I have been camping out at the lovely facilities of TechShop Pittsburgh for the past few weeks working on laser cutting the designs submitted by artists, youth groups and classes in OH and WV in preparation for Insta-tangram, an interactive large-scale outdoor steamroller printmaking spectacle.The laser cutter acts just like a printer, tracking back and forth horizontally until it covers the entire image. Instead of laying down ink, it delicately subtracts material. You set the power and speed of the laser to control how deeply it etches the image. Since these are going to be woodcuts, I wanted to make sure the cut was pretty deep. That way, the inking and printing process will go more smoothly.
The TechShop laser cutter couldn’t cut all the way through the 1/2″ birch plywood so I ended up etching out designs close together on a 17″x23″ sheet and then carefully cutting each one out with a scroll saw.
To say the least, we generated a lot of sawdust. We’re making four full 18″x18″ tangrams, each set has 7 shapes, and each shape has a duplicate for security purposes. So that’s 205 perimeter inches for each of the eight total tangram sets, which is 1,640 total inches (136 feet) of cutting along geometric edges. Good thing sewing patience translates over to using a scroll saw.
The next step is coating the top with Shellac, making proof prints, and then putting velcro hook tape on the back. The wood will be velcroed to a 4’x8′ platform to keep the pieces in place during printing. Insta-tangram’s debut at Picnic in the Park is 10 days away! 2-4 pm on June 8th at Martins Ferry City Park. Check. It. Out.