Wood Burning Basics
Would you like to start a fun hobby that can provide hours of interest and satisfaction with a just a some basic skills and a few supplies that are easy to procure? It’s easy with Wood Burning Basics.
This is an overview of the basic steps for wood burning. More detailed instruction on the specific techniques will be found in future blog posts. In the meantime, check out the links provided that will take you to some great websites for further information.
You can also contact me with questions. I am always happy to hear from you
If you do not already have your tool, here is a great article by my friend Jannie at Burn Savvy:
Before you Begin: Set up a safe work area
Plan ahead to make sure you have the space you need to work
Plug in your tool close by. If you can, it’s nice to plug in behind your desk or table
Provide a safe place to rest your tool – Make sure your tool stand is secure.
Keep kids and pets away from your work area
Work in a well-ventilated area, wear a mask, or use a fan close to, and directed away from your work area.
Step 1: Choose and prep your Wood
For your early projects, and wood burning basics, I suggest you start with light colored wood with subtle or invisible grain lines.
Here’s a list of my easy-to-burn favorites:
You can also use found wood. Just make sure it’s dry and doesn’t have any treatment or finish
Make sure the wood is unfinished, clean and dry.
Prep your wood
Give it a thorough sanding. I can’t stress this enough. It will make your burning so much easier; I promise. I start with a good solid sanding using 100 grit sandpaper, then I use 220 or 320 grit as a final sand until the wood is silky smooth.
Step 2: Create or choose the design you want to use.
Choose something simple for your first few burns like these free printable designs.
You can also draw the design yourself right onto the wood, or draw on paper and transfer with graphite paper.
Print your design and transfer by tracing over graphite paper
Laser print and transfer with heat (reverse your image) – Check out this tutorial by Rachel Strauss at Wood Burn Corner.
You can find designs online for free. Do an image search for open-source images. Make sure to get/have permission to use a design. When in doubt just ask the creator.
Many beautiful designs, just for wood burners can be found in books like these:
Resize printed designs for your piece of wood.
Here’s a tip: copy the image into a word processor document, then use the rulers to size it exactly how you want.
Step 3: Transfer your design
Cut out the design leaving a “tab” so you can tape to your wood without covering any of the design, then place it exactly where you want it and tape to the wood.
Place your graphite paper shiny side down under the printed design. Start to trace your design gently with a pen, pencil, or embossing tool.
Here’s a tip: use a colored pen so you can easily see where you’ve been.
Lift the graphite paper occasionally to peek underneath, and make sure your tracing is showing up. You don’t want the lines to be too dark though. Adjust your pressure to keep your lines just a light gray color so you can see them, but not black dark.
Once your design is transferred, it’s time to burn!
Step 4: Burn your design
Use a scrap piece to practice first. Just make marks, lines, dots, curves to get a feel for the tool.
Figure out which tip you are most comfortable with.
Everyone has their own preference. Mine is the universal tip, but others really like the flow tips.
Go slow, use a light touch and let the burner do the work. You’re going for a feeling of gliding over the surface of the wood.
Rotate the wood as you go, so you are pulling the burner toward you. This helps maintain an even burn.
Work in small sections using short strokes, lifting your burner often. As you gain confidence your strokes will get longer and smoother
Step 5: Remove graphite marks and clean up your piece
Use a sand eraser or fine grit sand paper (like 220 or 320) to remove marks and over burn. I use a Tombow Sand Eraser. You can get one here
Stay tunes for more beyond wood burning basics
Remember to have fun and be kind to yourself
Some Final Thoughts
Have fun with color using paint, markers, colored pencil, and more
How to finish and protect your final piece is a big question.
There is a lot to be said for protecting your art, but many finishes will darken or change the color of your wood. Sometimes this is a desirable effect, like how rubbing with oil brings out the beauty and grain of the wood in these pendants.
My Friend Rachel Strauss provides a fantastic guide to finishes in her book: The Wood Burn Book by Rachel Strauss
Here are the finishes that I use most:
Oil – mineral oil with beeswax works well for cutting boards
Spray lacquer – will darken the wood a little, but really makes the colors pop
Changing Your Tips
Though this is not recommended while the tool is hot, many people do not have the patience to wait for the tool to cool down. Watch this video to see how I change my solid point tips to minimize breakage
Remember, the solid brass tips are fragile when hot, so are easy to break or get cross threaded.
Have Fun Wood Burning!