Intaglio printmaking is the process of etching or engraving artwork into the surface of a metal plate, usually copper or zinc. The plate is then printed by applying ink into the incised grooves of the plate, and running it through a manually-operated press which transfers the image onto paper. This can be repeated multiple times to create an edition of all original, hand-made prints.
Mezzotint is a form of intaglio printmaking. The process involves coursening the surface of a copper plate with thousands of microscopic pits and burrs capable of holding ink for printing onto paper. The tool used to coursen the surface is known as a mezzotint rocker. It consists of an arched, serrated metal blade connected to a handle. As the name implies, the tool is "rocked" along the surface of the copper plate, roughening it with the small teeth located along the edge of the blade. In order to get a consistant texture over the entire surface of the plate, every square inch must be rocked in directional passes (vertical, horizontal, diagonal) until it is uniform. Once the plate is rocked, an image with varying degrees of tone is created by flattening and removing portions of the coursened surface using metal scrapers and burnishers. More worked areas will hold less ink and print lighter, while less worked areas will hold more ink and print darker.