I don’t know about you, but I’m not always in the mood for a big project. So, how about a small project that adds a little something to an existing item? A turning, an unfinished cabinet, or tray are perfect for this technique.
In this article I will take you through a simple step-by-step process that enhances the beauty of any wooden item.
I work with a wood turner to decorate his work in this manner, by burning in the corresponding leaf of the source tree.
Here is my process…
The pen I use for this entire burning is a Bent Wire Skew or Burnisher. This pen consists of a bent wire that is not filed or ground. This smooth rounded surface helps it to glide on the wood and render smooth straight lines, gentle curves, and shading with ease. This pen is the LRW by Colwood and was designed for me. You can buy it at http://www.thewoodcraftshop.com.
With a medium heat setting outline your leaf and stem, staying away from burning any veins.
Next turn your heat way, way, way down. The heat should be so low that when you touch pen to wood all that happens is a dent (no color). This is exactly what you want.
You will now engrave the veins on your leaf. You may wish to use a bit of pressure to do this step. Make sure you are not applying any color. The indentations will help preserve the white areas giving a reverse-out effect.
In order to fill in the texture and value of the leaf, use a quick scribble stroke with the tip of the pen. Turn your heat up and try this on a practice board until you get the effect you are looking for. You need to move quickly to get a smooth look.
Begin using a scribble stroke to fill in the first layer of the leaf. Try to avoid the engraved veins. This leaf will be built up with three layers to give it richness and depth.
In layer two you will build up more value adding dimension and texture. Continue using the scribble stroke but only in the sections shown by your reference.
Use your color photocopies as reference and notice the shading and coloring.
Underline the veins lightly to give the impression of a raised surface if desired. I feel this enhances the three dimensional look, but it may depend on your particular leaf.
Continue working around the leaf shading in any folds or ripples.
Once you have finished your second layer it is time to add the finishing touches. At this time you want to burn in your darkest darks. I will usually use these darks along the center vein as shown.
Make sure you pull out the darks so they blend in with the rest of the leaf. You do this by dragging the pen out from the darkest area and gradually increasing speed. When the speed increases your burn gets lighter. You want to increase speed gradually otherwise you will only get a dark blob and then nothing at all. Give the heat time to do its job.
Continue working on your leaf until you are satisfied with the final image and feel you have achieved good balance
Adding a bit of woodburning to your wood projects is a great way to accentuate the custom look of handmade objects. Even store bought unfinished wood can make a great surface.
So get outside for a nice walk through the woods and keep your eyes open to whichever “gifts” the trees offer you. They may just be handing you your next masterpiece!
Interested in diving deeper into pyrography? Be sure to sign up for my FREE Burning Basics Video series to get more information on burning techniques, projects, and more!