Now when it comes to fixing a woodcut, it’s relatively easy. If you have a spot you don’t like, you can use wood putty to fix the surface. Linoleum though, presents a special problem because there really isn’t a “lino putty” available.
Enter Bondo. Yes, Bondo, the same stuff decorating the cars of many art students, I’ve found Bondo to be quite an effective “putty” for linocuts. It adheres to linoleum, can be cut with the same tools and can hold a good amount of detail.
So here is my process for repairing a linocut with Bondo:
First think about working with Bondo, and I cannot underscore this more, have PROPER VENILATION. Bondo reeks of a solvent smell and the vapors can easily fill an entire room. I STONGLY recommend always mixing, applying, drying and sanding Bondo outdoors. Wear gloves and a respirator too.
1) If the linoleum (let’s call it lino) you are working with isn’t mounted to a rigid surface, mount it to one. The reason I do this is because lino is flexible and Bondo isn’t. If you apply it to an un mounted sheet, the Bondo can crack and crumble away if the sheet is flexed.
I use a sheet of MDF cut to the same size as my block. You can either use spray adhesive to glue the linoleum down or wood glue. I use wood glue, spreading a coat on the back of the linoleum block and the surface of the MDF sheet. Then after adhering the lino to the MDF, I weight down both with cinder blocks and extra piece of MDF as buffer between the blocks and the lino. I do this to keep the surface on the lino flat. Give this a day to dry.
2) If you can, apply painter’s tape as perimeter around the spot you intend to fill. This helps to keep the Bondo from filling in details you want around the area you are fixing.
3) Mix up a batch of Bondo per the directions on the can. Apply it in layers to the surface using a plaster spatula. I use the disposable kind because the Bondo will adhere to the spatula if you’re not quick enough in cleaning it off.
Apply enough to fill the detail you want gone with a thin layer over the entire surface you are repairing. If you only fill the detail, there is a potential for the Bondo to dry lower than the surface, and you will have to apply more to ensure a totally flat surface. It’s better to have extra on the surface to sand away to smooth out, rather than messing with multiple applications and extra sanding.
4) After letting the Bondo dry, time to sand. I use sanding blocks to maintain a flat and level surface. I start with 60 or 80 grit sandpaper to remove the texture left in the Bondo from application, and to start leveling the patch of Bondo with the surface of the lino. Be careful to only sand the area of Bondo and not scratch up the surrounding linoleum. This first sanding job will take the most time. If you really want to move things along, use a handheld power sander for the first step as it cuts down on the time this first round of sanding takes
Then I move to 100 grit to continue to smooth down the surface and blend the thin layer of Bondo into a smooth transition to the surface of the lino. Move to 220 grit for a smooth, finished surface.
5) Check the your work. Make sure you achieve a completely flat and level surface. Run your fingers across the surface, if you feel hints of the texture of the previous detail, apply another coat of Bondo and sand again. DO NOT TRY TO SAND AWAY THE TEXTURE. This can result in a divot in the surface of the block, which can cause trouble with printing later.
After you’ve got your surface flat and level, you are ready to re-cut your detail.