A technical dictionary of printmaking, André
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A. INKING DABBER.
An instrument used to ink intaglio plates. It permits the engraver to stuff the
engraved lines with ink by tapping on the copper plate. Usually dabbers have a
cylindrical shape which widens from the middle up to form a kind of handle at the top.
It is used and held in a vertical position. The bottom part of the dabber, which
comes in contact with the plate, is either flat or more or less rounded. Inking
dabbers come in various sizes varying in width from 5cm to 10cm (about 2 to 4 inches).
For very fine work and fragile grains artists must use very soft dabbers made with
soft leather. Abraham Bosse's instructions on how to make a dabber (written in the
year 1645) are still useful: "A good dabber must be made with good grade white
cloth which must be soft and already somewhat used. When you have a sufficient
amount of such cloth roll it up the way you would roll up a bandage, but make sure
that you roll it much more tightly since the tighter it is, the better it will be.
The result should be something that looks like a painter's muller. At this point
take some good grade string made with several strands and, using a kind of awl, make
some holes along the length of the rolled up cloth. Make sure that the holes are
made in different places then pass the string through them and sew everything up
tightly so as to reduce the rolled up cloth to a diameter of three inches and a
length of about five or six inches. The end that will be used should then be
prepared by making a clean cut with a very sharp knife. The cut should be made in
such a way that the detached piece looks like a slice of sausage. The other end
should then be sewn so as to form a ball. This is the end that will fit into the
palm of the artist's hand and will permit him to ink the plate firmly without too
much difficulty". Bosse suggested that "a few slivers" be cut off the dabber as
soon as the ink made the cloth too hard to work with.
The inking dabber should not be confused with printer's balls even though
these two instruments are very closely related. Printer's balls are semi-spherical
and have a handle. They were used by printers up until the invention of the roller.
Pcpular image printers of the 19th century still used balls to ink their blocks.
Senefelder also used them at the beginning of his career and described them as being
made of "soft leather stuffed with horse hair".
[ * printer's balls ,
B. DABBER FOR LAYING GROUNDS OR SILK DABBER.
A semi-spherical instrument stuffed with cotton and covered with silk. This kind
of dabber is used to spread ground over the surface of a plate. In the past
ground was also laid with taffeta dabbers and even with the side of the hand.
Little piles of ground were laid on the surface of the plate and then the plate
was tapped so as to distribute the ground evenly. In french this expression gave
rise to the expression tapé (literally, taped) to designate a plate that
was well grounded
[* etching, ]
C. DABBER FOR LITHOGRAPHIC DRAWING.
The lithographic drawing procedure which the French call "au tampon" calls for a
"ball of cotton covered with very fine kid leather". The dabber used for this
purpose may also be covered with a layer of felt or a piece of silk but must always
be supple and soft. It is cleaned with turpentine after use.
[* lithography ( lll,3,E )]
D . FELT DABBER. Engravers of the past made use of felt dabbers or rolled up
list which they impregnated with oil and lamp black. The dabber was then used to blacken
the engraved lines so as to see them more clearly and judge the work that had
already been done [* smoke proof].
E. PRINTERS'S DABBER OR OIL RUBBER.
"Made with an old piece of swadling cloth or any other rolled up woolen cloth".
Printers used to clean their plates, after inpression, by rubbing heated oil on the
engraved plate until it was quite free of ink.
[* oil ,
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