Month: September 2020

Quick Wood Carving & Pyrography Clamps

My Dad, an avid wood worker and gun stock carver, always insisted that nails and screws were only little clamps to hold the wood together until the glue dried!  Words of wood wisdom.

Glue is the agent that gives any joint its strongest bond.  But for the best joint the wood pieces need to be clamped tightly until that glue is thoroughly dried – for many wood glues that is at least 24 hours.

But what do you do when your wood, or gourd shape does not fit any of your regular wood clamps and you don’t want to use nails or screws?

Let’s look at a few quick clamps that can be made out of common household items and that can be adjusted to fit any size or shape.


This is a set of 3 pound molds for handmade soap
that I was ‘quickly’ throwing together – too big for my
small wood clamps, but perfect for this Today’s Carving Tip!


Low tack masking tape makes a great, disposable clamp.  Available in many widths, up to 4″, the tape can be wrapped multiple times around your project to make a tight tension on the joint.  Because it is low tack it does not leave glue residue to the project surface, which is wonderful when working gourd art.

2 Large rubber bands can be purchased from most office supply stores, usually by the pound box.  They come in a variety of lengths and can be used over and over again.  Look for extra wide bands when you go shopping, 1/2″ to 1″ wide bands are available and provide greater strength.

3 Bungee cords can be ganged to become a flexible clamp for your work.  I use smaller bungee cords, and simply lock one to another until I have a nice tightness.  Spacer blocks, as the  1 1/4″ basswood carving block shown here, can now be slid beneath the bungee cords to give you the tightest pressure.

4 Zip ties have become an every day item around the house and they use as wood clamps is invaluable.  Gang zip them, tighten them a little at a time so each tie is even, and simple cut them off when you are done.

5 Butcher’s string is thick, cotton, two to three ply twist cord which is perfect for really odd shapes, such as a gourd art project.   Wrap the string around your project and tie as tightly as possible.  Repeat, so that your clamp has several independent strings tied around the joint.  Working one string at a time, slide a popsicle stick, tongue depressor, or 1/4″ or wider dowel rod under the string.  Gently twist the stick to wrap the string around the stick’s center.  When you have the string as tight as you can twist secure the stick with a small clamp or with several clothes pins.

Next time you are cleaning those kitchen drawers or odd boxes, make up a quick clamp kit to keep in your wood, gourd, or pyrography studio – on hand and ready to go.

Pyrography Cleaning Graphite Tracing Lines

September 15, 2020

This morning I am working on getting your supply list ready for the Feathered Green Man Leather Journal Pyrography Project and came across a few photos on how to clean the graphite tracing lines from your wood burning project that I thought I would share.

I prefer to either use a  graphite tracing paper or graphite pencil lead rubbed over the back of my pattern my paper as my tracing media.  Graphite leaves a pale to medium gray line on our working surface that has no oil or wax, and therefore is not a permanent marking.


I do like to remove those tracing lines as early in the burning as is reasonable and will even do an extremely pale tonal value burned line before any shading work is done just so that I can erase the graphite right away.

A white artist eraser works wonderfully for wood and gourds.  These are our rougher wood burning surfaces.  Do not use an eraser that has any coloring ( that pink one on the end of your bright yellow #2 pencil) to it as the color dye can rub off onto your project.

An architect’s eraser pad – a fine mesh cloth bag filled with eraser grindings – is perfect for our finer medias as paper, leather, and chipboard (paper mache).  Since the eraser bag is flexible it works well for wood carvers that want to remove any carbon build-up from their wood burning details on the carving.


A dry ‘Magic’ eraser not only removes the graphite lines from your leather or wood project, it also picks up any oil and dirt that has been left from moving your hand across the surface.

In the photo sample above, Feathered Green Man Leather Journal Pyrography Project, I first cleaned the graphite tracing using my Architect’s eraser pad.  Then I followed up with a light cleaning using the dry ‘Magic’ eraser … and,wow!, was I surprised at how much more dirt I picked up …

That ‘Magic’ eraser is now a permanent addition to my pyrography tool kit.


Leather Pyrography Wood Burning Tools

Plaid 30725E  Low Temperature Tool – Available through Plaid Online

Plaid was kind enough to send me a sample wood burner the other day … like I need another wood burning unit to add to my dozen plus one temperature, soldering style wood burners that I have collected over the 25 years of being a wood burner …

Well, I didn’t know it, but I did!

This is a one temperature burner that is pre-set at the low temperature of 750 degrees – 200 degrees lower that the average pre-set unit, which makes it perfect for leather burning pyrography.

Plus … it has the standard four interchangeable tips that we all know and love that are available with most one temp tools.

I already have several low temperature, soldering style tools that I often use for my leather crafting.  Each of those comes in the package with only one, cone point tip for fine line work.

Plaid has included the universal writing tip, leaf shading tip, the fine point cone tip, and the wide ball tip, all for under $17.00.


Plus Plaid’s low temperature leather burning tool has an on/off switch right on the cord and a handy little stand for safety.

I happened to have a sample journal cover that I could grab as a practice board … It has been quite awhile since I have used the soldering style pen and every  pen, no matter who manufacturers it, needs a little practice time to get your correct grip, pressure, and movement.


So, here is my first using the Plaid one temperature leather burning tool – feathered green man journal cover.  Pale tones are created using the cone point tip and a light hand pressure, wide strokes are made with the universal tip and medium hand movement.  The darkest tones were made with the wide cone tip and a simple touch-and-lift stroke.  The tip of the leaf spear shader is wonderful for thick-and-thin line work as in his beard.

And then I did this one … a giraffe leather journal keeper with suede cord.

Number three is also a journal keeper made from scrap leather and with elastic cord.


The wide cone tip is so much fun to use it lead to this wood flower journal cover – number four.

And number five is this easy leather journal that has the front cover cut open to show the burning on the inside flap.

My whole weekend got eaten up by a Plaid One Temperature, Low Temperature, Interchangeable Tip Wood Burning Tool … grin!


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