Bioplastic Hardground – Methyl Cellulose: Experiment 1

Researchers: Zoe Dong and Megan Ogden
Date: 11/1/2018
Temp: 70 degrees
Humidity: cool, partly cloudy 

We mixed 1T:1c water to make our methyl cellulose mixture, which appears to be very clear with all powder particles dissolved.

Methyl cellulose fresh after being mixed

Methyl cellulose 30 minutes after being mixed

Methyl cellulose 1 hour after being mixed

Once in this state, we painted on the methyl cellulose using a foam brush.

Plates coated with a thin layer of methyl cellulose, applied with foam brush

We made two test plates. We first beveled the edges of the copper plates, applied backing sheets and then de-greased both, using first Bon Ami, followed by soy sauce to remove grease and oxidation. We were looking for water to form a smooth sheet across the whole plate surface, which signals that there were no areas where grease was repelling water. Both plates were lightly buffed using a scouring pad and steel wool to create a matte surface. After the plates were prepared we the applied layers of methyl cellulose using a foam brush: Plate 1 had three thin layers of methyl cellulose painted on, each layer air dried before the next was applied. Plate 2 had two thin layers of methyl cellulose painted on, each layer air dried before the next was applied, but it was then heat set for 11 mins at 250 degrees.

Both plates were drawn into using an etching needle once all layers of methyl cellulose were complete done air drying. Plate 2 was then drawn into before being heat set and after being heat set, the marks made after being heat set were all drawing inside of circles so they could be distinguished from the one drawn before being heat set. When drawing into the plates it felt like drawing onto an un-grounded copper surface, sometimes the tool would skip. There were small shavings of dry methyl cellulose brought by the needle as it was drawn across the plate.

The plates were etched in Ferric Chloride bath, with a baume of 39 degrees, for 10 mins. After 10 mins the plates were pulled out of the ferric to be rinsed under water. At this point we observed the texture of the methyl cellulose ground; it was gooey and could be wiped a way with a finger, like a gel.

The methyl cellulose ground appears gooey and wipeable after coming out of the bath

When rinsed under water the ground rinsed off, but some still had to be scrubbed off using Bon Ami and a rag. Then we printed both plates as follows:

Paper: Hahnemuhle Copperplate
Ink: Graphic Chemical INK CO Bone Black #514C etching ink
Modifier: burnt plate oil
Wiping: Tarlatan and newsprint

The results were not very successful because the lines that were captured were very light and inconsistent. On plate 2 it is clear that the marks made after being heat set are stronger than those made before being heat set. On both plates there is some fowl biting and plate tone. After seeing these results we concluded that the methyl cellulose breaks down in the etching process, most likely due to its solubility in water, but we wanted to test a plate that was coated in more layers to see if this affected the final printed results.

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