Reference Entry

Carborundum print

Pat Gilmour

in Oxford Art Online


Published online January 2003 | e-ISBN: 9781884446054 | DOI: https://dx.doi.org/10.1093/gao/9781884446054.article.T013977

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[Fr. Gravure au carborundum]

Print made by combining carborundum—a carbon and silicon compound customarily used for polishing by abrasion—with synthetic resin or varnish (see also Prints §III 5.). The mixture is then hardened on a plastic or metal support. The process was invented during the 1960s by the French artist Henri Goetz (1909–89), who realized that the carborundum provided an ink-holding ‘tooth’. The technique can be combined with intaglio processes or used as an alternative to them.

Goetz approximated conventional intaglio effects either by using heated tools to cut into a coating of varnish hardened on its support, or by suspending grains of carborundum in liquid varnish before it dried. The materials specified in his 1968 treatise included carborundum in eight gradations from 80–1200, synthetic varnishes and resins in crystal and liquid form, appropriate solvents, pyrogravure tools, emery and glass papers, and intaglio printing equipment, including a hot-plate. The technique’s outstanding advantage, in addition to its speed, is that corrections can be made by dissolving the varnish with trichlorethylene, which also allows economic recycling of the support. The quality of line is determined by the thickness of the varnish and the temperature and nature of the point. Pastel or lithographic crayon marks, or textural impressions executed on the varnish in thinned typographic ink, can be sprinkled with carborundum dust, which is fixed to the varnish by passing a flame over it. The carborundum’s fineness or coarseness determines the character of the mark. Effects similar to aquatint can be created by mixing ground resin crystals with colorant, solvents and various grades of carborundum. Such mixtures can be brushed on to the support or applied thickly by palette knife. For finer applications Goetz suspended carborundum in ether and devised a pseudo-mezzotint by spreading salt on a thick layer of varnish, heating it, then, after cooling, washing the salt away to leave ink-retaining indentations. Although much work with carborundum resembles intaglio printing, pyrogravure in thick varnish produces an idiosyncratic weal in the printed sheet, while built-up textures, requiring simultaneous printing from the relief and the intaglio, palpably emboss and/or deboss the paper....

Reference Entry.  590 words. 

Subjects: Prints and Printmaking

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