If you have always wanted to create art with fire, try your hot hand at pyrography. Wood burning is a primal art form that can be gratifying for beginners and professionals. It requires a steady hand, patience and a desire to work with wood.
Pyrography began as a way to decorate and brand personal property, but in the Victorian era, wood burning was introduced as an art form. Now it is also an inexpensive and rewarding hobby. The investment requires only a few tools and supplies to get started.
10. Material Needs
Start by making a list of materials that you will need for your pyrography project. Start out by researching the best prices and most convenient sources for your materials. You can visit craft, hobby, office supply and home improvement stores or you can order all the items online.
Begin with these items:
Carbon paper –Put a sheet of carbon paper under the design and tape them both to the wood surface. Trace the pattern with a pencil to transfer it onto the wood. Make sure the design is face down on the carbon paper.
Design/Pattern – Print or draw the design you want to use.
Tape – It can be used to tape down the design while you trace it onto the wood.
Wood – Any wood, even if used for practice, should be free from chemicals and sanded down to a smooth surface. Take caution against wood toxicity by using wood that is known as safe to burn. Of course, people can have different reactions to various substances. To avoid irritations, it is important to note any reactions you have when applying pyrography to different types of wood.
- Basswood – Often used in wood burning, basswood “rounds” is a favorite form. This is a cross cut circle of the tree trunk with bark around it, perfect for clocks. Basswood blocks with bark borders are also popular forms for pyrography. It is light in color, so the deep, dark color of the wood burning really pops.
- Pine – Often used by beginners, pine is soft and easy to wood burn on, but aware of the high resin content. Pine that is air-dried can produce messy resin bubbles when heat is applied. Try to use kiln-dried wood for in all pyrography projects, as the process will evaporate humidity in the wood, including sap and resin.
- Italian poplar plywood – This wood is light in color, so it has a nice contrast when burned. The smooth and even grain makes wood burning easier than on some harder woods with uneven grains. When burning on any plywood, use a light touch. Do not burn into the glue.
- Maple – This is a harder wood that requires high temperatures and long burn-times to use in pyrography. However, it will produce impressive, crisp, clean results when used in wood burning.
- Birchwood – Light in color with dense fibers, it is often free from knots and imperfections, making it ideal for wood burning. Birchwood is affordable, easily available and versatile.
Fine grit sandpaper – Use superfine grit to prep the wood surface in order to make it smooth and to clear away any oils or contaminants. This can also be used when cleaning the tips of your woodburning pen. Sand with the grain to get a smooth look.
Ultrafine sandpaper – used to clean the tips for the wood burning pen tips, coarse sandpaper could damage the pen tip
Pencil – Sketch out ideas, such as an added shadow, on the wood before you apply the burn. Also, use it to transfer the pattern onto the wood.
Eraser – Use this to remove extraneous drawings and lines that didn’t get covered when burning the outline.
Wet paper towel – Used to clean up tools and wood surface.
White charcoal pencil – The wax in colored pencils will melt, but charcoal will resist burning. Mark spots with a heavy layer of charcoal to keep that area from burning. Charcoal also erases easily and can produce some interesting results.
9. Trade Tools
Unlike the materials, the trade tools are not really a recurring cost. The proper tools should last for some time. Before you invest a significant amount of money in tools, it is a good idea to start with some basics.
These tools can help hone your new craft:
X-Acto knife – It is used for small touchups, to carve out highlights using the point of the knife and to scrape in features like whiskers or strands of hair.
Mini fan – When burning dark regions, it can get smoky. Use a little fan to direct smoke away from you, leading to less irritation on your eyes.
Easel – Some people prefer to use a solid, adjustable easel when burning wood. Make sure the easel is sturdy and made of an appropriate substance. There are easels made just for pyrography; some even have a rotating platform for easy access.
Metal ceramic pick – This is basically a strong piece of metal with pointed ends. It will be used to pick, scrape and scratch the wood.
Sanding pen – This is a supplementary tool used to lighten burned areas that came out too dark. A sanding pen is mainly used to remove rusted paint on vehicles, but in this case, it can sparingly be used to alter the appearance of your wood burning. Do not use a sanding pen on softwood or plywood and when using, use light pressure to prevent gouging the wood. For softer wood, try using sandpaper.
Wood burning pen and tips – Wood-burning units are made for professionals and hobbyists. There are also several varieties of tips for each tool:
- One Temperature Burners – These operate like a soldering iron, with one high temperature and a standard solid brass tip. The universal tip can be used for outlines and shading. Some common interchangeable solid brass tips include calligraphy tips for lettering, flow tips for filling large areas, cone tips for details and large shading tips. Simply plug it into an outlet and start burning when it heats up.
- Variable Temperature Burners – These wood burners use a base that is controlled by a thermostat to achieve a wide range of heat settings. A wood-burning pen is attached to the base via a cable, and the tips can be fixed or interchangeable. These units are usually much more than a novice would need in the process of pyrography.
Use the superfine sandpaper to clean the wood burning pen tips. To remove black buildup, rub the tip during use when encountering a lot of hot and dark results. Rub the tips with the superfine sandpaper or emery cloth after the unit has cooled.