Printing tools and materials

Click on any image to obtain a larger view of the corresponding tool(s) and/or material(s).

Character Reading Meaning Translation
wa Japanese  
shi paper Japanese paper


As can be seen from their deckle edges these sheets of Japanese paper are all hand-made. They are made from the fibers of the mulberry tree (called kōzo in Japanese), resulting in a very strong and yet absorbant paper perfectly capable of withstanding the multiple rubbings of the baren (see below) required in the production of multi-coloured woodblock prints.

Character Reading Meaning Translation
hon original  
n   original baren

Hon baren

The diameter of these two baren is approximately 135 mm. The one on the left (seen from the front) is an 8-strand fine baren made by Hidehiko Gotō-san, the one on the right (seen from the back) is a 12-strand medium baren made by Kikuo Gosho-san. This wonderful and uniquely Japanese tool is used to drive the pigment applied to the woodblock into the paper. Unlike the Western use of mechanical printing presses, classic Japanese woodblock printing is completely done by hand. An original baren consists of the following three parts:

Character Reading Meaning Pronounciation Translation
mizu water    
su(ru) printing    
ke hair mizu-bake water brush


These brushes are used to moisten the woodblocks and the paper with water before and during the printing process. The width of these two brushes is 90 (left) and 150 mm (right). Their handles are made of magnolia; their bristles of sheep hair.

Character Reading Meaning Pronounciation Translation
shu hand    
su(ru) printing    
ke hair shu-bake print brush


The size of these brushes is 15, 30 and 42 mm (from left to right). Their handles are made of bamboo, their bristles of horse hair. These brushes are used to impregnate smaller spaces of the woodblock with pigment.

Character Reading Meaning Pronounciation Translation
maru round    
su(ru) printing    
ke hair maru-bake round cornered brush


The size of the larger brushes on the left is 77 by 52 mm, while that of the small brush on the right is 45 by 40 mm. The bristles of the maru-bake are also made of horse hair. They are generally used to impregnate larger spaces of the woodblock with pigment.

Character Reading Meaning Translation
ken see  
のみ nomi chisel registration-carving chisel

Traditionally it was the printer’s, and not the carver’s responsibility to handle the kentō-nomi:


This special chisel is used to achieve a perfect registration between the printed images of the key- and colour woodblocks (in a way that I intend to explain later).

Provenance of these tools and materials: the websites of McClains, Matsumura-san, and the Baren Mall

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