MAU Art & Design Glossary




When engraving curved lines with a burin on a woodblock or a copper plate, a cushion (French: coussin) is placed under the woodblock or the plate to enable it to be rotated.

This is because a burin can only be moved in one direction. Therefore, instead of moving the hand holding the burin, the block or plate needs to be rotated. In Europe, a tool known as coussin has been used for this purpose for many years. A coussin has an oval shape and is made of a leather cover filled with sand inside. For this reason, it is also sometimes referred to as a sand bag or a leather pad. Because it is placed under the plate while it is being engraved, it is heavy enough to prevent it from moving when pressure is applied from the top. The plate can be rotated with ease by using the rounded surface of this pad. When using the coussin, the plate should be placed on the top and rotated while it is engraved with a burin. A rotating work board used when carving woodcuts has a similar function to a coussin. Another method that can be used is to stick a coin on the back of the plate and use that to rotate the plate. Carving accurately with a burin takes some getting used to. It is best to practice before starting. As it is very expensive, the coussin is rarely used in Japan. A coussin can be purchased at art supply stores that handle printing supplies.


  • Wood engraving using a coussinWood engraving using a coussin