Can You Use Wood Carving Tools on Linoleum?

Can You Use Wood Carving Tools on Linoleum?

Lino or linoleum carving is a popular choice for several activities. It is used for artificial flooring, stamp making, relief printing, relief carving, stencil making for craft purposes, among many other uses. Due to its physical properties, it is workable and is a common choice amongst artists. An obvious question may therefore arise: Can you use wood carving tools on linoleum?

You can usually use a wood carving tool on linoleum. Since wood is harder than linoleum for block printing, its tools will work on linoleum as well. Wood carving tools are made of carbon steel and are harder than lino; you can use them on the lino surface to give them the desired shape. 

This article will discuss linoleum, its uses, and the usability of wood carving tools on linoleum (which work just as lino cutting tools!).

Linoleum: An Overview

Linoleum is an artificial material made of linseed oil (linoxyl), pine resin, cork dust, wood flour, and filler elements such as calcium carbonate. It was mainly used for flooring purposes from the late 18th century to the first half of the 19th century. 

It is deposited over a jute layer, canvas, or burlap, dried, and cut to the required shape and size for flooring purposes. High-quality linoleum flooring is made of solid linoleum and is exceptionally durable to use.

Linoleum was invented by an Englishman, Frederick Walton, in the year of 1855. He observed that the solidified, rubbery skin of linseed oil could substitute for rubber. Since the solidification process took a long time, he accelerated it by heating it and adding lead acetate and zinc sulfate, which would glue it all together.

Later, in 1871, William Parnacott improved the linoxyl solidification and deposition process on cotton sheets and filed a patent. In 2016, a Dutch company modified the concept of linoleum sheets by creating a liquid version of linoleum, which solidified overnight at the site. This form of liquid lino is durable and highly resistant to chemicals.

Linoleum is used in the art and craft sector. Lino printing is a popular art form where the linoleum sheet is carved so that the uncut portions of the sheet depict the mirror image of the artwork to be printed. The cutting process is done using various tools: knife, chisel, u tool, pfeil tool, and v gouge. The lino block is inked with a roller brush, and the pattern is transferred over fabric or paper.

Since linoleum does not have directional grain, it does not split with any cutting tool. Thus it can be used to get certain artistic effects better than the effects obtained in woodblock printing. Also, linoleum is easier to cut, especially when heated, increasing its workability. On the other hand, the linoleum block plate degrades faster due to the pressure applied while printing, and due to fragility, it cannot be used for larger artworks (although you can still attempt to do them! But the handling of the linocut becomes difficult).

Thin, solid lino sheets are also used to make stencils. The pattern is drawn on the lino sheet and is carved out. And leaving behind the negative of the image to be transferred. Then, it is placed on a sheet, and ink is applied using a roller brush. This type of lino printing is popular with art course beginners.  

It is worth mentioning that linoleum is a natural product and environmentally friendly. For environmental reasons, it is often the first choice in several places. It has a negligible environmental footprint. Three properties make linoleum an ideal choice in its usage: It is made of sustainable, natural ingredients; it has a long life and can be easily disposed of after use.

Since linoleum is made of natural ingredients, it is biodegradable. On disposal, as it breaks down, it does not release any harmful gases or toxins into the environment. Its properties make it a durable material for the construction and craft industry. Once used as flooring, it sustains for a long time with minimum maintenance reducing its carbon footprint.

Can Wood Carving Tools Be Used on Linoleum?

Wood, in general, is harder than linoleum. The tools used for wood carving can work on the intended wooden surface or any material softer than wood. Since linoleum is a rubbery material and workable, wood carving tools can be used on linoleum. Linoleum cut blocks and sheets used in the craft industry and lino material on jute used for flooring purposes can be cut with various wood carving tools.

There are various tools available for woodworking, which can be used on linoleum. Some of them are:

  • Carving knife: it is a useful tool used for trimming by cutting away outer edges. It can make cuts and smoothen corners.
  • Gouge: it is a tool with a curved cutting edge. It is used in several shapes and sizes to carve out hollows, rounds, and sweeping curves.
  • Chisel: It has a straight cutting edge. It comes in various sizes and is used for making lines and cleaning up flat surfaces.
  • The V tool: It is a handy tool used for parting and in specific cases of flatwork towards emphasizing broad lines. It comes in various sizes.
  • The U gouge: It has a U-shaped cutting edge useful for making deep U shaped grooves or cutting deep at bends and edges.
  • Mallet: A wooden hammer used to make a softer impact as compared to a metal headed hammer. It comes in a variety of shapes and sizes. The magnitude of the impact depends upon the size of the mallet.
  • Bench vice: A device to hold the job firmly in one position. It has two jaws – one of which is fixed and the other which is adjustable through a screw mechanism. The vice is usually attached to a workbench.

Most of the cutting tools come in various sizes. The size numbers are also called sweeps. The higher the sweep number, the more will be the depth of the cut. Apart from the woodworking tools, there are specialized lino tools available in the market. They are used specifically for lino cutting & carving and give better results than wood carving tools.

The handles of the tools are made of wood or polymer and have a ferrule at the metal – wood or metal-polymer joint to avoid the wood from splitting. You may need to sharpen the cutting edges from time to time to keep them sharp. A sharpening stone and a leather strop are useful for this purpose.

VIDEO. This video tutorial will teach you how to safely and successfully carve linoleum for printmaking or for bas-relief painting. WATCH: Linoleum Carving 101 (Basics)

Bethany Thiele, Art Teacher

Tips on Tool Care

The carving tools need to be taken care of for long use and the best results. You can find a list of tips below:

  • Wipe the tools with oil regularly: Wipe the tools with oil regularly to avoid rust formation. Take special care of the cutting edge.
  • Wrap them with a cloth when not in use: When not using the tools, wrap them with a cloth to avoid moisture from coming in contact with them.
  • Use a compartmentalized box to store tools: Store each tool in a different compartment of a storage box so that they do not hit and damage each other when in transit.

Final Words

We understood linoleum and saw that it is a softer material as compared to wood. Thus we realized that wood carving tools could be used on linoleum. Also, we came to know about various tools that can be used for lino and wood carving

In fact, there are even specialized tools that are used for lino carving and yield better results. Finally, we saw a few tips on maintaining these cutting tools for optimal results.

Sources

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Ines

Ines is a self-taught artist based in the UK. Originally from Caracas, she has dabbled in the world of arts and crafts in a diversity of ways participating in city intervention projects, sustainable practices’ open exhibitions, and her illustrations being featured in anniversary editions of literary magazines.

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