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Learning the basics of Pyrography (wip complete)

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joiner_sim

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My woodwork at home has become a little hard to do with not having a dedicated workshop space. So I have decided to take an interest in pyrography, some call it writing with fire! I can so far call it... burning myself twice and drawing some nice patterns! Today, has been my first day of having a go at it with the aid of the internet and Bob Neill's "Step by Step Pyrography" book. The book itself is like a little course that gets you to grips with the basics, including the patterns/ techniques below.

Yesterday was my 26th Birthday, so my fiancée had bought me the book and the "Axminster" wood burning pen (which turned out to be made by Star-Tech and bears no Axminster logo). She also got me a pack of spare tips.



As you can see above it came with a metal stand which just needed attaching to something, which I was grateful for as I was hoping it came with one but did not mention it before I took delivery of the tool. The tip pictured was OK, and was the first one I used. I did find myself rotating the pen a little with this tip in as it bent slightly with my heavy handed first time approach. I found the small tip hard to control as it (or me!) wobbled as it went over the grains on my piece of ply. Shortly after I soon swapped to a chunkier pointed tip. This solved most difficulties to a certain extent for me, a complete beginner.



Above is my very first attempt at pyrography. I did not have a go on anything else before hand, so please don't judge me to much! This was a practice exercise I followed in my book, using 12 different techniques and a bit of improvisation with border I found elsewhere in the book. For the dark shaded areas on the border and the square with small shaded circles I used another tip that looked a bit like a calligraphy style tip. This took me about an hour and half to do, having a short break here and there.

In all, I have very much enjoyed learning the techniques so far and can't wait to start the next part of the book which is lettering.

WATCH THIS SPACE!
 

MARK.B.

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Never tried it myself (yet) so i cant judge your work,but i can say it looks ok to me and you can only get better as time goes on.
 

joiner_sim

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Thanks for looking so far everyone! Hope to keep this thread updated with the rest of my practising in next few weeks too!

The pen isn't that hard to hold, but I found that after a while I started getting the shakes, as my hand was getting tired and a little nervous too maybe? I have read a tip that I will use in future, which is to roll up a towel and place under the wrist when burning in one area for a while to support the weight of the pen and achieve a more stable position for working.
 

joiner_sim

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The next stage of learning the basics comes in the form of "Lettering". Unfortunately I have yet to practise the alphabet, however that will be my very next set of burns! For now, the book I'm following suggests practising different variations of curved and straight lines. So copying the advised variations from the book, I pencilled in all the different types, which did actually take a while, however I've also setup two alphabet sets of burns for next time too. Originally I just started burning once setup over the pencil lines already visible, after a while of looking at my burns and what the burns should look like from the book, I decided to add thickness and shading, which created a nice affect.

From doing these practise burns I've found I'm already learning and picking up better techniques for future use. The main thing I have learnt is to lightly hold the pen and gently rub the tip on the wood, doing a one step forward & two steps back approach for a more consistent and deeper burn. Previously I was holding it like a writing pen with a firm grip and pressing down, which does after a while begin to take its toll on the hand!

So, enough of the talking and explaining... Here's my two sets of burns following the book's suggested practise exercises:





Up next is the alphabet, I have drawn it out using two different sized stencils. However, I am also thinking maybe I should draw it out in pencil free-hand using only lines as a size guide for a more handmade type effect, but I shall see what I can do from the stencil outlines first.

So, until my next practise session any advice you may have for me would be greatly appreciated, thank you!
 

Richard@Axminster

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Hi Sim,

Great looking pieces for your first try.

One of our Skill Centre Tutors, Ben Beddows, has started producing some fine pieces of pyrography and i believe we will soon be running a course!

Have a look at some of his work.
 

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joiner_sim

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Thanks Richard.

That work looks quite good! At the moment I'm not quite sure if UKW has room to accept pyrography! But still posting my progress up on here as I'm sure people like to just have a look even if they don't comment. I hope to incorporate pyrography into some of my wood work in the future, for decorative boxes and things...

I maybe interested in a Pyrography course in the future at some point, depending on what areas were being covered.
 

joiner_sim

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Still using the 6mm ply which is of questionable quality, I have now burnt the alphabet using pencilled in letters from a stencil. It took about 2 hours to complete, which is kind of crazy, when you think a letter would have took around 5 minutes each at that rate! I am fairly pleased with the outcome and can see my work improving as I practise more.



Please let me know what you think of my latest practise session.

My next piece will be a real test! I have pencilled onto my selected wood a celtic border pattern and used tracing paper to transfer a picture of a bird. Hopefully I will make a good go of it!

WATCH THIS SPACE....
 

heatherw

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This thread is very, very interesting, please continue. It's helpful to know how long it takes you to complete these projects, as well.
 

joiner_sim

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heatherw":smilzno1 said:
This thread is very, very interesting, please continue. It's helpful to know how long it takes you to complete these projects, as well.
Thanks for the encouraging comment :D (More to come in a minute)
 

joiner_sim

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After learning the basics and putting up with a poor choice of plywood (for the fact the grain was very textured and close). I feel I have done everything possible to get a feel for pyrography, and so I am pleased to say I have started work on my first real piece of...... well..... possibly art? Being a woodworker first and foremost, I envisage my piece as a box lid or something similar. In this case, it actually won't be anything apart from a piece as this is still part of my learning the skill of pyrography.

I started off with a piece of 19mm thick softwood (Redwood) and the dimensions are approximately (forgive me I haven't measured it!) 220x110mm. I prepared the surface by hand with the sandpaper I had available which was 60grit, 100grit & 150grit. I was hoping this would be enough to smooth the surface, even though I have been advised and do take on board the advice about going upto 500grit and will order some sandpaper that high in the future. I feel the surface prep was much better than what I've had to deal with on the ply, so I'm fairly happy - given that softwood still isn't a favourable choice to burn onto.

I then used my ruler and measured out a border of 25mm all the way around. Quick search on google for celtic knots and found a suitable pattern for me to draw by hand onto my wood. I will admit I drew more straight lines and sectioned the border to aid me in creating a more uniform and neat pattern. I also found a nice picture of a flower head in my pyro book so copied that by hand also onto the piece. For my central picture which is of a Sunbird, I copied a picture I have in a colouring book and used tracing paper to transfer the image from book to wood. I kind of wish I'd taken a picture of the piece just all pencilled in, but soon got the camera out after just burning the outlines of the borders.



After doing the border outlines you can faintly see some of my Sunbird transfer lines starting to fade, I think this was because of my hand sweating and rubbing the wood. So my next aim was to preserve the transfer with very faint burn lines, which really bought the piece to life and actually started to look like something!



I then became a little bit stuck on what to do next, do I continue to work on the picture or do I start on the border and hope I gain some ideas on how to work with the main image? I chose to work on the border as I didn't know what direction to go in with the bird. So I burnt all the pencil lines in with a darkish thin burn and here's what I achieved:



Still unsure of what direction to go in next, I erased all my pencil lines (above) and finally decided to continue working on the border. Using a very fine pointed tip I burnt deep dark points into the centre of my flowers and it gave a nice textured effect. Changing tips again I chose a wide angled shading tip, and filled in the background of my entire border behind all the Celtic knots. As you can see I've had a little bit of difficulty with my choice of wood (left hand side, middle) the cause of the problem was resin (looked like sap) bubbling up from the wood as the heat from the burn extracted it. The crucial mistake I made (I think) was getting kitchen towel and trying to wipe/ dab it. Looking at the rest of the piece if I'd left it to just dry up, I don't think it would have looked so odd.



Preparation & Burn time so far: 5 hours approximately. (Not keeping a solid record)

This is as far as I have got at the minute and I feel it is going fairly well. Unless anyone has any objections or advice, I think my border is now complete. The next stage will be adding texture tone and shading (is that not all just the same thing???) to my Sunbird picture. I am wondering if anyone has any advice on what I could do with my bird's chest and the direction of the grain of the wood as I think this could be nice to incorporate with the image. Also, any advice/tips on what to actually do with adding shading to the image would be great thanks!

(Criticism is also welcome -"in small doses"- as this is my first piece and I'm still well aware I have a lot to learn!)

MORE TO COME SOON!
 

joiner_sim

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Well, today I have finished my first complete burn and I am fairly happy with it. I used my shading/ techniques board for help, ideas and inspiration on how to draw my main picture of the Sun Bird. I also used the texture & grain of the wood as an effect on the picture itself. The first picture is of my burn immediately finish and the second picture is of the burn coated in Danish oil which has given it a nice finish and hopefully will preserve the wood and detailing. Please let me know what you think of this work, thank you!

(Total preparation & burn time: 7 hours approximately)



 

xy mosian

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joiner_sim, I think you display a remarkable level of competance in doing this. You are obviously a skilled artist. Sadly I find the grain, especially around the head to be distracting. Otherwise, from here it looks to be a well executed piece.
xy
 

Baldhead

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I have an iron but not used it yet, if I could achieve results like yours I would be very happy.

I also find the grain distracting,but please don't let this put you off, you are as you say still learning.

I want to see more of your work in the future, the Celtic knot framing has given me an idea for a box lid, hope you don't mind me stealing your design.

Baldhead
 

marcros

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joiner_sim":2f7z6gm8 said:
Thanks Richard.

That work looks quite good! At the moment I'm not quite sure if UKW has room to accept pyrography! But still posting my progress up on here as I'm sure people like to just have a look even if they don't comment. I hope to incorporate pyrography into some of my wood work in the future, for decorative boxes and things...

I maybe interested in a Pyrography course in the future at some point, depending on what areas were being covered.
very interested joiner_sim, just have no experience or nothing to ad in the way of comments! keep it going.
 

joiner_sim

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Thanks for the comments guys and I'm certainly no artist! Tracing paper was key to the main image, the Celtic knots was copied by eye from the computer screen and transferred onto the wood with the help of marked out lines and squares.

The grain around the head is one of the many reasons more experienced pyrographers use open grain timber such as sycamore. Inexpensive softwood is good for me to practise on as I have tonnes of it readily available and free.

Baldhead, you should get your iron out and have a go! I have been looking on "Pyrography Online" forums at their work (for an idea of what standards could be achieved) and never thought I'd achieve something like I have. Especially with the tools I have, as many use a heat controller with a wire tip. Only a few stick with solid tips and even then they have a heat controller with them too. But I've found after a bit of practise you learn to control how deep or light you burn, that said... even then, you do get the odd moment here and there where you burn a little too deep! But, generally you can get over it by doing things like thickening a line or changing your strategy of shading.

My next project is something much simpler in comparison really, but will require concentration as one wrong mark and it may need to be scrapped because of its prominent finished-fixed position. -A decorative house number plaque.
 

Baldhead

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Joiner_sim

I once saw a chess board/box made of ply hinged in the middle, the black squares were just burned using an iron, also had a nice border, perhaps that could be a project for you?

Of course if you have a lathe you could turn all the pieces too. :D :D :D

Baldhead
 

James C

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Thanks for these posts. My wife has recently had to take leave from work for a year due to health problems and wants something to work on and produce. She has recently bought a simple 30w tip based pen after I showed her your posts and is starting to learn herself.
 

joiner_sim

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That's great James and it's nice to know I've given her some inspiration. Search google for PYROGRAPHY ONLINE FORUMS if she fancies joining a forum dedicated to the skill.
 

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