BIG Soft Ground Research Test 1

Test Summary
We are determining how much of the red BIG ground should be applied to a degreased copper plate to achieve satisfactory drawing results. We also are testing the “open time” of the plate to determine how long the ground remains sensitive to the marks of a pencil.

Date: September 22, 2010
Researcher’s Name: Lyell Castonguay and Brianna Ashe
Plate Material: .032 Copper
Plate Size: 6″ x 6″
Room Temperature: 85°F and sunny

Plate Preparation
Each plate was degreased with soy sauce that was rubbed onto the copper plate using a piece of rolled felt, rinsed and then dried with a clean rag and blow dryer. The BIG was squeezed from the tube onto a clean, glass inking slab, spread with a knife and rolled up using a 4″ diameter, medium hardness brayer. Several thin layers of red BIG were rolled across the surface of the copper plate, building gradually to the point that the copper did not sparkle through the ground. We waited one hour to allow the ground to set and then began to draw. We used newsprint as a transfer paper, gently laid across the surface of the plate. We used a bridge to hold our hand above the plate surface in order not to disrupt the ground. The goal was to have the paper lay across the plate evenly without wrinkling or over lifting the ground. We immediately cleaned the roller and slab with diluted Simple Green and a rag after rolling up the copper plate because BIG has a tendency to dry on the roller. The drawing time was broken into four 15-minute increments; each time switching to a different color pencil for easy documentation. We hardened the ground for 30 minutes in the hotbox until the ground was smooth to the touch without any tack.


Bri applies BIG to degreased copper plate

Bri's drawing and transfer

Bri’s drawing and transfer

Lyell's drawing and transfer

Lyell’s drawing and transfer

Etching Notes
Each plate was etched in a vertical etching tank of Ferric Chloride at 38° Baume.

Timed Application of Mordant
30 Minutes

Removal of Grounds
The grounds were removed using a stripper bath of Arm & Hammer Washing Soda and water (100 grams/1 liter). This stripper bath was relatively ineffective in removing BIG. Our copper plates remained in the bath for over 30 minutes and still required scrubbing with Bon Ami to completely remove the ground. After we removed BIG the plates were rinsed in water and deoxidized in the plate brightener bath made of distilled white vinegar and salt (1 gallon/1 cup). Immediately following the brightener bath they were dried with a clean rag and blow dryer.

After Bath Evaluation
There is foul biting all throughout the plate surface. We believe this is a result of the ground being applied too thinly. The soft ground transfer of the pencil line is quite nice. There appears to be no difference in the sensitivity of the ground between when we started drawing and the hour that proceeded. This ground has an extensive “open time” much longer than one hour. Below are images of the plates after being etched.

Bri's Etched Plate

Bri’s Etched Plate

Lyell's Etched Plate

Lyell’s Etched Plate

Inking Methods
The plates were inked with unmodified Graphic Chemical & Ink Co. Bone Black Etching Ink #514. The ink was carded on with mat board scraps, wiped with used tarlatan, and then palm wiped.

Paper Type: Hahnemule Copperplate
Paper Soaking Time: 30 Minutes
Press Blanket Setup: Sizing Catcher and Pusher, 6.5 pressure, Small Takach Etching Press

Test Conclusion
We concluded that the ground had been applied too thinly. Foul biting appears as gray tone in the background. However the lines have not been affected by the time increments we imposed. Below are images of the prints.

Printed Images

Lyell's Print

Lyell’s Print

Bri's Print

Bri’s Print

BIG Soft Ground Research Test 2 >