Can you color inside the lines? Do you have some patience? Wanna make a cool gift? It doesn't matter that it was inexpensive. Its cool because you made it!
Step 1: Wood Burning 101
Ok I've been doing this with some of my projects for a couple of years now and though I have thought about the fancy woodburning setups I'm still rollin with the Walnut Hallow (you can purchase them at the local Michaels or AC Moore ... make sure to find a 40% off coupon before you go. I like the "versa" model because it has adjustable temp). All my woodburning so far is silhouette. Be it letters or logos or clip art...its black and white (well black and wood). The advanced woodburners with wire tips allow for more delicate work and detail and tones. Google "pyrography" (make sure you spell it correctly!) and you will see intricately drawn animals and portraits in wood with essentially a hot wire. I'm not even close yet but if you just want the basics read on!
Step 2: Choose You Pattern
I do all my pattern making and sizing in powerpoint because its easy. You can find a picture on google or if you are doing words or monograming you have the choice of all the fonts in powerpoint. You can make multiple copies of the same item and vary the size on the same page. Depending on your project, its good to try multiple sizes until you find what looks the best to you.
For my burning example I decided to burn the Wolfpack's logo into a birch coaster. You can find these birch slices in crafts stores but you can also find all different wood in all different shapes and sizes on Etsy. Good to support the small businesses!
With smaller projects like this you take your paper with multiple sizes of the same logo or letter and hold it and the coaster up to the light until you find the right size for your project.
Step 3: Transfer the Pattern
Graphite paper is your friend in all things woodburning. I'll admit it feels a little like cheating but you need something to keep your proportions in line. People do this for all kinds of woodburning projects even the pros.
If you notice the graphite paper has a dark uniform and a lighter gray mottled side. Make sure the uniform dark side is the side touching the wood.
1) Center your pattern and tape it to the piece. Then slide a piece of the graphite paper between the pattern and the wood. You can now use a pencil or pen to color in on the paper what you want to transfer to the wood.
2)Now is decision time. Whatever area you color with your pen will transfer to the wood and this will be the area that ends up being burned. With a pattern like this example I choose to follow the white area for simplicity. However you could shade everything that is black and leave the white area unburned wood. It looks sweet but a bit tedious for your first time out.
Step 4: Start Burning
For wood I generally turn the versa burner all the way up. If your burner doesnt have variable temp it will still do fine. Burners come with different tips. I favor the long point that is like a pencil point. The easiest tip to get instant results is the flow tip which is a half ball the same size as where the tip screws in. Since you want the heat to stay high and constant the flow tip stays more consistantly hot. But I like more control so I use the tapered tip.
The first thing to do is set up the burner on the wire stand and turn it on to heat up. It could take 5 or more minutes to come up to temp for scorching wood.
With the taper tip I start my lines by laying the pen over and moving my hand in the direction away from the tip. This uses the side of the tip with more surface area for a more steady burn. I have learned to move slow slow slow and keep a pretty consistant line. This line creates a depressed "trench" which gives you something to go back and use as a guide to widen out to the width of your graphite lines.
Now I use the tip to follow the edges of the burned trench to smooth up any wobbles or areas the first line didnt reach all the shaded area.
And thats pretty much it! I added one more step to cover how to clean the tip while burning.
Step 5: Keep Your Tip Clean
As you are burning, at some point you will notice that the pen isn't burning as well as it was at the beginning. You can rotate the pen and your burner will perform as it did at the start. At some point all sides of the tip will fall victim to carbon build-up. Whenever organic material is burned such as wood the byproduct of that reaction is carbon. Unfortunately for us that carbon is between our burning tip and what we are trying to burn and we are losing our patience. Now we must clean that carbon off to maintain our sanity :-). The easiest way is to take a knife and scrape it across all surfaces of the tip until the carbon build-up has been removed. Its best to do this over a piece of paper or scrap wood to keep our area clean. Now when you go back to burning it will be hot and that heat will conduct better so your inital pass may need to be quicker than before.
Two more tips:
1) Since these tips screw into the pen it is possible for them to work loose which greatly reduces their conductivity and burning ability. So I keep pliers close and use them to grab the hot tip and snug it down every now and then. Dont over tighten because they can break at high heat.
2) A woodburning pen can hurt you or those around us. Always use the wire stand to rest the pen in until is is unplugged and completely cooled. And be mindful of the cord. Its very easy for pets or kids or yourself to get caught up in the cord and send the hot pen flying.
Have fun... sign your piece of furniture or make a sign that says I love you for your baby. The options are endless. If you are looking for wood to burn Michaels or AC Moore have lots of options. Basswood is the easiest to learn in and red oak is one of the more difficult.
Step 6: Finishing
Well with coasters I generally leave them natural but I have heard some folks finish coasters with beeswax to waterproof them somewhat. As for my signs and wine companions I finish those with Danish oil to darken, seal and protect at the same time