first. Use cutting tools and bits of linoleum to discover what you can do with the various tools. Make some straight cuts, some curved, some snakelike, some cross-hatched. Try picking with the point of a tool, to give interesting texture. Cut deep, then ease off at the end of the stroke. Draw a leaf or petal, and cut out the inside with the large curved gouge, leaving the veins raised. Remember that letters must be in reverse. (Check general instructions on designs at beginning of section-Fig. VII-1).

2. To make design: draw on paper the size of block. Plan the design for the place where it will be used. Make it simple, for first projects. Plan some contrast of light and dark (Fig. VIII).

3. Transfer design to block with carbon paper and pencil.

4. To cut design in block: place block on bench block, against back edge. Hold the block with one hand and the cutting tool in the other (right-handers hold cutting tool in right hand, etc.). Be sure fingers of the hand holding the block are always behind the tool, in case it slips. Hold tool with ball of handle in palm of hand. Cut carefully, removing small bits at first, not too close to design lines; then smooth off as you finish. 5. To print the block: plan printing steps first. Have block ready to use. Make a smooth working space with newspapers or magazines spread out, and paper or cloth to be printed pinned in place on the papers. Mark spots for printing, or draw lines to guide the placing of block on the material.

To Cut Design In Block

Squeeze out 1" of printer's ink on piece of glass and spread it evenly over 4" area with palette knife. Ink the brayer by rolling it over the inked area until it is evenly inked (Fig. VII-7). . It should be "tacky," i.e., make a noise when rolled over the ink. If it isn't tacky, add more ink.

Place block on newspaper and roll brayer over block, so ink is spread evenly over all raised parts (Fig. VII-8).

Pick up block and place it ink side down on paper, in exact place for printing. Turn paper and block over carefully. Rub paper with bowl of big spoon (Fig. VII-9) or rolling pin. Pull paper off carefully, and place paper to dry. Or, place block on designated place on cloth (Fig. VII-10). Cover with paper and stand on block (Fig. VII-11). Rotate weight so that entire block has even distribution on cloth. Remove paper and block.

Simple Projects For Beginners


Advanced Projects


6. Clean equipment by scraping extra ink from glass with palette knife, and wipe glass, knife, and brayer with newspaper. Saturate rag in kerosene, and wipe all equipment clean. Dispose of rag with newspapers.

Wood blocks are also used for block printing. The designing and cutting of such blocks are good progressive steps for campers who develop a real interest in this craft. The gouges, however, need to be stronger than those made for linoleum.