Pyrography is the burning of sketches or drawings into wood. Color is sometimes added with oil pencils after the burning is complete, but it is normally kept to a minimum.
Although some skill is required, good work on pieces is mostly gained through practice and one will learn their own style and best ways to get the results they desire.
The biggest dangers involved are:
- Burning one's self with the iron,
- Burning anything else that should not be burnt (most pencil style irons have no off switch with the iron, and no ON indicator lamp).
- Sawdust getting into the eyes.
- Using improper wood and asphyxiating one's self.
- A pyrographer's iron
- A metal stand for the iron
- A standard multi-faced tip for the iron (as you become proficient, you can add specialty tips)
- Some sandpaper (150-180 fine grit if only a light sanding is needed, 80-100 medium grit if some ridges need removed from the wood). It is best to wear some kind of eye protection when doing any sanding of wood.
- Some carbon paper may come in handy as well as a sketchpad and tracing paper is helpful too
- A WELL ventilated work place.
- Wood, something flat, and untreated. Many art stores and craft stores will carry Basswood for this purpose (this is best). Do NOT use pine. It emits a very corrosive smoke when burnt/scorched, and it will not do your lungs any good at all. Besides that, it is very hard to burn a decent line into pine as you come across sap pockets, and moisture pockets. The burn is very hard to control.
- and possibly some Oil based colored pencils
PS: I will be adding more info to this in the coming weeks, but I had promised this for so long now, I felt the need to finally get of my horse and get this published. I hope you find it useful.
Step 1: Preparation
This is where you need the safety glasses or goggles to keep from getting splinters of wood in your eye(s).
Blow off the dust. Next we need a drawing or sketch.
Step 2: The Sketch
Sketch up whatever it is you wish to burn onto the wood, on some tracing paper. No need to make it overly detailed at this point but if you want to add the detail to give you a better idea of how you wish to burn it, go ahead. .
Once this is finished, place the carbon paper on the wood (carbon side down), and the tracing you did over it as you wish it to appear on the wood (as you get better with the iron OR if you are able to make decent sketches directly onto the wood, these steps will be able to be skipped). Retrace only the outlines and major portions of your sketch, so that a light carbon copy is made on the wood. This becomes the outline to follow.
The horses head is how I "want" it to look when finished. The second picture is of an example of another burning I did, and this was the outline on the tracing paper.
Step 3: Fire Up the Iron
One more preliminary step: If you haven't placed your iron on the "stand" and plugged it in yet, do so now. Wait a few minutes while it heats up. If you have a scrap piece of wood nearby, you can occasionally test it by holding the tip to the wood for a second or two. Immediate scorching means the iron is ready.
Grip the iron firmly but gingerly, much like a pencil is held. Do not "strangle" you iron. It will make it harder to burn properly, and eventually you will "feel the heat" of the iron coming through a too tightly held handle :-) The picture gives a close approximation of how I hold the iron "most of the time". There will be times you will have alter the grip to get the effect you wish.
Step 4: Getting a Real Start in Pyrogaraphy.
The tip that came with the iron has several uses: a point, for fine work, a "blade edge" for line drawing, and a flat edge for area burning; that is, for burning or shading a larger area at a time then the finer parts of the tip could. Start slowly but not too slow (it is best to do a bit of practicing on smaller, cheaper pieces of wood) keeping your "pace" or drawing you iron, steady and even. You will find that it is easier to either draw towards yourself or from side to side; each person seems to have their own preference (although, you may have to do both at times).
Turning the wood is better then trying to "push" the iron.
Complete the outline and the major portions of the drawing / carbon image and then take a few minutes to just look at it. This is like the foundation of a building. You will want to build on this some.
But also remember, sometimes too much detail can ruin an otherwise great piece. You will learn with practice when to stop (probably after spending many hours on a piece, and then putting one one "last" touch, ruins the whole thing - it happens to the best pyrographers, so it will definitely happen to you and me ;-) ).
The truck shows lines drawn left to right, but if you were doing trees (for example) you would turn the wood "on it's side".
Step 5: Filling in the Gaps.
Step 6: Keep Your Tools Clean :-)
Remember the iron is hot, it not only burns wood, but skin is especially susceptible to burns. Keep the iron's point off the wood until you want it to be burning. Lift it, move it, slide it as quickly as you can without rushing, or you will pit the wood with deep burns.
And finally, below I have gotten a picture of my latest Pyrograph. It is not as good as I could have done back when I could see detail better.