Brian Hanscomb engraves on copperplate using tools passed on to him by his journeyman during his apprenticeship. Some of his tools are over 100 years old and are of French make while others are Swiss, American and English in origin. The tools – burins – have traditional names such as spitsticker, lozenge, square, etc. and are used to create a range of different marks and textures on the copper.
Copperplate engraving is a slow, laborious technique which uses tools to cut lines directly onto copperplate. It is a different technique from etching where the metal plate is covered with a resistant wax which is drawn through with a scriber: the plate is then immersed in an acid bath, allowing the acid to etch the exposed lines. While etched lines have an irregular shape, engraved lines have a clean, sharp edge, giving a very pure appearance to the line.
The limited editions, usually of 95, are printed by hand, using a Harry Rochat press, and Brian finds the discovery of the most sympathetic paper for a particular image to be highly rewarding. The paper used is mainly hand or mould made and some date back to Victorian times. His use of a single colour ink, usually black or umber, demonstrates superbly the simple line of engravings; where his work is more detailed, the use of a single ink gives the tonal illusion of colour in the print. Each print is unique.