Thursday, April 28, 2011

X is for Xylography - A-Z Challenge

Xylography - The art of engraving on wood.

Thomas Bewick. Barn Owl (Tyto alba) in History of British Birds. 1847.
We've all seen wood carvings (xyloglyphy) and marvel at the intricasies of the cut. Who hasn't picked up a pen knife and tried to carve something, only to discover that it just might take more practice than we're ready to give. 

And, I can't have been the only one to get a xylopyrography (woodburning) kit for Christmas, as a child. Fun, fun, fun.

But xylography art as shown above with Thomas Bewick's Barn Owl just blows me away. This is wood engraving.  Something that is done so meticulously that it can be added to press composites to create newspapers. Each line is no higher than the text tiles it nestles in so that printing is seamless -- and, it is almost limitless in repetitive printing. Give yourself a treat and take a look at these engravings.

And, we've all heard of Dremel tools, fantastic engraving/carving tools of the late 20th Century. No question, they make fast work of what used to be so laborious. But, these engravings were done by hand! Yes, by hand! And with a special cutting tool called a burin (that's a cutting tool with a V-shaped tip). It's done on the end of a block of wood rather than the soft side used by current laser engravers, which are cost-prohibitive to home hobbyists. Just look at all the cutting lines, all 8,935,632 of them. The hand skill is extraordinary when viewed from this perspective. Does anyone want to give me one? No pressure; just askin' 

It goes without saying that Bewick had no time for blogging, but what a legacy. Have you ever tried xylography?


See that The A-Z Blogging Challenge button on the right? With more than 1100 bloggers participating, there's bound to be someone you'll discover by just clicking on the Next Blog or Surprise Me button.


  1. I don't have a steady enough hand for xylography. Recently I saw pictures of wood carvings done on the tip of a pencil but none to match Bewick's owl engraving.

  2. I remember receiving an xylopyrography set for Christmas when I was a kid :-)

  3. That barn owl engraving is beautiful!

  4. haven't tried that, but i think one of my brothers tried it (xylopyrography); it was one of their projects at school...

  5. That art is amazing. Classic art forms like this always leave me in awe. I apologize for not getting around too often these last couple of weeks but I hope to make up for it soon!