Picture of sunlight engraver! A simple way to engrave!
Ok, you want to do some engraving on wood, plastic, or on your hand? (no, not really) don't feel like buying one of those expensive wood engraver irons? Want a foolproof way to make nice engravings without worrying about your hand slipping and botching the whole job?

THIS IS FOR YOU! If you like simple, useful, and easy processes, give this a try. this just takes a few simple steps, and is very easy to do. You need NO experience with tools. If you can stick something with tape, and use a knife, you're set. If you can't... well, there's not much I can say about it, but that now is a good time to learn!

Below is a picture of a stickman and a camp fire. That's they type thing you should get when you're finished! The best thing is, it takes very little to master this technique! Once you get the hang of cutting curves on the tape, the rest is simple!

One KEY advantage to this method VS say a spray paint stencil, is that I can make REUSABLE stencils with ISLANDS. That means that I can do letters WITHOUT having to worry about those annoying "legs" that are needed to create blank spaces in the middle of a figure.

*please note* steps 8-12 are on making a stencil for repeated use of a particular design
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could you use white paper and tape it to the wood? idk, white reflects all light right?
I'm pretty sure the paper would catch fire
vincent75204 months ago

nice little project

Fearce13 years ago
As a note of safety "ALWAYS WEAR EYE PROTECTION".The suns rays can damage your eyes easily when they are focused into such a sharp beam.
With that being said,Happy Solar burning.☺☻
paqrat4 years ago
The thrift stores here often have frames w/ glass in larger sizes for reasonable prices.

I have an idea to make stencils that might be a little more work and a little more expense but I think the end result would be better. There is a product called Looking Glass. This is a spay "paint" that creates a mirror like finish on glass. By masking off your glass with a paper or vinyl piece in the pattern you wish to burn then spraying the glass with the Looking Glass paint you should end up with a mirror with voids that are in the pattern of the design you wish to engrave. Only experimentation will tell how well it would hold up.
can't you just cut through the plastic while cutting the tape then u wont have to worry about it fogging up or melting.plz correct me if im wrong
You could do that but you wouldn't be able to make islands.
JohnJY5 years ago
 Never thought of this! Nice unique method. 
Chanio8 years ago
May I add that if instead of this template you do one with cooking foil, or thicker. You can put your picture over the foil and only by passing a pencil over the line the surrounds your image it should leave the foil marked for latter cutting. With a thick foil you should not need any other support to have it last long. There are other techniques to engrave metals: with tar and acid but it deserves it's own proper instructable to show it well...
The tape allows you to make islands... the areas that would fall out if not for the sticky backing applied to the glass. This way you don't have to follow the "rules" of stencil making!
You're right. I'm sorry for not reading and understanding all what was explained.

I was just trying to add another idea to this good project.

Now, :) let me add something...

It could be possible to add 3D to the shadows (some less dark shadows) by cutting away some parts of the stencil after half burning the complete silouette...

So, the new cut parts would be half burned while the rest would look as mentioned in this interesting article.

For example, the front log of the first picture, would look less burned, so more close to the observer...

Hurray, I have added something! :)
Bradley10008 years ago
v_v It's not working for me. Then again I'm using a 60 watt light bulb.... Better go get the 120. :D
of course it isn't working! your using a 60W light bulb. The sun's just the slightest bit bigger.
greggles147 years ago
you can do it quite easily with a soldering iron
thecheatscalc (author)  greggles147 years ago
I've tried... it just didn't cut it for me. Then again mine is a small 15-20W one...
buy a 185W one from Harbor Freight Tools. They vaporize things...
The whole idea is to make your own! I think this is a great way to engrave for people who like to create but are short on cash!
Sunny1246137 years ago
prety cool, my bros and i started burning the plastic on an old toy car with a magnifying glass, and in 2nd grade,me and these 5th grade boys were trying to make a fire with a magnifying glass. It worked but i got scared and kicked sand all over it.(my bro was stupid wen he was little and asked for marshmellows from one of the adults there!)
-bp7 years ago
Hi: Pressure-treated wood is really 'cyanide-treated,' but they wouldn't sell much of it if they labeled it as such. THAT is the stuff you don't want to burn.

I'm surprised that no one suggested that you cut the stencil on the glass *in reverse* so that you can then lay the glass onto the wood with the cut pattern on the bottom of the glass, nearest to the wood. That way, you retain the sharp edge that you get when your stencil is in direct contact with the wood. I would think that the sticky side of the tape is still reflective enough to do its job in that mode.

Chanio8 years ago
Nice instructable! I am now planning my future burnings. :) I would rather use cooking foil paper and a glue spray that would easily be unglued after doing the burn. By this way, your template should last longer for other similar burning at other parts of the wood... Thank you!
zikman8 years ago
I have those same glasses! I got them for two dollars the other day at Old Navy.
Riggertrev8 years ago
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2R5NVGXigj8Check out my buddy Durfsun He lives in Key West some of the time (for the sun, you know) His solar pyrography has been captivating passers by for many years. check the video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2R5NVGXigj8
fortgeorge8 years ago
You can just go to a department/discount stores and buy a picture frame to take the glass out of, pretty cheap and readily available. You can get an 8x10" for about $3-4, larger sizes are $6-12 depending on how big ya get it, provided you don't need like poster size.

Also, many glass shops sell cheap glass if you need an unusual size, to say make a 3' long by 8" high engraving in a piece of wood.

We had made about 20 different ones for Reunions, Yard Sales, etc. using a wood burning tool, this might have saved some time. Now we just use a dremel tool with metal templates, but this is a nice cheap way.

Good intsructable. =)
I picked up an (eminently discardable) 8x10 frame with (thin but usable) glass at the dollar store.
I am going to try to make a template on glass. Then I could repeat the same template over and over again. If it works that is. Ill post either way.
I did it with a piece of glass that I had chemically etched some art work onto. It worked great other than my lens is too small and I need to find a larger one. The light went right through the glass but was diffused by the etching. This is really cool and I will post a photo in the near future. I may have to resort to this if I don't win the laser!
thecheatscalc (author)  dave spencer8 years ago
Ah, good, so it worked? GREAT, if you post a picture (with your permission) I'd like to try and add it to the instructable! was there any problem with the glass fogging up? regardless, good too hear! I'll probably be picking up a few window panes from my grandfather's house... he's got a ton of old windows in his basement... like I've mentioned though, perhaps you can get an old overhead projector from the local school, the've got a VERY nice fresnel lens that would make the engraving process go very quickly!
Twenty-five years ago, I bought a decent Fresnel lens from Edmunds Scientfic for next to nothing. It was really a lens from an overhead projector -- perhaps a factory reject. My brother used it more than I did, often melting lead ingots my father had around for mating old cast iron waste pipes. He sometimes used it to set-of his homemade black powder. (side note -- he's now a machinist in his 40's and is a Rev. War reenactor who makes his own muskets and cannon, but buys his powder.)

Lo-and-behold, Edmunds is still around and still offers the exact same 11" square Fresnel lens for just $5.95! Shipping starts at $6.75, so you would probably want look around for some other goodies and/or get a friend to go-in with you and get several lenses.

Large Surplus Fresnel
Ok, so I tried the etched glass thing with a Fresnel lens because the magnifying lens I used before was too slow. The Fresnel worked awesome and burned the wood with a dot the size of a dime. Unfortunately the glass did not hold up so well and shattered after about 20 seconds. I guess I'll just have to use the laser when I win it. ;)
thecheatscalc (author)  dave spencer8 years ago
You're right, HOWEVER, the magnifying glass is also probably of the same substance, so it's absorbing/reflecting it as well... it'll absorb the UV, and probably the deep IR. If you use plastic, well... that's a whole different issue. BUT, I think it's just from having a concentrated heat source in one spot. Uneven heating. you're literally burning in a small spot under the glass, that's concentrated heating!
The glass likely didn't hold up because, along with all the other energy from the sun that is being focused is IR (infrared). MOST soda-lime and Silica glass is opaque to IR (means it's as good as painted black). IR is high energy, basicly it is 'pure heat' and the glass is absorbing all that, and heating just like the wood underneath absorbing all those other frequencies of light that are transmitted through the glass. It's just a fact of life, unless you spend more for IR-transparent glass or some other clear medium that won't absorb energy (i don't know what to suggest that does that though)
thecheatscalc (author)  dave spencer8 years ago
Hahaha, I tried the piece of glass from a picture frame. For holding up, worked great! As for the engraving... not as good as expected... the tape peeled off, and, low and behold, that yellow stuff on the plastic wasn't JUST the plastic "carmelizing" it was condensed sap from the wood! Very interesting... I'll soon be trying the paint method, which I tried on the plastic. Seemed to work just fine... But, the Fresnel lens took out the glass? Ahahaha... try again, but try to limit the burning power a bit... I'm sure you don't want to have to clean up too much glass... we'll see about the laser cutter... :P
Charles IV8 years ago
can u use any other tape besides the shiny stuff? and if u cant can u tell me why?
power8 years ago
nice paint
artoftexas8 years ago
Hey! this is a great idea. I own a sifn shop and can use this cheap (thrifty) way to do small signs. I will use my plotter/cutter to cut metallic vinyl in reverse and see if my stencils hold up under the heat. I'll give it a try and post back my results. Thanks!
thecheatscalc (author)  artoftexas8 years ago
Hey! good thinking! I've been thinking that some metal stencils would be the best way. So far my research has shown that the tape method works best, because the sap in the wood can't just condense on the piece of glass, it can escape and react with the oxygen to make smoke.
Nice. Anything that gets people stenciling!
atomichuman8 years ago
how lond does it take to burn through the wood? i tryed and it took a long time and did not work
thecheatscalc (author)  atomichuman8 years ago
Well, with full sun (when the sun is at it's zenith works best, but, until the sky actually starts darkening, there's no problem) it usually takes me 1-2 minutes to do an engraving. I can probably finish a complete engraving (start to finish) in 5 minutes. BUT, you need a large magnifying glass! unless you have one that's greater then 5 square inches (that's >13 cm squared for you metric users) it's going to take you a LONG time, and, if the magnifying glass is small enough, it may do nothing at all!
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