Hey Wood Burners, this blog is a basic overview of wood burning for beginners with topics for people that are brand new in pyrography and wood burning. Topics in this blog include wood burning starter kits, professional wood burning kits, wood options that are readily available, setting up artwork files, safety gear, and getting familiar with the wood burning pen.
Wood Burning for Beginners Kits
Brass Tip Kits.
This is by far, my most asked question. “What type of burner should I use?”
When you’re starting out, an inexpensive brass tip kit burner, like the TRUArt Stage One is perfect for practice and getting familiar with the heat and the wood. The TRUArt brand comes with several tip options. The tips screw in to the end.
A word of advice, be careful screwing these in and out when the burner is hot. I have stripped a couple of these and messed up the inside of the burner, unable to put in another tip, so make sure to wait until it’s cooled enough to change the tips. If you want to keep burning with a Walnut Hollow, that’s a-okay.
There’s no rule that says you have to upgrade. There a plenty of artists out there that do amazing work with a brass tip kit.
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Soldering Irons. I have been contacted by a lot of people that use soldering irons and I have tried one myself. It’s an inexpensive option and the heat settings are a bit of an upgrade above the starter burners.
It’s not something I advise buying to use for wood burning, but if you already have one, you can absolutely use it for burning wood.
The one I have is called a SYWON, which I purchased on Amazon. The heat gets really high and lets me burn a little faster than the Walnut Hollow. The draw back is the tip options, in that there aren’t many. If you decide that you love burning, upgrading may be your next step.
A wire tip wood burning kit will have more options. Each brand will vary a little, but they all have similar characteristics. My favorite part about the professional kits is the ability to heat and cool quickly. The starter burner will take several minutes to heat up and cool down, while a pro burning tool will heat and cool in seconds.
A professional burner will also have the option for replaceable tips with prongs instead of screws. I have a Colwood Super Pro II and it offers both replaceable tips with prongs or fixed tip wands. With both options, you don’t have to worry about stripping your tips and waiting for the burner to cool to change out a tip. It’s much more convenient.
A wire tip wood burner will also get hotter than the starter burners. Now that’s not to say you can’t achieve the same results with a starter burner, because you can. It’s just not as efficient.
When you’re new to wood burning, try to find wood scraps for practicing. Get familiar with the heat settings and different types of wood, which takes us to our next topic, wood options.
First, lets go through some safety tips. Don’t ever burn MDF or Medium Density
Fiberboard. There are chemicals used to create this type of wood and you don’t need to burn it and release these chemicals to breathe in. Also, Don’t burn any wood that has been chemically treated. Pallet wood can be tempting to use, but it’s origin (Pic of MDF) may be hard to determine, so it could very easily be covered in chemicals.
Best Woods for Wood Burning
Readily Available Wood Options. When talking about wood burning for beginners, there’s no perfect wood choice. It’s going to come down to your preference as a burner, so when you’re starting out, practice with different types. In this section, I’m going to be going over woods that are easily accessed and woods that beginners can quickly pick up at a local store.
Places like Hobby lobby and Michaels or your local arts and craft store have readily available wood panels. These panels are typically made of pine, basswood and birch. The pine panels are the least expensive and great to start with.
You can also check on line for Wood Canvases, there are several options out there for different types of premade wood canvases.
If you have the tools to build canvases, check out your local hardware store at the wood availability. My personal favorite is poplar. It’s inexpensive, readily available, and burns beautifully. My only con for poplar is how the color of the grains can sometimes have a greenish hue. We have to search for cleaner boards through the stack.
Your local hardware store is going to have different types of wood, so explore and decide which one you like best. Leave me a comment on your favorite. I love to talk wood types.
Before you start burning you’re going to want to invest in some pieces of safety equipment.
First a respirator. You can get a respirator at your local hardware store, or online and make sure the filters are rated for vapors. I use a 3M Respirator with an N100 filter that’s rated to prevent smoke inhalation.
Finger Guards. I use a set of heat resistant finger guards when burning. I still get some heat on my finger tips when burning for long periods, so take breaks about every 1 – 2 hours.
Setting Up/Transferring Artwork
I use photoshop to setup my artwork to the exact size of my wood canvas. Once it’s all setup, I print it out at actual size and tape the sheets together to make a template. I tape the template to the canvas and put a carbon sheet underneath to transfer the artwork. Once it’s all traced out, it’s ready for burning.
Here comes the fun part, burning. First, outline your work with a skew tip (aka universal tip, straight edge tip) on all the straight lines in your art and a round tip for the curves. Outlining will help you get nice crisp, clean lines and create a border for your art.
In order to get nice crisp lines, turn down your heat, go slow and be patient. If you end up with bumps, go over the bumps a few times to smooth them out.
Getting Familiar with the Wood Burning Pens
Practice, practice, practice. Get scrap pieces of wood to start out. You can find scrap pieces sold in a bundle online. These bundles are great for testing out different wood types and how your pen burns through each one.
Try different heat settings on the different woods. Each wood will burn differently. Hard woods will be more challenging to burn, while softer woods will be a bit easier. Your wood burning pen will have different tips, so experiment. Depending on the type of wood burning artwork you are creating, some tips will be more suited for you. For example, if you are working with a lot of lettering, the ball tips and rounded tips will work better. If you are working on portraits, the shaders will be your tips of choice.
But again, it all comes down to your preference and what you like to use best.
Wood Burning for Beginners – Things to Remember
1. Be Safe! Wear your safety gear
2. Start with an inexpensive burner
3. Get a Scrap Wood Bundle and just practice. There’s no wrong way to wood burn. It’s all about finding the burner, the wood type and combination of techniques you prefer and it takes time. Practice and figure out what you prefer.
4. Have fun! Don’t stress if it’s not going as well as you hoped at first. Give yourself time to learn the ins and outs.