WARNING!! Lino cutting tools are called ‘gouges’ for a reason! Their purpose is to gouge or carve the surface of the lino to create the design and as such they are sharp and can easily cause unwary users to end up with gouges fingers and hands.
I believe lino carving should come with a clear warning label and a large packet of bandaids!! Believe me if you are unwary and the gouge blade cuts you it hurts – I have done it many times and have a fair respect for these blades.
The secret to easier and cleaner carving is to keep your blades sharp and that means that you should take some basic precautions especially when you are first beginning carving.
1. USE A CARVING BOARD OR TABLE
The above shows an example of a simply and easily made carving board. It is essentially a flat piece of board with 2 small square dowel ends – one on top to push the lino up against and the one below to stop the board slipping forward across the table as you push through the lino whilst carving.
When it is placed on a flat on a table and used correctly it provides a solid and effective safety measure helping to guard against carving fingers.
2. ALWAYS CARVE WITH YOUR ‘HOLDING’ HAND BEHIND YOUR CARVING HAND
Essentially the most common way to cut yourself is to place the hand that should be holding the lino with, behind the carving hand – essentially in front of the blade! Despite what you may think this is easy to do as when you are concentrating on carving and pushing the blade forward it seems natural to stop the lino being pushed forward as well by holding it with you hand. If you do this YOU WILL cut yourself! It is very easy to slip whilst carving through the lino and the carving blade to shoot forward in to the air. So it takes a bit of discipline but try to remember to place the lino up against the from ‘stopping board’ on your carving board and this will stop the lino and bear the brunt of any carving slips. Better to hit the timber than your hand!
3. ALWAYS HAVE A PACKET OF BAND-AIDS OR STICKING PLASTERS HANDY
For those times when you do slip and do end up cutting yourself. try to use the band-aid straight away to prevent the bleeding to stop as soon as possible.