Shape cutter

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The shape cutter from Jost Amman's book of status , 1568

Shape cutter , shape engraver or also xylograph or xylograph ( listen ? / I ) is an almost extinct profession that deals with the production of printing rollers and sticks made of wood. These were used for fabric printing, paper wallpaper, playing cards, linoleum , oilcloth and silk as well as the sometimes artistic woodcuts . The shape cutters also made models for stuff printing or blueprint . Another area of ​​application are images in catalogs and books from the time when it was not yet possible to print photos directly. Audio file / audio sample

The woodcut, which was already widespread at the time, in which the printing block consists of a length of wood, required more work steps (cut in the direction of the grain and another cut in the opposite direction) than the copper engraving process, which was already known at the time . But the printing plates of the copperplate are not suitable for letterpress printing. The English copper engraver Thomas Bewick developed the new process of wood engraving , in which the work is carried out in a similar way to copper engraving, but with end-grain boxwood as the workpiece. Only the wood engraving enabled the mass production of finely detailed illustrations, which quickly found widespread use in letterpress printing.

Form engraver at work

The drawings transferred to the wooden panel were cut out by the wood cutters with knives, diggers, gouges and round irons, chisels as well as knee irons and base chisels so that the areas that were not to be printed were removed from the wooden panel ( high-pressure method ). Well-seasoned, carvable wood is used to manufacture the roller or several layers of wood are glued together. During work, the workpiece usually rests on a cushion filled with sand.

In addition to carving out patterns, metal ornaments were applied to the model. The lexicon of all technology describes this form engraving as follows:

“Usually three wooden panels 7–8 cm thick are glued together, of which the top panel, into which the drawing is cut, is made of pear wood. The other two panels (laid one on top of the other with the grains crossing) are usually made of fir or linden wood. Fine lines, small dots, etc. The like. Which in the wood would be very difficult to maintain or would be too laborious to carry out, are formed by the form engraver by hammering in straight or curved brass sheet strips or pins made of brass wire; For this purpose, the latter is not only of a round, but, depending on the requirements, of a crescent-shaped, star-shaped, etc. cross section. "

The profession of shape carver has been documented since 1397. A well-known form cutter was Jost de Negker (d. 1544). The historical significance of wood engraving is due to the increasing spread of letterpress printing, which brought with it a high demand for illustrations. Around 1900 there were 31 mold shops in Germany with 500 assistants, one of which was Cologne . The shape cutters probably mostly worked to order. Until 1996, Formstecher was a recognized apprenticeship in Germany with a three and a half year training period. Nowadays the work has increasingly taken over by automats and machines.


Web links

Wiktionary: Xylograph  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. a b c d e Peter Wulf Hartmann : Form cutter . In: The large art dictionary by PW Hartmann . Stiepan, Leobersdorf 1996.
  2. ^ A b Ignaz Jastrow : Social policy and administrative science, Volume 1: Labor market and proof of work. Commercial courts and unification offices: essays and treatises . Georg Reimer, Berlin 1902, p. 509 .
  3. a b Angelika Überrück: The Christian motifs of blueprint , LIT Verlag, Münster 2008, p. 51 , ISBN 978-3-8258-1502-8 .
  4. A blue miracle . In: worth knowing , magazine of the Leopold Franzens University Innsbruck, May 2015, pp. 6–7 .
  5. hand pressure . In: Lueger's lexicon of all technology . 2nd Edition. Volume 4, Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt, Leipzig / Stuttgart 1906, pp.  768–769 .
  6. Robert Forrer: The art of stuff printing , Strasbourg 1898, p. 27 , quoted from: Angelika Überrück: Die christlichen Motive des Blaudrucks , LIT Verlag, Münster 2008, p. 51 , ISBN 978-3-8258-1502-8 .
  7. ^ Job description of Formstecher from November 28, 2005 ., accessed on 23 August 2019.