Updated: Aug 2, 2021
Let's dive into a wood burning project today! It is a great hobby for gift ideas or if you just need to relax for a while. Pyrography is a terrific way to add some flare to a variety of materials including (but not limited to) wood, leather, and gourds.
I admit to not being an aggressive gift giver but when I do gift, I try to gift well and inspired. I tend to avoid gifting under obligatory circumstances and look for those moments that are more meaningful. By gifting well and inspired, I mean that I consider something that is unique or of specific use to the intended. It’s just how I do.
My dear cousin finally closed on her first home. It is a very big moment in her life as the past few years have been challenging for her. I know full well how stressful the ordeal of moving is. I felt compelled to do something special for her to let her know that I care and that I am here for her.
While out watering my plants and flowers last week, I had a sudden onset of inspiration. My cousin loves sunflowers and has mentioned to me that she wants to decorate the kitchen of her new home with sunflowers. Instead of heading out to the store, I opted to add a personal touch with something handmade. I thought about painting a porch sign or a big painting for the wall. That would take more time than I had since this just occurred to me mid-week. That would require extensive prep-work and I didn’t have enough paint on hand for something huge. I do have smaller, ready-to-go basswood boards pre-cut in various shapes perfect for a wood burning project. This whole project took two days. Most of that was the curing time to seal it. It took about two hours from the time I drew it on to the time I finished burning.
Think it, do it
Now that I have an idea in mind, it’s time to make inspiration a reality. Creating a sunflower was my goal and I added a quote from a Beatles song since my boyfriend and I are both Beatles fans. This way, it is inspired of both of us. The song I chose is “Here comes the sun”, it has a positive message of good things to come. I selected a piece of basswood board that had circular curves, since sunflowers are round. It took a moment to decide on the placement; whether I wanted a large flower in the center, or maybe a large half-section to fill the side to the middle. Ideas were filling my head and I ultimately opted to do a full bloom and off-center it to add the quote to the opposing side.
I drew it straight on freehand. If you don’t have drawing ability, don’t fret, I went over how to transfer an image here https://www.farmshedblog.com/post/burn-baby-burn . All you really need to do is be able to color with fire and that’s a pretty cool ability to have. *Don’t let children do this unattended. The link above also provides safety tips etc.
Let's do the thing
It took no time at all to set-up my work space. I headed to the kitchen to an area by the open window. I plugged in my little fan and my Burnmaster Eagle wood burner. My most difficult challenge was setting up my phone to be able to record it as I went. I have never tried to record myself doing a project before, this was a first. I don’t have any fancy tools to be able to do it properly, as you can see. I tried to hold it in my hand and that didn’t work very well because I couldn’t see what I was working on. So, I propped the phone on a couple of jars and tried to make sure what I was doing was in the frame. It was a little awkward trying to get close enough to what I was working on and not knock the phone off it’s prop. Then my battery went dead, such is my luck. Anyway, put on some soul music, or whatever you prefer, and get to it.
Tips and lettering
There were only three tips used for the whole project 1) a ball tip 2) a flat edge 3) a spoon-shader. I started with the words. For the words I used a ball tip and slowly I went over the words. Try to go slow and steady because if you stop, you will get a 'blow out'. That's how I describe an incident that happens when you hold the tip on the wood too long, it makes a burn spot and you probably don't want that to happen while doing the lettering. My goal was nice, clean lines. The desired 'thickness' is achieved by either filling it in, such as with wider letters, or going over them multiple times, as shown here, to the desired thickness.
Also, you may notice there are pencil marks where you don’t want them. For instance; if the mark is on the inside, as it in the corner of the border area, it’s not a problem as it will get burned off when I do the border. Any smudges or marks in the open area can be easily sanded off with sandpaper. The goal when sanding is to go softly so as not to create an indent, or dip, in the wood. You an also use a white hi-polymer eraser for soft smudges. A Dremel tool could also work but you risk creating a hole in the wood, so sandpaper is probably a better option.
It may look like I drew the sunflower on rather sloppily, and I did. Since I am burning it on, there is no need for strong detail when drawing. The details will be added in while burning on the image. My goal in drawing it was to show where things will go, if that makes sense.
I used a ball tip to outline the sunflower. I went slow and steadily over my pencil lines. The goal here is to fill in the desired thickness and create ‘depth’ at the base of the pedals. Where there were flaws in my drawing or unfinished areas, I corrected them with the burner. It may mean connecting lines that aren’t connected, extending lines to hide a drawing error, fill in areas unfilled etc. Do whatever you need to do to ‘clean it up’.
Creating the center of the bloom
To create the center of the sunflower, I used a ball tip and increased the heat setting and gently pressed the tip into the wood to create dots leaving the dead center open, creating a highlight effect. You wouldn’t believe how relaxing it is creating dots. I could do this all day.
Still using a ball tip, I completed the rings around the center. There are three rings with the center ring a little thicker. Smooth the lines as best as you can. In the open portions of the rings, I filled in with lines. This creates more depth to the image by adding a layered effect. Nice! It's coming together.
Burning the border
The border section took more time but was actually the easiest to do because you only need to be careful with the inner edge. I switched to the longest straight-edge tip I have and increased the heat setting. After some 'test' burns on the outside, I figured out if I hold the tip sideways, I can burn a larger section quicker. I worked my way around, making sure the inner line was as straight as I could make it. I went over the entire border, top and sides, everything that would be visible once it's hanging on the wall. Sometimes I used the full length of the tip for the outline and sometimes I used just the edge. Whatever feels comfortable at the time.
Now for the fun stuff, the shading. Shading is still something I am working on being relatively new to this hobby. For this, I switched to a spoon-shader tip and set the heat to a low setting. The idea is to burn 'low and slow' (low heat and slow movements). The more you go over it, the darker it will be. Just stay in the lines, the low heat will make a lighter effect and will not interfere with your darker sections. I tried to get it nice and smooth, as you can see, I am still in practice. Overall, I feel like it is a satisfactory effort. Not bad, not bad at all.
Finishing Touches & Sealing
All done, now to finish it up. After you are finished, look over your work and see if you need to tweak it anywhere. There is almost always a spot missed, a line that needs adjusting, an area that needs sanding etc. After you look it over, look it over again just to be sure. Once you have done all you can do, it's time to seal it. This adds protection to your artwork. Typically, I use pure (100%) Tung Oil and a clear paste wax. I like to try different things though, to see how other products turn out. For this project, I opted for a coat of polyurethane. I brushed a coat on all sides and allowed it to cure for the remainder of the day. The next morning, I brushed on a coat of clear paste wax and allowed it to cure for the day.
Not bad for a girl in practice. As an artist, I am always disappointed because I automatically see things I wish I had done differently and every work I do is never 'finished'. It's important to know when to stop. Sometimes, if you attempt to keep going on the same project to 'fine-tune' it, you'll end up with a bigger mess than if you quit while you are ahead. It's important to not be too hard on yourself. Turn those inner criticisms into learning tips and store them in your mind for future projects. Mistakes in art aren't bad things, use them for a learning experience.
Make someone's day, including your own
Giving someone a gift made by your own hands is a special experience. It is a very personal thing because you are sharing a part of yourself with someone else. It shows you have taken the time to create something special for a special person in your life. I hope you enjoyed this blog and it encourages you to share your skills with others whether it's wood burning or something else you are good at.
Thanks for reading and have a blessed day.