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.
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!
1 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.
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.
During the America Depression ice fishing decoys were a major way to put food on the table. Today they are a fun, delightful carving subject that lends themself to brilliant coloring. This post will look at a coloring/painting technique called Rouging, as shown on our middle red-orange metallic goldfish.
Below are three samples of ice fishing decoys, all worked off the general body shape of a comet goldfish. Measuring between 6″ x 4″ to 7 1/2″ x 4″, worked in basswood, the top fish is sprayed with a copper metallic finish. Our second fish has been roughed using oil paints and linseed oil over the same copper metallic, and the bottom fish is painted using craft acrylics over a lime green spray base.
Ice decoys were made from what ever materials the carver had on hand. A scrap of wood, maybe an old license plate or piece of scrap metal for the fins, and roofing nails for the eye; these decoys are a major part of American folk art.
My carved samples are worked in basswood for the body shape. The fins are cut from 30 gauge copper sheeting, which can easily be cut using a pair of craft scissors.
To insert the fins into the body I use my shading tip of my wood burning tool on my hottest temperature setting to literally burn a thin trough into the decoy. While I have my burning unit on the table I can add small details to the body as scales, center lines, and even cross hatch patterns.
Remove any burned dust from your fin troughs then insert and set the copper fins with super glue. To fill in the small gap between the burned trough and the metal fins I use Liquitex Modeling Paste – an air-dry polymer mixture that dries extremely hard without shrinking. You can see the white line of modeling paste between the top fin and body, below.
After the decoy was thoroughly dry, sanded and dusted, I gave the fish two light coats of copper metallic spray paint. Allow that primer layer to dry for several hours. I used t he spray paint as my base to avoid any brush strokes that might come from a hand-brushed primer.
Rouging is worked over a heavily antique project or a metallic base using artist oil paints, boiled linseed oil, and gloss acrylic spray sealer.
Place a small amount of each oil paint on a palette – I am using lemon yellow, cadmium yellow, cadmium orange, and cadmium red. Oil paints are transparent colors that have no white, black, or gray base. So as we work the color of the paint will clearly allow the color and sheen of the metallic spray to show through.
1 Lightly dampen your ox-hair brush in boiled linseed oil. Blot as much of the oil off the brush as you can. Next, pick up a very small amount of color on your brush tip. I like to rub the color into the tip on the same area of paper towels as I just blotted the oil from my brush.
2 Gently rub one coat of linseed oil thinned color onto each area of your project. I use a circular motion where the brush just barely touches the fish … just like applying your make-up rouge. You should barely be able to see any color application with this first coat. Let the oil paint dry for about 15 minutes.
3 Now, give your fish a light coat of gloss acrylic spray sealer. Let the sealer dry for about 1/2 hour.
4 Repeat steps 1 through 3 over, and over, and over again. And now repeat some more.
With each repeat you add an extremely thin layer of transparent oil color followed by a layer of gloss shine all on top of your metallic base. The decoy below has about 8 to 10 coats at this stage.
The finished technique gives you this deep layering of bright color, sparkle and shine, that also allows the metallic sheen to come through the work. This is similar to Chinese lacquer ware or enameling, in its effect.
For a little contrast I did add solid acrylic black eyes, black and white dots along the spine, and a little splatter of metallic gold paint to the fin ends. With one last coat of gloss spray sealer this little bit of folk art is ready to hang.