The Art of Pyrography

Getting the Most from Your Woodburning Kit -Tips, Tricks, and Techniques for Better Results Pyrography is the correct term for the technique more commonly known as “wood burning”. The term means the art of ‘drawing with fire’. It is an ancient craft practiced throughout the world. Originally pokers were heated in fires and created rather crude results. During the Victorian period, the craft enjoyed its greatest popularity. Victorian ladies developed various tools such as fine steel rods similar to knitting needles and heated
them in a fire or over a spirit lamp, allowing them to work more skillfully and create fine designs. The rods would lose their heat quickly and have to be returned to the fire for reheating, making the process slow and tedious. Today Pyrography is enjoying renewed popularity due to the advancement in wood-burning irons, the variety of available tips, and the vast assortment of surfaces to decorate.


Tip: When starting a new project, test the wood and the tips by writing your name on the back of the chosen piece of wood. This allows you to get a feel for how the wood will respond and to get your creative juices and technique flowing.

Getting Started Set up a safe work area. You can tape the iron holder to a piece of ceramic tile. The tile is heavy enough to keep the iron stand from tipping over while it protects the work surface.

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You will also need a fireproof container like a glass dish or metal lid to hold your various tips while they are cooling. You will need a pair of needle-nose pliers with smooth jaws to remove the hot tips from the iron. Remember that metal conducts heat very quickly. Never attempt to change a hot tip with your fingers. Protect your work surface with aluminum foil, or a piece of plywood. The best way to get started is to familiarize yourself with the iron, the various tips, and the patterns they create. See the “Tips and Their Uses” section for an explanation of how to use each tip included with your new kit. Tips and Their Uses Your woodburning kit comes with a wide variety of burning, cutting, branding, and specialty tips depending on which kit you have purchased.

To get the most from your kit, follow these instructions to create the results you want.

1. Universal tip – a multi-purpose tip. Hold the tip at various angles for creating lines of varying widths. Performs all fundamental woodburning techniques.
2. Slanted tip – Hold the tip at various angles for creating lines of varying widths.
3. Stencil tip – Use this tip to cut craft pattern stencils into stencil materials.
4. Dot tip – for making dots of various sizes and depths. Using this tip, make light touches to your surface for fine dots. Hold the tip on the surface for longer periods of
time to create deep holes.
5. Script tip – for writing script and for burning grooves of various depths. Move slowly across your work to make deeper grooves.
6. Calligraphy tip – This tip mimics the shape of a calligraphy pen. Do not allow the iron to rotate in your hand as you trace calligraphy letters.
7. Flow tip – Use to burn curves, dots, and fine details. Works well for cursive writing and dot shading techniques.
8. Shading/transfer tip – this tip is tapered so that you can use it in several positions to create light and dark shading. The polished base slides smoothly and is great for general shading. Also can be used to transfer patterns. Edges can be used for thinner imprecise lines. The toe can be used for burning fatter imprecise lines. The inverted tip can be used for stippling.
9. Stripes Tip – this tip is used to create stripes as required
10. Blade Tip – To install the knife blade tip onto the iron, carefully insert the blade into the blade adaptor. Use this specialty tip to cut foam, rope, or other soft rigid materials.
11. Blade Adaptor – Insert the threaded blade adaptor onto the soldering iron barrel and tighten.
12. Stamp tips – Apply these various tips vertically on your project surface. Remove them in a straight vertical motion to make a distinct pattern. Use these separately or
together to create interesting patterns and borders on multiple surfaces
13. Conical tip – Used to convert the tool into a soldering iron. Use with lead-free solder to join metal. • Plug in your woodburning iron and allow it about four minutes
to heat up. Hold the wood burner like a pencil. Do not touch any of the metal parts, as they are hot. Start by writing your name. Then practice pulling the point toward you
instead of pushing it away. You can vary the appearance of the pattern by the amount of time you leave the tip on the surface and by the pressure applied to the tip. The
longer the tip stays on the surface the deeper and darker the pattern will appear. The brown shading is affected by the speed of the tip across the surface. The smoother the
surface of the material, the clearer and finer the design will appear. After you have practiced a while, make a sample board as a reminder of patterns you can create
using different tips and techniques. This will make it fun and easy to complete a new project with an interesting display of “pyrography techniques”.
Patterns onto your project:
a) Make a copy of your pattern using a laser printer.
b) Place a copy face down on your project surface.
c) Fit the woodburning iron with the shading/ transfer tip (8) and allow the tip to heat to working temperature (about five minutes).
d) Using the shading/transfer tip (8) slowly rub the back of the pattern in a circular motion to transfer the printed pattern to your project surface.
e) You can now burn your pattern into your project surface. • Keep your tips clean for good performance and long life. Carbon may build up on the tip surface as you work,
especially if you’re working with a sappy wood such as pine. Use a fine grit sandpaper or wire brush to gently clean the tips while they are hot. Designs You can adapt a variety of designs from almost any media. From colouring books to garden manuals just about every item has been captured as line art or a simple sketch. Once
you have become familiar with the iron and the patterns, you can create using the various tips, it will be easier for you to create your own designs. Use a copy machine
to reduce and enlarge designs to suit your project.

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Transferring Designs Tools needed: Tracing paper Pencil Ruler Low tack masking tape Carbon paper Place your pattern on the surface and secure with masking tape across the top. Lift the pattern and place the carbon paper directly on the surface. Reposition the pattern and lightly trace the design using a pencil. Double check your design before removing the pattern to make sure you have transferred the entire pattern. Use a ruler to trace straight lines. Surfaces A wide variety of surfaces are suitable for pyrography. Hardwoods such as beech, sycamore, birch and hornbeam are most popular. Most craft stores carry a good selection of these varieties. Birch plywood works well and is available at home improvement centres. You can also make your own tabletops and furniture using plywood and decorate it with your new skills. Smooth grained and light coloured woods work best. Stay away from dark, coarse-grained hardwoods. Pines are not suitable because they have too much sap causing it to burn and mar your patterns. Cork, leather, some papers, and even wax candles make great design surfaces. Check your craft store and woodworking shops for suitable surfaces. Experiment! This is a hobby. That means you can just do it because it’s fun. Safety Tip: Caution should be taken when working with certain hardwoods such as, English pressure-treated or tropical woods. Avoid using very thin plywood or veneer because they contain adhesives that emit dangerous fumes when heated. Wear protective masks. Adding Colour to Your Designs Colour can add an extra element of excitement to your new project. The tips have provided great texture. Now it’s time to add a finishing touch, once the pyrography is complete but before you, varnish try some of these materials.  Be sure to clean the surface first with a light rub of alcohol to remove fingerprints and grease. Suggested Colouring and Finishing Supplies: Varnish Acrylic paint thinned with water Coloured glazing gels Watercolours Caulks Wood stains and finishes Shoe polish Shoe dyes for a deep rich shade Paintbrushes with soft bristle Sponges for applying varnish Soft cloth Fine grit sandpaper Add a little water to your medium to keep it thin. Thick paint will cover up your pattern work. A foam plate makes a great pallet because there’s no cleanup and paints don’t bleed into the surface. Test your colours and your technique on scrap materials if possible. If not, select the least visible location. Colour can be added to the designs as well as the background or both. Applying Varnish Two to three coats of satin or gloss varnish will protect your work of art. Use a soft cloth or sponge rather than a brush, which might leave hairs and brush strokes behind.

Follow manufacturer instructions regarding application, safety and drying times.
Safety Precautions Your wood-burning soldering iron is a very safe tool. Nevertheless, like all electrical appliances, it must be handled with care. Never forget that the soldering tip and heater can reach high temperatures. Follow these simple safety rules at all times.
Keep tool out of reach of children. Keep your soldering iron well away from all flammable material. To avoid burns, always assume that the tip is hot.
Be sure the hot soldering tip and heater does not come into contact with the electric power cord. Before making any adjustment (removing or replacing a tip, etc.) make sure the iron is unplugged and cool. Do not dip the tool into any liquid. Always work in a well-ventilated area. After use, unplug the iron, allow the tip to cool, and store in a safe place.
Safety goggles are recommended for preventing hot materials from injuring eyes.