Preparing The Surface Of The Wood
• Choose the piece of wood that you are going to use, I recommend sycamore or birch ply. Sycamore is light in colour and has a very small difference in hardness between the grains, so that you can get a smooth line. Birch ply is softer and cheaper which is good to use for our pyrography lessons.
• Get some fine sandpaper and work that up and down in the direction of the grain. Try to run along the full length. I always sand my wooden blanks even if they feel smooth.
• After sanding I always keep the paper handy so that I can keep the tip of my pen clean as I burn. Carbon deposits will build up on your pen and gradually reduce the heat of the burning tip, so you need to keep it clean!
Your First Lesson
Once you have prepared the wood it’s time to use the pen! I would recommend first experimenting with the heat settings. Draw lines with the heat settings from one upwards. You will notice that if you move the pen quickly you will get a fine line, if you draw a line more slowly the line wil become darker.
Never think of your pen as a biro with constant flow of ink, try to get the point to arrive in contact with the wood as if it was an aircraft landing”, then “take off” again. This will help you to over come the ‘dreaded black blob’! Remember, whenever the point is in contact with the wood it will be burning.
Get a piece of wood and draw six squares. Firstly turn your machine up to a high setting, but not so hot as to produce too much smoke or set your wood on fire! Practice on a square like the picture below.
• Fill in the last square as your darkest shade.
• Fill in the rest of the squares turning the temperature down as you go.
• Square one should be about the same colour of the wood that you are burning.
• You will learn from this lesson that unlike a pencil there is no need to press harder to get a darker burn, just turn up the dial. I highly recommend getting used to your machine’s heat settings, as this will help you later when creating pictures. It gives for a more interesting effect and will give added relief and texture to your art.