Tips and Techniques


Burning, Dyeing, Safety and Resources ~ Sharon Doughtie


Burning Demo Handout ~ 2011 Honolulu Symposium

1. There are two kinds of burning: branding and drawing. With branding you are doing some sort of pattern that is charred into the wood; drawing is incising some sort of line design on the wood, such as a picture or a graphic.
2. Site to make your own burning pen: www.fishcarver.com Click on 'Woodburners' and scroll down. The link to the plans is just below the pyrography units: 'Build Your Own Burning Pens Here.' Woodcarver's Supply sells a Burnmaster pen that takes Nichrome 80 wire: http://www.woodcarverssupply.com
3. Use Nichrome 80 wire to make tips. Fishcarver sells it and some ebay sellers. If you do a Google search for 'Nichrome 80 wire', you should find some sellers in your area. The wire gauges I use are 16, 18, 20 and 23. Number 20 tends to be my favorite.
4. Be safe when burning. Smoke is smoke and it’s bad for you. Set something up to either blow or vent the smoke away. Protect your eyes and lungs. Be careful ~ unattended burning units can start fires.
5. The commercial tips I use:
            Colwood: Long MR and the microtip rounded heel
            Detail Master: 10A and 11A (this is the one I use the most).
  When using commercial pens, once you know your preferences, use fixed tips. Commercial pens with reaplaceable tips emit too much heat for me.
  All pens will get really hot with use, so get a couple and rotate them as you’re working.
  Anneal all tips before using them. (Annealing is heat the tip to red hot, then allow it to cool naturally.)
6. Homemade burning tips.
  The easiest one is a piece of wire bent into a U-shape. To make it, bend the wire in half and use some pliers to bring the legs close together. Put a small bit of paper or cardstock between the legs because they shouldn’t touch (the tip will short if they do). The tip can be used for stippling (repeated dots), scumbling (scribbling) and random patterns.
  It’s best not to use the 16 gauge (thick) wire for this because, with use, a small nubbin appears in the wire pretty quickly and transfers to the pattern on the piece and looks like a flaw.
  The second tip is also a bent wire, around a shape. Make a half circle or a half diamond. I use a a length of round metal stock as a jig to bend the wire so I can get a consistent size every time. It’s easier to make half shapes (half diamonds and circles) and carefully connect them when burning on the piece. They can also be used to make zigzag or fish scale designs.
  You can also drill a hole through copper pipe, thread the wire through it, then wrap the tubing; but you’ll need a lot of juice to get a good burn.
  Once you’ve bent the wire around something, you can use it as is or pound it flat to make a wide frame, or you can sharpen the edges to thin them out. (If you’re going to sharpen the edges, it would be best to do that first and then bend the wire around the allen key.)
  To make a spear point, like the commercial pen I draw with, bend a piece wire into a tight u-shape, then hammer it flat; use a sander (with about 220 grit) to sharpen and shape the edge. Be careful to only sharpen with the sandpaper. It you take off too much wire, you’ll weaken the tip and it will break easily.
7. Burning tips need to have the ash wiped from them frequently or they won’t burn well. Keep a wire bush handy so you can clean them as you go. Homemade pens get a carbon buildup in the tubes so those need to be reamed out now and them. I use a drill bit. It’s good to sharpen the knife edges every now and then. I use a diamond hone.
8. Use a dry toothbrush to scrub off the embedded ash when you are finished burning the piece. You can also use a radial bristle sander to sand off overburn.
       Nichrome 80 Wire: Pelican Wire www.ec-securehost.com/PelicanWireCo.Inc.
          Main gauges I use: 16, 18, 20, 23. I use 20 the most.
       Nichrome 80 Wire: Pelican Wire www.ec-securehost.com/PelicanWireCo.Inc.
          Main gauges I use: 16, 18, 20, 23. I use 20 the most.
       Magnets: Forcefield Magnets www.forcefieldmagnets.com/catalog
          1/8” magnets for boxes
       Celtic Knotwork:
            Instructional video on you tube: www.youtube.com/watch?v=_O_0yegDdIw
       Books written by Cheryl Samuel. www.ravenstail.com/Celtic/celtic_workbook_series.htm
       Fiebing’s Leather Dye:                      
            We are unable to ship this in so we buy ours from a local feed store.
            If you’re going to do a lot of dyeing, best to buy in bulk. We buy gallon bottles.

Resources Handout ~ 2011 Honolulu Symposium

  Turning Tools:
    Thompson Lathe Tools www.thompsonlathetools.com
    (A11 steel ~ they hold an edge, the best tools!)
  Carving Tools:
    MDI Woodcarvers www.mdiwoodcarvers.com
    (stump cutters)
    Woodcarvers Supply www.woodcarverssupply.com/store
    (diamond files, stealth handpiece)
    Smokey Mountains Woodcarvers www.woodcarvers.com
    (Ruby burrs, handpieces)
    Creative Technologies http://www.rotarychisel.com
    (triangular cutters)
    Treeline www.treelineusa.com
    (all kinds of burrs, cases, duragrit cutter)
    Duragrit Cutters http://duragrit.com/#toolsets
    (Carbide Cutting/Shaping Wheel, Carbide Mushroom Shaping Wheel, Carbide Hollow Tip)
    Old Texas Woodcarvers www.texaswoodcarvers.com              
    (1540106 - Rotary Handpiece)
  Pyrography Units:
    Woodcarver's Supply www.woodcarverssupply.com
    (Burnmaster Eagle, make a tip pen)
    Detail Master Woodburners www.detailmasteronline.com
    Colwood is a close second www.woodburning.com
    Optima burners www.turtlefeathers.net
    (These units have juice and their pens are good)
    I have not had a chance to try all the units out there; these are the ones I’ve tried and like.
  Burning Pens: (Changeable tips get too hot; I always buy fixed tips.)
    Make your own burning pen http://www.fishcarver.com/images/burning%20instructions.PDF
Fishcarver also has instructional videos on making burning tips, etc. They have nichrome wire for sale as well.
    These are the main commercial tips I use:
                   Name: Fixed Tip-MR (3/32 inch) Round Heel  Product ID: 0014R
                   Name: Fixed Tip-PS (1/8 inch x 1 3/8 inch) Primary Short   Product ID: 0012
              Detail Master:
                   11-A Vented Handpiece w/Tip (This is the main one for drawing on work)
                   10-A Vented Handpiece w/Tip
  Nichrome 80 Wire:
    Pelican Wire www.ec-securehost.com/PelicanWireCo.Inc.
    Main gauges I use: 16, 20, 23. I use 20 the most.
    Forcefield Magnets www.forcefieldmagnets.com
    1/8" x 1/16" magnets for boxes
    Craft Supplies www.woodturnerscatalog.com
    The Sanding Glove thesandingglove.com
    (3m radial bristle discs, etc.)
    Old Texas Woodcarvers www.texaswoodcarvers.com
    (Soft Drum Sanders, Klingspor cloth backed paper, radial bristle discs)
  Dust Masks:
    Dust Bee Gone www.dustbeegone.com/dustmask.html
  Celtic Knotwork:
    Instructional video on you tube: www.youtube.com/watch?v=_O_0yegDdIw
    Books written by Cheryl Samuel. This is how I learned www.ravenstail.com/Celtic/
    Fiebing’s Leather Dye
    (We have the local feed store bring it in; it can’t be air shipped.
    Fiebing’s is the best: no wax and lots of pigment.)
    Golden paints www.goldenpaints.com/
    (There is a store locator on the website)
    Milk paint www.milkpaint.com/
    Woodworkers Supply of New Mexico http://woodworker.com/
    (Japan Spirits)

Lathe Safety Handout ~ 2011 Honolulu Symposium

1. Always make sure you’re in a frame of mind to turn before starting. If you’re angry, exhausted, etc., this is not the time to be turning. Wear appropriate clothes; no loose clothing or hanging jewelry. Make sure hair is tied back.
2. Always wear eye protection. A face shield is best, especially with large, multi-center, etc. pieces. But do not turn without protecting your eyes. Things can happen in a flash.
3. Protect your hearing. When doing noisy things, such as sanding, wear earplugs. You can still hear through them. Prolonged and unprotected exposure to shop noise will damage hearing.
4. Use a morse taper cleaner to clean out the headstock. Also wipe around the head bolt to get any loose dust off it. Starting with clean surfaces makes things run truer.
5. Clean the tailstock with a morse taper also. Seat the live center firmly into the tailstock. Make sure the tailstock is firmly attached to the lathe bed (by lever or bolt, etc.) then use the hand wheel to tighten the tailstock. Make sure the wood is firmly held between centers.
6. Always rotate the wood to see that it clears the tool rest and check the lathe speed before starting. The lathe should be started at a slow speed and you can slowly increase the speed to the proper rotation for the size and shape of the piece that is being turned.
7. Always turn the speed down when you’re finished turning. Don’t leave a lathe set on high speed.
8. Always tighten chucks well. When you’re first working on a piece, turn the lathe off now and then to see if you need to retighten the chuck. Never leave a tommy bar in a chuck. Make sure loose things that can fly off a lathe (if someone starts it) are stored before leaving the woodshop.
9. Use a dusk mask or air stream helmet all the time – or at least when sanding. Dust causes great harm to the lungs over the long term. Protect your health.
10. It’s a good practice to turn the lathe off when adjusting the tool rest, etc. Also, do not touch spinning wood. A hand could get caught between the piece and the toolrest.
11. Take care of your body. Turning can be hard on the back. It’s good to do something to strengthen the stomach so it can better support the back. Swimming, yoga, pilates, etc. are good for this. Also, it’s good to try and get some cardio exercise in to clear the lungs. No matter how careful one is, some dust will still enter the lungs. It’s good to give them a workout. If there is a weak area that aches, such as the wrists, find out what area can be strengthened to give more support. In the case of wrists, building up the forearms with weights is a good solution. If you keep your body strong, it will let you turn for many years.

Leather Dyeing Techniques:

Put a thin coat, or two, of shellac or sanding sealer over the piece before you start. This will close the pores so the dye won’t seep and you can wipe random splotches up.

Have a small can of denatured alcohol and some Q-Tips nearby to wipe up mistakes.

When covering a large area that has un-dyed areas next to it, use a medium length bristle paint brush with soft bristles. Hard bristles cause spatters to go everywhere. If there are deeply branded areas, dab gently rather than wipe, also to avoid spatters.

Mag Eyes magnifiers are helpful for getting clean dye lines. Make sure to have VERY good light.

You can do one or two coats. If doing two coats you can seal the first with Krylon Fixitif.

Spray the piece with Krylon UV Inhibitor; then Krylon Matte, or Satin, finish after the final coat has dried.

After the final coat has dried, we usually use a liquid wax to bring up a bit of sheen. If you haven’t used Krylon, the dye will smear all over the place (voice of experience).

Don’t turn the piece too thin if you’re not dying both sides equally. The dye will seep through, even if you’ve used some kind of finish.

Wear gloves. This dye is a carcinogen. Wear eye protection.

If you have a non-branded area, you can use patinating wax to bring a soft sheen to the surface. Don’t use the patinating wax in rough areas. It will just fill the voids and make the piece look mushy.




Revised November 2, 2011