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Pyrography Makes it Personal

You might have heard the saying "If you play with fire, you might get burned." For the most part,  it is probably a good idea to heed that warning. There may be at least one exception to that, when it is okay (sort of) to heat things up a little. Now, don't go thinking I am encouraging people to go around starting fires all over the place because that is certainly NOT what this post is about. What I am referring to is an arts and crafts technique known as pyrography. Simply put,  pyrography is the technique of using a heated tool called a pen with accessories(points) to write or draw on wood or leather. From some of the things I have read, fire writing has been around since fire was first discovered. In today's world, we can just plug up to electricity and burn away.

Years ago, I dabbled in pyrography to decorate dried gourds for use as birdhouses, bowls and so on.  I "played with fire" for a while, then put that aside for some time and occupied myself with some other things.

Items made of wood and leather are so very appealing to me. In my opinion, these are things that give a place a warm and cozy feel. In the case of wood, I love the smoothness of sanded wood, touching it and even the aroma of the different types of wood. It is a pleasure for the senses to me.

A while back, I began to think about trying pyrography again. I thought I would use my trusty little wood burning pen to perk up some of the things around my kitchen to get back in to practice. This is the pen that I use:
My Wood Burning Pen
I also started thinking that it would be fun to use this technique to jazz up some items for Christmas gifts, since it was getting close to the holidays. Therefore, I began to shop around for some items that would be good candidates for gifting. I found some great bamboo cutting boards. The set of three boards were in graduated sizes and I thought that would be great for keeping  up with which board would be used for cutting meats, vegetables and fruits.

It occurred to me that my dear, sweet friend could use these in her home. So, it was just a matter of figuring out what to do to make these cutting boards personal for her and her husband, who happens to be a real grill master.

If you have never tried it, I kind of thought you might be interested in how I personalized these cutting boards for a Christmas present for my friend and her husband. Please read on to see the highlights of how this project developed!

Planning and Preparing the Design: I used my print and design program to make a monogram to burn on to the boards.I am sure any word processing program or any other design or print program could be used to make a graphic design element.  For the design graphic, I used the initials of both their first names and their last initial in the middle. I made the initial for the last name (the one in the middle) a bit larger than for the first names. This is the design I decided to go with:
Monogram Used for Wood Burning on Cutting Boards
I used this design on all three boards in three different sizes, graduating the design down to look more in proportion to each size cutting board. Note: I used the "coloring book" feature when printing the designs out. I did it this way because I wanted to just transfer the outlines of the letters and then use the burning pen to fill in or "color in" each letter!

Assembling Tools and Materials for Wood Burning: After preparing and printing out the monogram designs for the project, it was time to assemble my tools and materials. The cutting boards were needed, of course.  I got out a box of carbon film paper I have had for close to thirty years. They probably don't even manufacture this stuff anymore, but it is great for transferring designs on to projects like this, so it is what I use. Also, I got out my burning pen, a fine tip, ball point pen in which the ink had dried up, a white rubber artist's eraser, a pack of sand paper which contained several grits or grades of paper and a large ceramic beverage mug. Note: The large ceramic mug works very well for holding the very hot burning pen when you have to set it down during the process of burning. The tool generally comes with some sort of little metal stand. The mug is a much more stable corral for the extremely hot burning pen. If held to wood, paper, leather, etc. for too long an actual flame could flare up from the heat of the pen. A pair of pliers is needed to detach the hot points and to tighten the point if it gets a bit loose, from time to time. Here is a photo of the things I assembled for the project. Only one of the cutting boards is pictured here with the rest of the things:
Tools and Materials for Wood Burning Projects
My wood burning pen was manufactured by a company called Walnut Hollow because it was what was available when I purchased the pen years ago. This is a link to their site. It came with this assortment of points:
Assortment of Burning Points in my Wood Burning Set
I thought you might like to see the examples of what each point can be used for when attached to the pen. This picture is a side-ways view, so I hope you will be able to tell a little about the function of each point.
Examples of How Each Wood Burning Pen Point Functions
For the wood burning pens cone point was used for the entire project when burning the monograms on to all the cutting boards. One or two of the other points would probably have worked for shading in the letters, but I felt comfortable using the cone point for this particular project.

Preparing the Project for Receiving the Design and Burning: I used a small section of fine grit sand paper to lightly sand any rough areas on the surface and edges of each cutting board. This eliminates a lot of the small ridges and bumps that might interfere with transferring the design elements and allows for a smoother burning process once the burning begins.

Transferring the Grafics to the Wood Burning Project: I forgot to take a picture of this process, so I will just tell you what I did. I positioned each printed monogram graphic on to each cutting board, making sure that the smallest graphic was used with the smallest cutting board, the mid-sized graphic for the middle sized board and the largest graphic for the largest cutting board, accordingly. I found center on each board and on each graphic because I wanted the design to be centered just below the handle area of each board. I then placed the graphic where I wanted the design to be, matching center point of cutting board to center point of graphic/monogram. I used a little piece of scotch tape at each side at the top of the design to hold the design in exact placement. Then, I gently lifted up the bottom of the design page and placed a  piece of the carbon film (with the inky side facing the cutting board) underneath the design, between the design and the cutting board. After getting the design and carbon film securely in position and using the dried up ball point pen, I began to trace over the outline of each letter of the monogram, making certain that each letter was completely traced onto the cutting board. I then removed the design paper and the carbon film paper from the cutting board and began the burning process.

When I finally realized I had not taken a picture of the transferring process I had already completed burning all three cutting boards. I went ahead and took a picture of one of the monograms while the blue carbon film ink was still visible. You can see how the carbon film transferred the letters on to the cutting board. You can see the blue lines around each of the letters.
Carbon Film Ink Visible Where Letters Were Transferred On to Cutting Board
Wood Burning Process: As stated above, I used the cone point of the wood burning pen for the entire monogram design. This is a close up picture of the pen with the cone point attached.
Wood Burning Pen with Cone Point Attached
I kept turning my project as I was burning so that I was pulling the pen point in downward strokes toward my body and not away from me. It is difficult to control the burning and to see where the pen is heading when trying to burn in the direction away from the body. It is like when writing, generally in downward strokes towards the body. This picture was taken to show how the pen was held while burning the design:
Wood Burning with Downward Strokes Toward the Body
A Word of Caution: You might have noticed how red my fingers are. Like I said before, the pen gets a might hot--even the handle at the area where the fingers grip gets hot! This is where that ceramic mug comes in really handy, because if you try pyrography, you will probably find yourself taking breaks to let your hand cool down a bit. I think there is a thermostat of sorts in the tool, but the thing gets pretty hot before it kicks in(lol). Don't let this bit scare you away from trying it. Just keep that mug handy.

Cleaning Things Up a Bit: This is where that white rubber artist's eraser came in handy. I used the white rubber eraser to erase the carbon transfer design lines. I went over the design thoroughly until all the lines were erased and any stray marks that might have inadvertently rubbed off the carbon film onto the board.
Using the White Rubber Artist's Eraser to Erase Carbon Transfer Marks from Cutting Board
A Final Sanding of the Wood Burned Design Graphic: I find the design looks a little smoother and tidier if given a final light sanding. This also helps to remove any remaining carbon transfer marks that might remain. So, as a last step in designing the project, I tore off a small piece of fine grit sand paper and went over each of the designs, once the burning was complete:
Give the Wood Burned Design a Final Go with a Piece of Fine Grit Sand Paper
The Final Product: Here it is, a pretty nice set of personalized cutting boards for a well loved friend!
The Finished Cutting Board Set, Personalized with Wood Burning Technique
I had already taped the cutting boards together with packing tape when I took the above picture and had also taped the care instructions on to the front before putting a ribbon around all for my friend. I had taken a picture of one of the boards before I bundled them up to deliver to my best friend.
One more picture of the Largest of the Personalized Wood Burned Cutting Boards:
Gift of a Personalized Wood Burned Cutting Board

If you have never tried pyrography, I hope you will give it a try. You might be surprised how much you enjoy it!


The next pictures have absolutely nothing to do with my cutting boards project but I thought the pet lovers out there might enjoy it. A couple of weeks before Christmas several of us gal friends were invited over to another gracious friend's home for a day of crafting fun. We had a great day! This sweet lady has quite a menagerie of beautiful animals, including the two adorable kittens that joined us in her fabulous craft room. Are they not just the cutest things. I was sorely tempted to steal one and bring it home with me, even though my husband and I have decided not to adopt any more animals. We love animals but want to be certain that we can give them all the attention they need and deserve. So, we are going to just love and enjoy our friends' and family's beloved pets(at least that's the plan for a while)! We'll see.what the future brings...........
Kittens Who are Destined to Become Crafters

Kittens Who are Destined to Become Crafters

Kittens Who are Destined to Become Crafters

I hope you enjoyed my little post about the process of designing with pyrography and that you might have been encouraged to give it a go!

Wishing you all the best, my lovely blogging friends!

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