First Pyrography Project – 9 – Cleaning Tips


The best burned strokes are made with a clean, bright tip.
As you burn the tips of your pens will begin to collect resin residue from the wood sap and carbon build-up from the burned wood. The tips can become so coated with carbon that they take on a black, crusted finish.

Shown above, from left to right: yellow oxide rouge,
tanned leather, raw leather, heavy kraft paper, newspaper, emery cloth, and fine steel wool.

That black carbon can even be transferred to your project and appears a long, thin dark gray streaks in the work. Carbon can cause your tip to lose heat or to create uneven distribution of the heat to your tip.

I use two methods for cleaning my pen tips – emery cloth and a wood carving strop with aluminum or red oxide rouging compound. I also clean my tips often, long before the carbon build-up becomes too intense.

The first important step in cleaning your pen tips is to unplug your burning unit and allow the pen to fully cool. A hot pen tip can burn both emery cloth and leather strops.

1500-grit or finer emery cloth, which can be purchases at your local hardware store, can be used to clean badly encrusted tips. Fold the emery cloth into quarters, small enough to secure all sides with your fingers. Gently pull the tip of the pen over the cloth. Use as little pressure as possible as you clean the tip to avoid distorting or bending the burning wire of the tip. I use this method on my one-temperature brass tips.

Fine-grit steel wool also works well for your interchangeable brass tips and can return those tips to the bright yellow-orange coloring of the metal.

For wire tips I use a leather or synthetic wood carving strop. The strop is first prepared with a coating of either aluminum oxide powder or a fine grit rouging compound.

Raw side of your leather strop with rouging compound.

The tip is pulled across the strop using gentle pressure until the tip returns to its bright color tone of gunmetal blue. Work your tip over the raw leather side first then polish the tip on the tanned leather side.

End either style of cleaning with a brightening of your tips using heavily printed newspaper or heavy-weight brown kraft paper.
After your pen has been brightened, wipe it and the pen shaft with a clean, dry cloth to remove any remaining carbon particles. You are ready to return to your project.

Polish your tips to a bright shine using the tanned side of your strop.

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