Introduction: Grateful Dead Woodburned Box

About: Hi! I'm a slightly feral mountain hermit that likes to be helpful. I do community management at Instructables & Tinkercad. 🙌 Want to hear me chat about making? Search "CLAMP Podcast" on YouTube or your favorit…

My second woodburning adventure! This woodburning was a little more complicated than my first try but I'm still enjoying it. This one was a request from a friend - I confess I know very little to nothing about the Grateful Dead. :D

I've attached my "pattern" to the next step, and I've linked to the box and woodburning set I used in case you'd like to make your own. I completed this one in a few afternoons so it's not too bad. A good weekend project!

If you'd like see my other woodburning project, you can find it here: woodburned Legend of Zelda box

Step 1: Pattern + Tools

Here's what I used to make this box:

  • basswood box - the "roomy" version
  • woodburning tool - this is the one I used!
  • pliers for changing the woodburning tips
  • pencil and tape for transferring the pattern
  • fine grit (I had some 220 laying around) sandpaper for fixing mistakes and finishing the box
  • quilting ruler for getting things lined up
  • pattern (attached to step)

The rouge glue stick in that photo was used for my manual copying and pasting to make the pattern. I literally just drew out the individual pieces and then glued all the pieces to a sheet of paper and scanned it :P

I do not recommend using the glue stick anywhere on the box. You will end up with a weird smelly mess.

Step 2: Transfer the Pattern

There are loads of ways to do this! You can use transfer paper, a laser printed image and an iron, or rubbing the back of the pattern with a pencil and then tracing the front to transfer the image.

I find the easiest way to transfer is the pencil rubbing route - take a look at my other woodburning ible for more info on that!

I actually lucked out, and found out my new home printer (an HP Envy 4500) makes it super easy to transfer patterns to wood - I just reversed the image, laid it face down, and scribbled on the back with a pencil. BOOM

Step 3: Getting Started

Find a bright and ventilated place to work. I went out into my garage and hung out with my dog. :)

Personally, I really like to start with the outside edges. They're not the focal point, so it's better to do those when you're warming up because they are bound to be a teeny big wonky. I started with the roses around the borders first.

My biggest tricks for getting started with a tip this teeny:

  1. Rest your hand on the box while you draw. If you try to hover hand it you're gonna have a bad time
  2. Try to always move the woodburning tool towards you - when pushing away it's easier to gouge the wood and get a deep, dark spot on it. I rotated the box constantly while working to get the best position. :)

Once you're got the outer roses done, start working on Bertha in the middle!

I went over many of the lines several times to get them looking better - just have patience and it'll happen!

Step 4: Filling It In

The tapered tip does fantastic shading - but it's much lighter. My friend asked that I make it darker, so I got out the flow point tip and went to work! Remember to use the pliers to change out the tips!

I think I actually prefer the way the tapered tip looks as opposed to the flow point tip shading-wise, so I may need to do a second box like that. It looks really delicate and pretty. :)

Step 5: The Borders

Yikes. This is the scariest part. I actually altered the lines I originally drew for the borders. Once I got the pattern transferred to the box, it looked a little wonky. I used my quilting ruler to draw some new ones.

For the borders, I chose to use the universal tip - it has a great flat edge so it makes it nice and easy!

Not-so-pro-tip: to help you get crisp, straight lines, place the ruler down and very lightly score along the line. Scoring the box will give the tip a groove to move in, so you'll be less likely deviate from the line. :)

Try to do the borders in one swift motion, that way you don't get any bumps in the middle!

Step 6: What to Do If You Mess Up

Woodburning is a little risky if you're as spacey as I am, honestly. But I only messed up twice on this one! Both times I was looking at something else while still holding the box and woodburning tool - bad idea. hahah

If you do happen to burn a spot you didn't mean to, fold over a small piece of sandpaper, and use the folded edge to sand away the mistake. Folding the sandpaper and using the edge will give you more control so you don't accidentally erase something you want to keep. :)

Step 7: Sanding and Oiling to Finish

I like to lightly sand the whole top to get rid of any excess char - there's always a little yellow around the burn lines!

Once I've sanded, I'll wipe the top down with a damp cloth to remove the excess wood dust.

Then I let it dry completely and apply oil to the box to finish! Basswood tends to soak up a ton of oil! I used three coats here, both inside and out.

Overall I am pretty happy with it. Not too bad for a second try. :)