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Registration Boards

Having recently moved to the west coast, all of my presses and printing materials are in storage in Texas. This is quite frustrating. However, the printing must continue, so I was forced to explore other methods for registering paper. I opted for the traditional registration board. It was an adventure, from learning about it, to building it, to using it.

The most traditional method of registration for Japanese woodblock prints is the use of the kento.  A kento is a small knotch cut directly into the corner of a woodblock (and one along the side). They are used to guide the paper to the proper place every time. There is one major problem with this method however. It requires that you dedicate at least a half inch on two sides of your block for the kentos, meaning you cannot use the entire block for your image.

A second method for registering paper is to use a “registration board.” A registration board is a base made of block of wood with raised blocks attached to two sides of it forming an “L.” Before there was masking tape, artists carved their kento marks into the “L”-boards. Nowadays, thanks to the marvels of modern technology, we have a way to mark the kento without damaging the registration board (thus allowing it to be used again!). You can mark the board with a pencil where you want the paper to go, then build up those areas with a few layers of masking tape.

Registration Board Diagram

I made my registration board from a scrap piece of particle board for the base and a 1×6. I cut the particle board down to size and then cut two pieces of the 1×6 to form my “L” boards. I then used a carpenter’s square to make sure that my boards formed a perfect right angle. I fixed my L-boards in place with wood glue and nails. Finally, I sanded down the inner edges of the L-boards into a bevel to avoid contact with block when inking.

Here is the final product:

I was actually pleasantly surprised with the effectiveness of this rudimentary device. I printed my latest print, “Heian Shrine in Winter” on it first. Most of the problems with the paper registration were due to user error. Either I didn’t push the paper close enough to the taped marks, or my hand slipped and moved the paper prematurely. When I wasn’t the problem, the board did its job perfectly.

See the perfect registration in my print?:

Stages of Printing

I made my board because Resingrave is a higher material than most woodblocks. If you are using a shorter block, there are registration boards that you can buy. McClain’s sells a registration board that accommodates a 1/4 inch high block. You can even special order  any size.  But for those of you who want to save money and/or have the full experience of making your own, I highly recommend it.

I will definitely be using my registration board again!

To see more of the “Heian Shrine in Winter” print, click here