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Burning Idea

In this project, I'll show you how to turn an unfinished box organizer into an attractive pencil holder for your desk or craft table. I love the idea of taking something plain and uninteresting and giving it flare. All the better when I can do that with fire. How cool is that?

Pyrography, or wood-burning, is a fun hobby where you take a heated tool and burn a pattern or a drawing onto a wood (or other suitable) surface. When it comes to wood-burning, I am by no means an expert, I still have much to learn and master. The fun, and the learning, lie in the doing as practice makes perfect. So, let's get a little practice in with a simple design.

Unfinished Box Organizer

"Here, do something with this"

My fella is all the time coming in with random boxes he's picked up at hobby stores or yard sales and giving them to me to do something with. Recently, he gave me this unfinished pencil holder. By unfinished, I mean that it is plain wood, untreated. This one is made out of softwood, likely basswood, which is perfect for carving or burning a design onto.

You'll also notice the blemish in the lower right corner. A nice wood-burn design will hide that nicely.

Let's Get Started

What you'll need for this is a wood-burner, pencil, and a ruler. You can check out the hobby section of my blog for other wood-burning projects. I have already gone over different tools, methods, safety precautions, etc. So, I won't repeat myself here. I'll just assume you are ready teddy and utilizing safety first.

Grab your pencil and ruler. This is a simple Zen tangle design; I think they call it 'dogwood'. Zen tangle designs are created in a series of simple steps of dots and lines that eventually manifest into a beautiful, complex pattern.

Step 1

The first step is simple. Take your ruler and a pencil and cover the sides and bottom with a box graph. To make it simple, make it as wide as the ruler.

Step 2

Now, draw a dot where each line intersects.

Step 3

Take your ruler again and draw a line in the center of the boxes.

Step 4

Now, for a little fun. Around each dot, draw in little curves, not connecting them to the lines. In between each dot, draw a diamond shape where the lines intersect. In between each diamond shape, draw an 'X' where the lines intersect.

So Far, So Good

Step 5

Let's do some burning. You can use any type of burner, solid tip, or wire tip. I used a wire tip burner.

The wire tips I used are:

  • Spoon shader

  • Small and medium ball tips

  • Skew tip

If you are using a solid tip burner, you can do this whole thing with a pointed tip and a shader if you have one. I used a medium ball tip to draw in the dots and curves and the skew tip for all the linework. The skew tip has an angled straight edge that works well for lines. All you need to do is use your burner to go over all the pencil lines. Relax and take your time with it.

At first, I considered doing the pattern all over the box. I decided it would look better to burn the top and bottom outer rim solid. For this, I used a spoon shader. I had the heat cranked up a little high because I like that textured look as the wood burns away. If you prefer a smoother look, go low and slow. This will apply the burn without burning the wood too much.

It's Coming Right Along

Step 6

Grab your pencil again and extend the 'X' out just a bit. Now, draw a circle around the center of the 'X' and draw a line coming out of the center of each half of the circle. There should be three lines in each box. One line of the 'X' and one to each side. Make an open circle at the end of each line. Once you have it all drawn in with the pencil, go over it with the wood burner. I used the skew tip for the lines and a small ball tip for the circles.

Looking Good

Seal It Up

Now that we are all done burning, we'll need to seal our work. Sealing it will offer some protection and provide a nice finish to bring out your design in an attractive way. There are many various products and methods for this. You may want to experiment with what works best for you and your project. Different ones may work better for different things.

For this, I first applied a Tung oil. I use a 100% pure Tung oil product. All you do is rub it on with a cloth or a brush and allow it to cure. After brushing it on over the entire box, I hung it up to dry and left it for 24 hours to cure. You can see the difference in appearance after applying the Tung oil. It really pops. The next day, I applied clear paste wax. I let it set in for about 15-20 minutes and buffed it out. See below; the first two photos are after the tongue oil, and the last two are after the paste wax was applied.


Let's Put Some Stuff In It!

Check It Out - All Done!

That wasn't so bad, was it? A job well done and it looks cute! In a few hours (not counting curing time) we turned a plain old pencil box into a nice, attractive organizer for your workspace. Quite an eye-catcher. Now, when people notice it and ask where you got such a nice-looking box, you can proudly proclaim "Oh, that old thing? I did that".

I hope you enjoy this blog post and if anything, I hope it inspires you to create something clever for yourself or a friend. Take care and thanks for reading. Have a blessed day.

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