A Simple Portable Printmakers Chop Made From Card

Nik Semenoff


Reason for a portable chop


On my recent trip to Hong Kong for an international collaboration of Asian and North American printmakers, I realized my baggage  was overweight because of the materials I could not buy there. I decided my chop was not needed because of its weight. While there I did print a couple of editions and when it came to curating the edition, I felt that a chop was a necessary. Thinking about it, I realized one could make a reasonable system from tough card for the few prints I had. It would depend on the design of the chop image, but a simple one like mine was easy to produce.


Materials to use


At my disposal was ordinary matte board and my prototype was cut from that but I found the card too soft and too thick.  To help explain the process, I have duplicated my Hong Kong chop using a better and harder card I have in my studio.  This model I will take with me on other trips. First one has to outline the design on a piece of the board. Mine is a simple stylized letter N.  Make the card chop from two piece about 3.5 x 5 inches, placing the design in the center and about an inch from one end.



Using a sharp pointed blade, cut out the design by forming a bevel instead of cutting straight down. This helps produce cleaner embossing instead of tearing the paper because of a die-cutting effect. The card I am using in this case is stiff and very tough, having been impregnated with some resin to resist the chemicals in the environment it was meant to work.  It is .020 inches or .50 of a mm., making it about the right thickness for rag papers.  One could use softer card about the same thickness and to toughen up the surface, soak it in diluted epoxy or shellac after the design was cut out. I managed to break off the points from two blades, but the card chop should withstand much use in the future. Try and make the form as clean cut as possible by keeping the same angle of the knife blade at all times. Now clean up the cut edges with a sharp knife and fine sandpaper, making the cutout piece a bit smaller than the hole. This will allow for the rag paper to form a sharp embossed edge without tearing.



Assembling the pieces.



Place the cutout piece on the fresh card about the same position as where it was cut from. Place the hole over the form and adjust the two cards until the edges match. Carefully remove the top piece with the hole and with a sharp pencil mark the position of the cut form. Put a good adhesive on the back of this form and place it within the pencil marks. Before the glue sets, place the card with the hole over the form and move things around until the edges again match. Lift off the top card and set things aside to dry. Cut off the corners from the top card to make it easier to slip under the print when you do your signing.  



When the form has bonded, reassemble the two cards and move them around until the space between the hole is even. With stout staples along the bottom edge, join the two cards. Pound the staples flush to the card surface and you are ready to use it.


Using the chop


Slip the bottom card under the print and move it into position. With a small hard wallpaper roller, compress the area over the hole until the prints surface is flush with the top.



The embossing is just as good as most chops I have seen and with care will probably last for many  years, depending on the quantity of editions printed. While this unit was made from tough resin filled card, I can see one made from sheet brass and cut out with a jewelers piercing saw. The cutout form could be soft soldered to the back piece and the two sheets pop riveted together. This would produce a chop that should last as long as any traditional one in use.


There are many printmakers who do not have the resources or need for a traditional chop, but could make one from suitable material that would last for their needs.




December 31, 2003