Mokulito is a print technique developed in the 1970’s by Ozaku Schisi and more recently by Ewa Budka. Mokulito utilizes and adapts the principles of lithography allowing you to get a print from a wooden surface rather than from the more usual stone or specially prepared plates.
For my tests I used birch ply and shuttering ply. The fine grain of birch is more suitable for detailed work. The grain of the shuttering ply is very pronounced and will be a strong feature in the print. The blocks should be sanded with 220 sandpaper before working on them.
Rather than drawing directily onto the block I wanted to experiment with photographic imagery. To do this I exposed a negative, large bitmaped image (the black image parts will be the non image areas of the print) onto a coarse 45 mesh screen and printed gum arabic onto the block. Once the gum had dried I painted a greasy mixture of etching ink, whitespirit and veg oil onto the block. The gum acts as a mask, preventing the grease penetrating the block in these areas.
Once the grease has absorbed into the ply, the block is coated with gum arabic as in the first etch in traditional lithography. Its important to it leave overnight at this point. I initially rushed this stage and found the block quickly scummed up.
Rinse and sponge the gum from the block. Your now ready to print. The ink needs to be oilier and softer than with stone or plate lithography. I used Intaglio’s Shop mix Black etching ink and with a drizzle of thin plate oil.
Dampen the block and roll up. Instead of using a leather or potyurethane roller small foam type decoraters rollers work best.
As the online reasearch suggested that a direct litho press isn’t suitable fo mokulito blocks I used our Hydraulic Beever Press. This produces pressure equivelant to an etching press. I also used a felt press blanket as the blocks were not particularly even.
If scumming occurs during printing I found you can remove it, to some extent, by dampening the block and quickly rolling back over the surface prior to reloading the roller with fresh ink, (again, as you would in traditional lithography).
Having experimented with this technique I feel it has some real potential and isn’t just a novelty process. The prints combine the delicate thin ink layers of litho with the distinctive grain of the woodcut. Delicate washes probaby won’t work and the block can’t be closed and re printed as with traditional litho, so the edition is printed in one go. Working in the way I have been, I’ve found that the block begins to fill in after about four prints. This isn’t really an issue for me, but I’ll experiment further……
Taking into account the differences and variations of the shuttering ply sheets used, I have generally found that contrary to what I expected the image held up better during printing and held more ink when I’d screened the gum arabic onto the block and painted over with the greasy ink mixture as opposed to screen printing the greasing ink mixture, then gumming. Also, this time I used litho ink with thin plate oil, rather than etching ink and plate oil.
For more information here’s some useful links:-