For outlining, wide line shading and texture work I use my loop-tip pen, also called a standard writing tip. By holding this pen in an upright position, 90 degrees from the working surface, fine detail lines can be pulled. To create wider lines in your texturing drop your grip to about 45 degrees from the wood. This lets the side of the wire touch the board giving you more metal to wood contact.
This classic burning pen tip is still a mainstay for any pyrography tool kit. The tightly bent loop at the point of the tip creates even, medium width lines and carries the heat for your burning unit well.
As shown below, in the far left sample square of this practice board, the loop tip pen makes a thick to thin line as you move the tip from its center point to the sides of the loop.
Square two shows the loop tip pens dot pattern, also called pointillism. The tip of the pen, touched and lifted from the wood, leaves a small, black oval shape to the burn. Scrubbie strikes, shown third, is a continuous curling or meandering line the fills an area with textured shading. The thick and thin effect from this pen tip adds to the texture of the scrubbie stroke.
The last, right hand, square is worked with the loop tip pen at a 90 degrees to the wood to burn the thinnest, fine lines as possible. By adding new layers of burned lines over previous work, each layer worked in a new direction, you can build up the burning into every deepening tonal values.
FINE LINE WORK Using any temperature setting and holding the tip upright to the wood you can make even lines for both shading, accent, and outline work. The higher you set your temperature the darker and thicker the lines will burn. In the photo, top right, the fine lines work has been used to shade under the roof overhang. By re-burning the lines the tonal value can be darkened.
TEXTURE PATTERNS Any texture pattern can be created using a loop writing tip. Simple random curls, tightly packed circles, and even cross hatched patterns are easily made using the fine line made by the loop. The more tightly you pack any texture line the denser and therefore darker tonal value that area will have.
SOLID FILL At high temperature settings you can use the loop writing tip to create tightly packed small ovals to bring an area into your darkest tonal value. In the bottom right photo this touch-and-lift stroke was used to establish the darkest shadows for the leaves.
This micro writing tools is manufactured using thinner wire and a tighter bend at the tip, or as in this sample, a small ball welded to the tip of the end. This means that little metal comes into direct contact to the working surface and gives very fine detailing lines. Very fine dense textures can be layered using this tool to burn an area into an even smooth tonal value.
Ball tipped pens comes in a variety of diameters with larger diameter tips creating wider lines and smaller diameters making thinner lines. They have three primary purposes – outlining, scrubbie shading, and solid fill work.
This small ball tipped pen makes a consistently even line or dot no matter how you position the angle of the pen to the wood. The thinness of your burned line remains the same throughout the outline strokes, dot patterns, scrubbie strokes, or cross-hatching work.
OUTLINING AND WRITING
You can outline all of your pattern lines to give your pyrography a cartoon or coloring book effect.Lightly outline the pattern using a cool temperature setting to set your lines. Next work each area with your chosen style or texture. When all of the shaded texture work is done re-work the outlines at a medium-high to high setting. Vary the width of the lines to give your outlining more interest. Not every project needs to be outlined. If you have worked your project using shaded tonal values, outlines will not be needed to visually separate one area from another. No object in nature comes with outlines, so for landscape scenes or animal portrait use as few accent lines as possible.
Small, short scrubbie strokes can be made with a ball tipped pen to create evenly graduatedshading for your elements. Scrubbies are made in an slow, even back-and-forth motion or in a tight, random circular movement. Work several layers of scrubbie strokes to deepen the tonal value in any area.
Medium to medium-high temperature settings and a touch-and-lift stroke, using a ball tip pen will create your solid fill areas. The more tightly you pack the small, dark dots made by this texture the darker your area will be.
Avoid using a high temperature setting for this type of fill texture. To hot a setting will cause the dots to bleed or halo into the adjacent areas of the design.
The curved-edge spear shader has a thinner metal body than the spoon shader, which allows it to create darker tonal values at lower temperature setting. The curved side lets you pull thin, even lines without a dark starting point spot as often happens with a ball tipped pen when you work the pen on its point.
The spear shader is used on all of its edges, each creating a different thickness or intensity of the stroke. Pull the spear shader with the point flat to the wood and you get a thick line. Lift the shader to work just the point or angle the shader so that you are burning along one of its curved edges and you create an extremely fine line. The touch and lift dot pattern of pointillism with this tip burns small triangles. For the far right sample board square the side of the spear shader is pulled so that the wide edge of the shader touches the board, creating a graduated, unlined shading effect.
LONG SHADING STROKES Using the wide point in the curve – the belly – you can pull long, wide shading strokes. In the right hand, top photo those long strokes are used to create the dips and ruts in an old country road. This is a touch-and-slowly-pull movement.
FINE LINE WORK Leading with the point of the curved-edge shader and rolling into the belly creates extremely thin, fine burnt lines. On low temperature settings these lines are barely visible, on hotter setting the lines are perfect for engraving, cross hatching, and accent work.
TRIANGLES Because the curved-edge spear shader carries a large amount of heat, the tip of this shader can create small, evenly sized triangles in your designs. Set your thermostat on a medium or medium-hot setting and use a touch-and-lift stroke. The lower you hold the shader to the wood the larger your triangle will be.
SPOON SHADER PEN
This small curved shader creates a wide path of smooth tonal values, excellent for general shading within your design. I find that a low-medium temperature and a circular motion quickly bring an area up to its color tone without obvious pen strokes or lines..
Spoon shaders have a flatten surface that may be rounded or pointed at the tip. The shaft of the tip is bent so that the bowl of the spoon lies against the wood when holding it in a general pencil hand grip position. This style tends to have a thicker metal tip than curved shader pen tips, so they may require a slightly higher temperature setting during use.
Spoon shader lines have graduated tonal values to their edges, not crisp, hard finishing lines. The spoon belly of the tip burns the center of the line to a slightly darker tonal value then where it rolls upward, away form the wood, along its side edges. Use for pointillism the spoon shader leaves a small square or triangle shape blur of burning. As with the dot pattern, a scrubbie stroke worked with the spoon shader is undefined. This is a great way to fill in or deepen small areas in your project where you want to even out another burned layer of work. Pulling your spoon shader in fine lines, alternating direction works a soft cross-hatch pattern to the wood. Because so little of the spoon area actually touches the wood, this stroke pattern can accent the grain line of your board.
By setting the temperature setting to medium or medium-high, you can lay the flat of the shader against the wood and pull short, small touch strokes to create the scrubbie shading effect.
Lift the shader slightly to work the tip closer to the point or curved edge allows you to move in a random, circular motion for even shading. Add layers of shading strokes to graduate an area from a pale to dark tonal value.
LEADING EDGE LINES
The shader can be first laid flat against the wood and pulled in a long, straight line to give the general shape of the boards.
A second stroke can now be laid over the long, pull stroke to separate each board with a fine, thin, slightly darker tone by leaning the spoon shader’s side edge into the wood.
This is a practice board burning using the same burn stroke patterns worked through each pen tip of my Creative Woodburner Tool.
The stroke styles are from left to right: fine lines, dot patterns, scrubbie patterns, and cross-hatching.
The tool tips used from top row to bottom row: loop tip, ball tip, spear shader, and spoon shader. My practice board is worked on 12” x 12” x 1/4” birch plywood and divided into 1” squares for each of the burned samples. I can refer to this board at any time during a burning session to determine which tool tip and which burning stroke will work best on my project.
Since my practice board is large in physical size I can experiment and explore new textures, burning strokes, and ways to treat my detailing before I actually do the work on the main project. I can practice and I can make mistakes as I learn without worry of damaging my primary work.
Your grip on your burning pen is similar to your hand grip on any writing tool as pen or pencil. The pen is held below the burning tip between the thumb and index finger with a loose, comfortable pressure. The back of the pen handle rests on your third finger which is slightly bent.
The four-point grip, with your thumb and first two fingers holding the pen and your smallest finger balanced on the board, is used on your pen whether you are using the side of your pen tip of the point. Only the angle of your hand to the wood changes to lift the pen tip to its finest point.
Lift your hand from the wood, don’t rest the side of your palm directly on the wood as this limits your ability to move smoothly over the pattern. Extend you small fingertip to lightly touch the wood, using it as a depth guide and steadying point against your board.
Keep the side of your arm and elbow off the table. This lets your entire arm move during long strokes. This is a four-point grip – thumb and index finger to hold, third finger to rest the pen, and small finger to anchor the hand on the wood.
One-temperature and rheostat burning pens have a much thicker handle because that handle houses the burning unit. Although your fingers are wider apart then when using a variable-temperature pen, you use the same four-point grip.
Do not over grip or heavy-hand your pen. A light finger pressure is all that is needed to keep the pen in place and moving freely. If your hand becomes tired or sore as you work you are probably over-gripping the pen.
Tips comes in many shapes and bends from the tight bend used in the standard writing tips to half circles that can create fish scales and even square tubes that make a textured pattern on your board.
I use four basic tools throughout this book – the loop-tip, ball-tip, spear shader, and spoon shader. These are the four snap-in interchangeable tips that comes with the Walnut Hollow Creative Tool – shown below.
Each pen tip creates its own width and shape of line burn, and therefore is more suitable for specific textures. Thin edged spear or curved shader tip cut thin, deep lines. Loop and ball tip pens burn thick, shallow lines. A basic beginner’s set of tips may include a tightly bent loop writing tip , a ball point writing tip, a flat spoon-shaped shader, a curved-edge spear shader. These tips will burn any pattern or project in this e-book. Specialty tips can be added as you discover your style of burning.
INTERCHANGEABLE V. FIXED TIP PENS
Tip shapes and names vary, depending on the manufacturer of your burning unit and are often offered in several sizes. Please check the website for your unit for more specific tips that are available for your use. Variable temperature pens come in two varieties – fixed tip pens and interchangeable tip pens. A fixed tip pen has the burning wire permanently set in the pen. Some manufacturers create a interchangeable pen that allows different styles of tip to be inserted into the end of the pen.
All of my Optima 1 pens are fixed tip pens.
Interchangeable pens often allow you to purchase a wider variety of burning tips, a great advantage to the new pyrographer.
Each manufacturer creates their pens to specifically fit the electric voltage, wire, and connections used in their wood burning units. Although some manufacturers do sell conversion kits that allow you to use pens manufacturer by other companies on their units I do not recommend this practice.
Using another companies pens can void your warranty and can damage both your pens and your burning unit. When you purchase your variable temperature unit consider not only the power features of the unit but also the pen construction, how the pens connect to the unit, the guard grip construction, and the variety of tip profiles available for your unit.
The photo, above, shows five of my Colwood Detailer tips. The top three are permanent fixed tip pens while the bottom two are interchangeable tips.
We will take a closer look at the burn strokes each pen tip creates in just a few pages.