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Classroom

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Tips for Getting Started in Pyrography:

BASIC TIPS: The kind of wood you burn on can play a large part in the quality of your artwork. I prefer to burn on basswood, while pine can be very frustrating. It's also helpful to sand your wood really well before burning.

 
Using graphite transfer paper is a quick way trace your image onto the wood. But sand those guidelines also before burning. 
 
I use the Walnut Hollow Creative Versa-Tool and the shading point for most of my work. Try to burn with heat instead of pressure. Meaning, don't press really hard or you might bend the point and you'll dent the wood.
 
BLACK BACKGROUNDS: Burning a black background is quite simple, but produces a lot of smoke and can add a few extra hours of work to a piece. The key is to be patient and take your time. (It's also a good idea to use a respirator or work in a well-ventilated area.)
 
I use the Walnut Hollow Creative Versa-Tool wood burner and the shading point. Lay the point flat on the wood move it back and forth, very slowly, in small half inch sections. Working in smaller sections helps to hold the heat in the wood and keeps the point from cooling down too fast.  
 
Go in the same direction as the wood grain if possible. Keep moving the tip back and forth until the wood gets very black then move over to a new section. 
 
Don't use too hot of a setting or you can scorch the upper layers of wood, causing irreparable damage. (I use the high temp setting on the Versa-Tool but other burners may be too hot on their highest setting. Experiment on a scrap piece of wood first to dial in the temp.) Just be patient and keep the burner moving at all times, keeping a soft touch. If you press really hard then you'll dent the wood and bend the tip.
 
The burner will cool down a lot after a few minutes of black burning and you will see some carbon buildup as well. If you set the burner to the side and wait 5 minutes, it will regain optimal temperature and most of the carbon will burn off on its own. I usually use two burners and switch back and forth between them so I always have a hot burner ready to go. 
 
Also, the type of wood plays a large factor in creating a nice black background. In my experience, it is almost impossible to get a good black on Pine. My preference is Basswood for making smooth, dark backgrounds. And as always, sand the wood until super smooth before burning. 
 
WOODBURNERS: Personally, I prefer the inexpensive craft burner, the Walnut Hollow Creative Versa-Tool over the Razertip. 
 
I started out with the Walnut Hollow Creative Versa-Tool and I used the shader point for most everything. After upgrading to the more "professional" Razertip, I was disappointed. I just couldn't find a Razertip pen that could do the everything like the shading point from the versa tool burner. I had to keep switching pens and all of them put together couldn't perform as well as that one Walnut Hollow shader point. 
 
Also, the Razertip heats up so fast that I had a hard time regulating the heat... Even turned to a low setting it would make a darker spot ever time I would touch the wood with the pen. It made for a splotchy burn. 
 
I also had a very tough time making a good black background, which surprised me. It was easy to overburn and scorch the wood with the Razertip. Even when I didn't ruin the top layer, the wood just looked dull instead of the nice shiny result of the Walnut Hollow. 
 
Now, in its defense, I didn't spend a ton of time trying to adjust to the Razertip. I didn't really want to relearn how to burn when I was doing fairly well with the Walnut Hollow burner. A lot of great artists produce amazing work with the Razertip. 
 
But for me, I truly love my Walnut Hollow Creative Versa-Tool and I plan to stick with it in the future. 
 
CLEARCOATS: I use 3 coats of Polycrylic and 1 coat of Permalac for UV protection. 
 
I use brush-on Polycrylic and I ordered the Permalac direct from the manufacturer online. It's expensive, about $90 for a gallon, but I've been using it for almost 7 years and I've barely made a dent in the overall gallon. A little goes a very long ways. I got the low VOC version, but it's still super nasty. Be sure to wear a respirator.  
 
COLOR: Color can be a lot of fun! I usually use Prismacolor colored pencils or acrylic paint. Just be sure to add color AFTER you're done burning. If you burn over color you could be inhaling potentially toxic fumes. 
 

Tips for Burning Black Backgrounds:

Burning a black background is quite simple, but produces a lot of smoke and can add a few extra hours of work to a piece. The key is to be patient and take your time. (It's also a good idea to use a respirator or work in a well-ventilated area.)
 
I use the Walnut Hollow Creative Versa-Tool wood burner and the shading point. Lay the point flat on the wood move it back and forth, very slowly, in small one inch sections. Working in smaller sections helps to hold the heat in the wood and keeps the point from cooling down too fast.  
 
Go in the same direction as the wood grain if possible. Keep moving the tip back and forth until the wood gets very black then move over to a new section. 
 
Don't use too hot of a setting or you can scorch the upper layers of wood, causing irreparable damage. (I use the high temp setting on the Versa-Tool but other burners may be too hot on their highest setting. Experiment on a scrap piece of wood first to dial in the temp.) Just be patient and keep the burner moving at all times, keeping a soft touch. If you press really hard then you'll dent the wood and bend the tip.
 
The burner will cool down a lot after a few minutes of black burning and you will see some carbon buildup as well. If you set the burner to the side and wait 5 minutes, it will regain optimal temperature and most of the carbon will burn off on its own. I usually use two burners and switch back and forth between them so I always have a hot burner ready to go. 
 
Also, the type of wood plays a large factor in creating a nice black background. In my experience, it is almost impossible to get a good black on Pine. My preference is Basswood for making smooth, dark backgrounds. And as always, sand the wood until super smooth before burning.
 
 

Click here to download the Chart for Different Points

(From the Beginning Basics Volume 2 DVD)

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