During this Cross-Crafting Seminar we have looked, in-depth, at how you can use a scroll saw to add new dimensions your wood carving and wood burning projects. In today’s post we will be wood burning the Wood Spirit face that we scroll saw cut in the last session.
If you are new to pyrography, please visit our links page Pyrography, found in the header nav bar. This will give you lots of links to the tutorials, teaching sessions, and techniques posted here at LSIrish.com about wood burning.
As we work through these next two session to this seminar you will see that I am using pyrography to set my shadows and hair lines in the wood spirit face. We will then use colored pencils to add the coloration.
Note: If you are new to pyrography, in our right hand nav bar you will see a free PDF on which pen tips to use, and what burn strokes each create. Please download it now.
Wood burning tool – for this project I used my Optima Spear-point, or flat shader pen tip Ball- or looped-tip pen Heavy-gauge wire triangle hair tip #6 to #8 soft graphite pencil green painter’s tape white artist eraser large scrap of brown paper bag leather strop and honing compound
My recommended wood burning tool favorites include the Walnut Hallow Versa-Tool for first time pyrographers. If you are ready to up-grade to a high-end, variable-temperature tool then I suggest either the Colwood or the Optima.
Below each pyrography tool listed is a link to an in-depth seminar that will not only give you a free, step-by-step project you can start today, but also allow you to see each of the three pyrography tools in use to help you decide which unit is the best for you.
These three in-depth tutorials are hosted on a wood carving forum. Unfortunately I am banned/blocked from posting to this forum now because of technical difficulties on this forum. So, if you have questions or comments about these three projects please email me here, through my blog. Do not post to these threads as I can not read, see, or answer your questions there!
Walnut Hollow Versa-Tool Toucan Project – Looking for that first wood burning tool, then take a few moments and read through this tutorial for an in-depth review of the Walnut Hollow Versa-Tool used to wood burn a Toucan Family.
Irish Optima Pyrography Seminar – This in-depth pyrography project shows over 250 detailed, close-up photos, step-by-step instructions, and in-depth explanations of texturing, shadings, and fine line work used to create the Advertising Barn landscape.
Note: Click on any image for a full-sized photograph. Now, my apologizes! I know that some of these photos are dark. I accidentally got such a sharp polish on my wood during the crumpled paper stage in Step 1 that the wood had too high a reflective quality for the photography lights … AH!
Before your trace your pattern, take a few moments to lightly sand your wood using a crumpled brown paper bag. Paper is an extremely fine-grit sanding media and will remove any remaining fine wood fiber, polishing the wood surface.
There are several ways to trace your wood burning pattern to your burn surface, and those are explored in the link above. For this project I chose to rub the back of my pattern with a soft, #6 to #8 graphite pencil. Tape the pattern to the scroll saw cut wood with the pattern showing and the graphite surface against the wood. Use an ink pen to trace over all of the lines.
The graphite from the pencil rubbing will leave a medium-toned grey line on your wood. It can easily be burned over as you work your pyrography and then removed using a white artists eraser when the pyrography is completed. Carbon paper, graphite paper, and newspaper tracing can leave permanent – non-removable – lines on your work … a pencil rubbing is the cleanest media for tracing.
Using a flat, or spear-shaped shader, set your wood burning unit to a medium temperature. For my Optima that is a setting between 4 and 5. Lay the shader with the flat bottom of the shader on the wood, along the cheek at the side of the nose. Using a smooth, even pull shade along the nose edge.
The inner corner of the eyes at the nose bridge is the deepest shadow point in the face. The second deepest is the bottom corner of the cheek at the edge of the nostrils.
Note: Every wood burner unit manufacture has their own name for their own pen tips. As example a looped tip can also be called a standard writing tip by a second manufacture or if it is from a third manufacture it can go by just an SKU number. So the names for each tip can change according to what unit you are using. Please check the photos for what shaped pen tip I am using and then use the closest tip you have for your unit.
Step 3 The dark shading continues, using the flat or spear-shaped shader along the bottom edge of the nose. An extra dark c-shaded stroke is used to create the black of the nostrils.
At the bottom of the cheeks, next to the nose is a wrinkle area that is triangular. This area is deeply shaded towards the black-brown tonal value.
The eye lids and eye wrinkles are shaded along the bottom edge of the pattern line, with the darkest shading near the nose and allowing the stroke to pale as you pull it towards the outer edge of the face.
With a light touch, shade the sides of nose. Allow a very thin line of white – un-burned – area at the outer nose pattern line.
Step 4 Turn your wood burning unit down to a cool-medium tone. For my Optima that is a setting just below 4. Using the flat or spear-shaped shader shade along the outer cheeks, sides of the face and the forehead area of your wood spirit. Allow some of this shading to move into the hair areas of the face.
Darken the inside of the mouth and the small space below the nose that separates the sides of the mustache with a medium- or hot- temperature and the flat shader.
Step 5 Begin shading the top or inner areas and sides of the hair strands using the flat or spear-shaped shader and a medium temperature setting. The heaviest shaded hair sections are top of the mustache and the beard that is trapped inside of the sides of the mustache. Use long, flowing lines to imply individual hair strands.
Scan to this stage of the work: Click for a larger image.
Step 6 I have changed to my ball-tip writing pen and set my temperature to a high setting. For my Optima that is between 6 and 7. With the ball-tip, outline all of your pattern lines for both the face and the hair strands.
Step 7 Take a moment and with a white artist’s eraser remove any remaining tracing lines that are visible. Use a dry, clean cloth to remove the eraser particles.
Colored erasers, like the bubble gum pink school erasers, can leave streaks of dye color on your wood surface that can only be removed by sanding that area back to the un-burned, raw wood. White erasers have no dye and will not mar your burning.
Scan to this stage of the work: Click for a larger image.
Step 8 On the high temperature setting, using a heavy-gauged wire hair tip begin adding the individual strands of hair. Each strands is worked from its closest point near the face out towards the outer edges of the hair strand.
Since we will be adding colored pencils to this project not every strand of hair needs detailing. For my wood spirit I chose those hair strands that were in the background of the design for his head hair, and at the top of the mustache and beard.
But hair is just plain fun to work, so add as much detailing as you like!
If you do not have a heavy-gauge wire hair tip you can use the side or edge of your shading tip to burn wonderful hair lines.
Step 9 The finished wood spirit can be left in just its pyrography stage or you can follow me in the next posting where we will use colored pencils to add his skin tones.
Our next step in our Cross-Crafting Seminar, which takes a look at using scroll sawing, wood carving, pyrography, and colored pencil work in one project, is to do a test cut. Let’s use a classic Wood Spirit face for this practice session. This face comes from my book, Wood Spirits and Greenmen, and the pattern is linked below.
Click on the pattern image to open a new window with the full-sized pattern. Save a copy of the pattern to your desktop, where it will be easy to find later.
Note: I buy my birch plywood and basswood off of Ebay.com because I can see the actual pieces of wood that I am purchasing. Birch plywood is often available at your local hardware store or large box craft store.
Preparing for Cutting
Step 1 For this step-by-step I am going to cut two plywood wood spirit faces at the same time. This is called gang cutting.
Lightly sand both sheets of birch plywood on both sides using 220-grit sandpaper. Work the paper in the direction of the grain lines of the birch wood to avoid creating small, cross-grain scratches. Wipe the plywood with a clean, dry tact cloth. Crumble a large sheet of heavy brown paper bag into a loose ball. Use the crumbled paper to sand over the surface of both sheets of plywood. Brown paper bags are wonderful, extremely fine sanding papers.
Step 2 Print two copies of the pattern. One will be used to cut the Wood Spirit face shape from the wood. The second will be used to trace the Wood Spirit detail lines to the cut-out, scroll sawed shape.
Step 3 Stack the two sheets of plywood with the best sides facing each other, these will be on the inside of the stack with the rougher sides facing outward. Use several strips of green painter’s tape along the edge of the stack to secure the two pieces together.
Step 4 Read the directions on the side of your temporary adhesive spray, and follow those directions to spray the back – reverse – on your cutting pattern. Place the pattern, face up with the spray adhesive against the wood. Lightly rub the paper pattern from the center out towards the corners to flatten the paper and insure that it is completely adhered to the wood. Let the paper dry for a few minutes before you beginning your scroll saw work.
Step 5 If this is your first scroll saw session, please read all of the instructions and safety procedures that came with your model of scroll saw. Insert a 15 TPI regular/general cutting blade in the saw. Remember, the teeth of the saw blade point down.
Note: When I am cutting out a general shape, as with the Wood Spirit, I am not as concerned about exactly following the pattern line as cutting a smooth line! You will see that in some areas I may have cut inside or outside the pattern line. Since no one but me and you will ever see the original pattern whatever I cut will become the final items. So relax, have fun, and know that it is so OK to wander off the line. This is meant as a practice piece, a piece on which you can learn, experiment, and make mistakes.
Step 6 Loosen the Drop Foot Knob on the left of the scroll saw arm. Allow the Drop Foot to lower onto the plywood. Tighten the Drop Foot knob. This foot keeps the wood held tightly against the work table, stopping the wood from vibrating as the blade moves through the cuts.
Do not add any pressure to the Drop Foot. By just setting it on the board you are cutting it will have the correct pressure when you tighten the knob.
Step 7 Begin your first cut at the top of the board, cutting towards the head, following one of the hair strands. Start the saw before your blade touches the wood, then glide the wood into the working saw blade. Move slowly, allow the blade to do the work for you. Stop the cut when saw blade’s motion when you reach the inside angle or v-shape point of the hair strand.
Step 8 Turn off the saw, lift the Drop Foot by releasing the Drop Foot knob, and back the blade out of the cut and out of the board.
Step 9 Make the second cut, starting at the top of the board, cutting towards the head, on the second side of the same hair strand. Stop the cut when you meet the end of the first cut.
Click on any image for a full-sized picture of that step.
Read Your Manual
Begin by reading the information and instruction manual that came with your particular scroll saw, especially the safety steps.
Wear safety glasses.
Use the correct blades made for your specific scroll saw.
Check the condition of your saw blade before you begin any working session.
Always know where your fingers are in relationship to the saw blade.
Unplug the saw and remove the Child’s Safety Plug when not in use.
Watch for physical and visual fatigue – take frequent breaks.
Scroll Saw Features
The Ryobi features a Tension Knob for quick and easy blade tension adjustments on the top back of the machine. The Sawdust Blower keeps the wood clean of sawdust in front of the saw blade. The Drop Foot holds the wood securely to the work table to reduce vibration and the Throat Plate gives you access to the bottom of the saw blade.
The On/Off Switch is on the lower front of the motor and also contains a Child’s Safety Plug that can be removed to prevent the machine from turning on.
The three pronged knob on the left front controls the tilt angle of the table, called the Bevel Scale. On the right side of the front is your variable speed control. For the Ryobi the speed range is from 550 r/min. to 1,650 r/min.
Scroll Saw Blades
Scroll saws use two styles of blades – pinned and unpinned. Pinned blades have a small metal cross bar at the top and bottom of the blade that slides and locks into the blade holders. This gives a strong, secure anchor for the blades.
Unpinned blades do not have the cross blades, and are simply straight at the top and bottom.
The unpinned blades are used in fretwork where you will be cutting holes into the design. Begin by drilling a small hole, just slightly larger than the width of your saw blade, inside of the shape that you will be cutting. Release the Tension Knob on the top of the machine. Release the top Blade Holder Knob. Remove the top of the blade from the scroll saw. Slide the wood over the top of the blade, threading it through the drilled hole. Secure the top of the blade by tightening the Blade Knob and Tension Knob.
Saw blades are sorted by the number of teeth per inch, TPI. The Ryobi Specialty Scroll Saw Blade Set gives you three sizes – 7 TPI Hook Tooth for thick widths of wood, 15 TPI Regular Tooth for general cutting, and 18.5 TPI Skip Tooth for fine and tight turned cutting. For our projects in this seminar I used the 15 TPI regular tooth, pinned blades.
Let’s do something just a little different this year for our summer, free, online wood carving seminar. Usually I pick one craft on which to focus – wood carving, wood burning, or chip carving. This year I want show you how easy it is to cross-craft, to incorporate several of your favorite hobbies into creating your art. So grab a cup of coffee, pull up a chair to my seminar table, and let’s look at the basics to scroll sawing, wood carving, wood burning, and colored pencil work as we put these all together into one craft project.
This year’s project came about because I have a new toy – a Ryobi 16″ Variable Speed Scroll Saw. My Ryobi has a 16″ long throat, and can handle wood up to 2″ thick. The saw blades can be either pinned or non-pinned, something that we will look at during this class session. It is variable speed and has a tilt table that can be moved 45 degrees, plus it is equipped with a dust blower to keep your cutting area free and easy to see. And this little sweet power tool has an iron base that keeps the scroll saw steady on my work table.
My Ryobi cost me around $100. plus I purchased an assorted pack of 36 Ryobi blades at about $5.00. So for under $125. with s/h I now have the ability to quickly, easily, and efficiently create my own basswood, birch, and poplar cut-outs for my wood carving and pyrography projects.
Long background story – which you can skip if you want …
Over my 30 years as a wood crafter, wood carver, and pyrographer I have owned three other scroll saws and I hated everyone of them! I don’t do that much scroll sawing to make it worth the investment of several hundred dollars ($500 – $800) for one of the ‘high end’ machines. I don’t know how often I have commented that I must be the world’s worst scroll sawer because every project just drove me bonkers, crazy, irritable, and someone you just didn’t want to be near when I was working. I thought my problems with scroll sawing was me and unfortunately in my line of work there are times that I must do some scroll sawing.
My experience, to this point, with scroll sawing was fighting broken blades, fussing with tension springs that don’t stay put, and with the entire machine wobbling or walking across that table unless it is bolted down. Changing blades with an Allen wrench deep inside the metal case of the blade is just a nightmare for me. I had one scroll saw, long ago, that literally made me sea sick (car sick) because of the triple vibrations between the blade, moving arm, and wobbling base. Because all of my previous saws were light-weight they did need to be bolted to my work table in the workshop, which meant that just to make a couple of quick cuts was a trip out of the studio to go down to the shop to work.
So a new, large project has hit my work table which will require a fair bit of scroll saw work. After much fussing, much cussing, and a lot of consternation I decides that I really had to purchase a new scroll saw which wouldn’t drive me to exasperation – this is scroll saw number 4! I had just purchased a Ryobi 40v battery-operated chain saw and have been delighted with its performance, so I decided to look at Ryobi’s scroll saw.
For under $125 my Ryobi arrived about three days after I ordered. I am glad I ordered several packs of extra blades because the scroll saw comes with just one blade installed. I set up on the back porch … while the Ryobi is a heavy-weight it is not so heavy that I can’t move it to the work area, do my cutting, and then store it in its box. Instead of a petite portable, the Ryobi is a Lovable Lug-able!
So … two hours later … I had read the instructions, looked the scroll saw over closely, and cut out 12 wood spoon rough-outs from 1″ thick basswood stock, two hand comb rough-outs from 3/8″ basswood stock, and the three spoons that we will be using in this seminar as our sample projects which are also 3/8″ stock. Not once did I break a blade! Not once did the Ryobi vibrate! Not once did I get hung-up inside the cut because the machine didn’t have the power to pull through the curve! I did change the blade once and it was a less than two minute job because of the screw knob system the Ryobi uses! I reset the tension without any fuss and was back in business immediately! When I came back into the studio, searching for more basswood blanks or birch plywood that I could cut-out on my new Ryobi, my beloved hubby asked with great concern, “Are you having problems with that new saw?” I stopped and wondered why he would ask that question. He answered, “I didn’t hear any cussing coming in from the porch, so I thought you hadn’t gotten it started yet!” That’s when I realized I am NOT the world’s worst scroll sawer, I had just always used the world’s worst scroll saws. With my Ryobi I can now proclaim myself, with great pride and satisfaction, a scroll sawer who enjoys the craft.
I am going to take a little break here and go get our supply list ready to post. See you in just a bit!
We will start this projects with the three wooden spoons, shown left in the photo. We will work through the steps of cutting the basswood blanks using the scroll saw, then with a basic set of wood carving tools shape the spoon’s bowl and handle area. Our third section will focus on getting the spoon bowl absolutely smooth and finally we will do a simple wood burning of a henna flower design. So … back soon!