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Tools, Tips, and Safety – Part 1

Safety

WorkSpace_Ckester

My Work Space

My work space is a table in my living room in front of a window. I have two small kids at home, so I do my best to make sure any smoke from the burning doesn’t stick around. I have a box fan in the window that blows outward. I also use a Gourd Master Woodburning Buddy, which you can find here. It pulls the smoke away from the project and filters it. If it is really too cold outside to have the window open, I will use just the Buddy.

WorkSpace2_Ckester

My final safety measure is my mask. I know it looks like overkill, but wood smoke is not healthy. I only have one set of lungs. My husband calls me Darth Vader when I’m wearing the mask.

Mask_CKester

Even with all of these precautions, there are some surfaces you should avoid burning. Anything with plastic is dangerous. You should also be very careful with anything that has a finish on it. Pressure treated wood and MDF (medium density fiber board) are also not good to burn on. Plywood is ok, but make sure you don’t burn deep enough to get to the glue.

The Sawdust Connection has a pretty good article about safety that you can find here. They include a list of woods that can cause allergic, toxic, infectious, or respiratory reactions.

That’s a lot to consider. So what do I burn on?

Basswood – This is probably the best in terms of smoothness of grain. I recommend this above all others for beginners.

Beech -The bowls that I burn on are, for the most part, made from beech. It’s a pretty hard wood and the grain doesn’t cause too much trouble. The light color works well for wood burning

Pine – Definitely not my favorite. It has a tendency to gum up my tips.

Maple – I like the lightness and the grain is fairly easy to work with.

Cherry – I’ve worked with this wood twice and loved the results.

Italian Poplar Plywood – I’m currently trying this one out. So far the burn is smooth.

Oak – This one can be challenging. It is a hard wood and takes longer to get the burn I want. Pyrography takes patience. Burning on oak requires even more.

Gourds – They take a burn really well, though I’ve noticed they dirty my tips faster than wood (other than pine). They take a long time to dry and clean, but you can also purchase them pre dried and washed.

Part 2 will focus on the tools you need for woodburning.

The Making of a Bowl

I often get asked how long it takes me to finish a piece. It really depends on the design and the method I am using, but pyrography is a time-consuming craft. It takes a steady hand and a lot of patience. With a normal day job and a young child, it takes longer.

Take this bowl for example

I have been working on it, when my schedule allows, since the end of last year. It is a large bowl, 15 inches. It took me probably 2 hours just to draw the inside of the bowl and 1.5 hours to draw the design on the outside of the bowl. After drawing in pencil, I go over my lines with my pyrography tool. for most lines I use a writing tip.

This goes quicker than the original drawing, but it still takes a while. All together it was probably 1-2 hours. Next, I make adjustments to the lines, making some thicker than others. Then comes the really time-consuming part. Shading. It involves burning layer by layer. To avoid burning to deep or getting an undesired darkness, I keep the temp fairly low and just build up the burn.

I have put in another 6 hours of shading and I am nearly done with all of the inside designs. I still have the knotwork on the outside to shade, so there is probably another 6-8 hours of work left to do.  But because my larger pieces are slower sales, I have to find time between working on magnets, tiles, and pendants.  Here’s my current progress –