Introduction: Designing a Woodcookie

This is an instructional guide to designing woodcookies with a pyrography tool (woodburner).

Equipment needed:

  • Woodburning stylus
  • Small round piece of wood
  • Graphite paper (optional)
  • Polyurethane finish
  • Pencil
  • Clear tape

Step 1: Wood Selection

Before you start, you will need to to obtain wood for your project. Many craft stores sell small pieces that would work, however the wood might be soft and burn too easily, creating room for error. You can also find small pieces of wood at salvage yards, or home improvement stores, which may provide you with stronger wood types. For these instructions, I will be using applewood I have dried from my backyard.

Step 2: Let Your Stylus Get to Optimal Heat

Set up your woodburning stylus near the area you will be working. *Note* The stylus will take about 10 minutes to heat up before it will be hot enough to heat the wood. To test the heat, you can use a piece of scrap wood, or place your hand near, not on, and feel if the stylus is emitting heat.

Step 3: Applying Your Design

While waiting for your stylus to reach optimal heat, you can start applying your design to your board. For this example, I will demonstrate how to apply a design with graphite paper (if you are artistically confident, you can always design directly onto the wood using a pencil). First, select a design that will fit on your woodcookie. Since you are using a the graphite pencil to stencil, pick anything that you can trace at the size needed to fit on the wood.

Cut a piece of the graphite paper that's roughly the side of the wood you are designing. Place your design on top of the graphite paper, and tape both to the wood to secure it. *Note* use a tape like scotch tape, or any type that doesn't leave a residue to prevent damaging your wood with glue.

Step 4: Applying Your Stencil

Now that you have your design secured to the wood, you can apply your stencil. To do so, take your pencil, and trace the outline of your design. Make sure to apply a fair amount of pressure that lets you maintain precision but also translates your design onto the wood. After the outline is completed, go over any bolder lined sections or large dark areas of your design.

Once you have traced all of your design, carefully peel off the tape to reveal your transferred stencil.

*Note* If any of your design didn't transfer, use the pencil to fill in the missing sections by carefully drawing the gaps directly on the wood.

Step 5: Begin Your Pyrography!

Once your stencil has met your standards, its time to start using the stylus (refer to the first step to make sure your stylus is ready). Holding the stylus by the handle, press the heated tip of the stylus onto the wood; press the stylus tip lightly at first, to gauge the depth and width of burn it is creating.

Follow the stencil of your design that you applied in the previous step. Some tips to remember during your burning process:

  • Pressing lightly, and moving over the wood creates a thin, lighter burn, great for small lines and shading.
  • Slower, more pressured applications of the stylus will create a deeper, darker burn, great for large areas of shading and thick, bold lines
  • If you are using different stylus tip types, make sure to allow cooling and heating time each time you replace the tip

Step 6: Protecting Your Woodcookie

Since wood is sensitive to moisture and staining, it is important to make sure your woodcookie will last by applying a coat of polyurethane. Make sure your woodcookie is cold to the touch before applying your finish (especially when using an aerosol polyurethane). Follow the instructions on the finish container for best results. Once the finish is dried, you have completed your woodcookie!

*Note* The poly finish can be messy and difficult to clean up; apply your finish with your woodcookie on a piece of cardboard, to make sure it doesn't damage anything with the finish, and to make sure nothing gets glued to your woodcookie while your finish is drying.