Introduction: Pyrography: Step by Step Burn a Chickadee

About: I am a third generation artist with a background in oil painting and watercolors, I fell in love with pyrography in 1984 and have won numerous awards, written 6 books, am a regular contributor to major print m…

Summer is finally here and the mornings are filled with the songs of birds. Although my husband gets up well before sunrise for work, he leaves the bedroom window open on warm mornings. I can always tell when day is about to break. First one bird, then another, then another begin their songs. The sky may still be dark but these little guys know just how to wake me up.

In this article I will share how to burn a simple chickadee. This is one of my most popular patterns and is available as a free download with my Burning Basics Video Series at the end of this article.

In this project you will learn some simple techniques for burning various elements of this bird. These techniques can be used with any small bird pattern. Enjoy!

Prepare your wood and transfer the pattern. Be sure to check your tracing of the eye and correct it lightly with a pencil if necessary.

NOTE: No matter how careful you are with your tracing, it is easy to distort the eye slightly and that can impact your final burning. Going over the eye area lightly with a pencil will allow you to see exactly what the eye will look like.

At this stage you can adjust it by erasing or redrawing. When it is time to burn simply go over your pencil marks with your burner. This is my fool proof, no risk technique for getting the eyes perfect on every burning. So take the time to do this now.

Step 1: Start Burning the Eye

Begin burning the eye with the skew. You will burn this tight circle with a “touch down technique” which will be a series of tiny dashes burned close together to form a clean tight line.

-Set your skew on a low setting and touch your tip to the surface of the wood at the angle you wish to burn then immediately lift off.

-The pen should be perpendicular to the wood and look like a sewing machine needle during this process. The pen should not move on the surface of the wood.

-Use only whatever surface of the pen you need for the length of the line. For example, use the very tip for a short line or the body of the blade for a longer line.

-Again… touch and lift. Then turn your wood and repeat the process until you come full circle.

(I call this the “stitch” technique because it reminds me of a sewing machine line.)

Step 2: Finish Off the Eye

Take out your shader and darken the pupil of the eye leaving the highlight unburned. Keep the burns smooth.

Step 3: Burn the Beak

Outline the beak then shade in.

Step 4: Outline the Bird

Now proceed to make short feathery or “comma” like strokes as shown for the outline of the bird. Make sure you follow natural direction of the feathers. (If you have my pattern I give you a burning diagram with direction lines – be sure you refer to that). These lines when burned properly will give your woodburning a 3 dimensional appearance.

Step 5: Fill in the Feathers

Once you finish the outline, proceed to fill in your bird with the same soft strokes. Relax and enjoy the process, you have a lot of feathers to burn. Use somewhat irregular strokes to give a natural appearance. And don’t be afraid to turn the board if you need to.

Step 6: Finish the Body

Continue burning the body of the bird adjusting your heat for lighter or darker areas. Go ahead and change to the shader to go over the black and shadowed areas if you need but be careful not to press too hard and eliminate all your delicate feather texture.

Step 7: Burn in the Flowers

Outline the flower lightly with the ball pen. Switch to the shader to give the flower form as shown.

Step 8: Burning the Bark

To burn the branch, turn the heat up on your shader and pull irregular lines along the length of the branch. You can tilt the burner slightly to achieve the effect of a harder edge. Make some marks darker than others to get the feel of bark.

Step 9: Add the Color

To apply color for this project I’ve used pastels. Rub off a small amount of pastel into powder, then with a cotton swab rub on to the wood where desired.

Step 10:

You will need to spray your artwork with artist’s fixative – available at your art or hobby store. Be sure to tell them you need Fixative for pastel. After that has dried, you can spray it with either Polyurathene, Lacquer, or Polyacrylic to seal the wood.

Don’t forget to sign your work and take the time to listen to summer. Each time of day has it’s own sounds and can bring warm memories flooding back. I hope you enjoy burning this little bird (or any pattern you decide on) and perhaps you will find yet another memory to warm your day. The sound of singing birds and smell of burning wood!

Happy Burning!

If you have enjoyed this project and would like to learn more about burning be sure to sign up for my FREE Burning Basics Video series at (the chickadee pattern is included in the video series).