September 21, 2021

How to Use a Wood Burning Pen

Anyone who has used wood-burning pens can confirm that the act of putting the end of the pen into the end of the wood is essential. The problem with wood-burning pens is that not everyone knows how to control the end of the pen before it touches the end of the wood. 

This guide will explain how to use a pyrography pen.

What is a woodburning pen?

pyrography pen

A wood-burning pen is a pen-like device with a metal end for burning wood—the heat transfers from the heating element to the removable tip. The product has models that have temperature variance. 

A single kit comes with four to seven different tips for various applications: including straight lines, rounded, and shading. The wood-burning pen comes with a metal safety stand so that the pen will not sit on a table or workbench. Familiarise yourself with the tool before you start burning wood. 

Use a scrap of wood to test your tool—plugin the pen, allowing heat for five minutes. Run a test on the drawing on the wood. Before you change tips, the tip should cool for 5 minutes. Be slow and steady for precision. 

Familiarise yourself with multiple tips to master the wood-burning game. A rounded tip is on the left and the shading tip on the right. Wiping the end of the pen tip each time you use it prevents the accumulation of carbon. 

When you have a lot of smoke, the pen is too hot. Turn down the heat and take note if there is a change. Safety precautions have to be followed. The tip gets extra hot, and you should stay away. Be aware of where the hot metal end is whenever the tool is plugged in. 

The tip should not touch any other item, and use a metal stand where the pen tip rests. Use pliers when changing pen tips. The pliers should be wrapped in electrical tape since the tips stay hot for a long time.

Materials you need for wood burning

  • Wood
  • Wood burning pen
  • Sandpaper
  • Masking tape
  • Graphite paper
  • Eraser
  • Ruler
  • Mineral or olive oil (finisher).

Safety tips

  • Read all the instructions that came with your tool. They give you safety precautions to follow. 
  • Make sure that your tool is unplugged and cooled.
  • Keep the hot tip on the metal stand when not in use.
  • Place the tip gently onto the surface of the wood to start burning in your design. Avoid excess pressure so that your item does not get damaged.  
  • When done sketching in a line, lift the wood-burning tool off the wood to avoid burning. 
  • If you want to change nibs, ensure that the wood burner is unplugged and cooled down before touching the tip.
  • Clean the wood burner nib lightly with sandpaper while wearing gloves. 

Steps to using a wood-burning pen

Choose a design of your choice that you would like to see on your wood item. There is a wide range of options on the Internet. Know your level of skill so that you get to pick designs that suit your experience. When you are sure that you are past being a beginner, move into more advanced standing techniques. 

When you have a design, find out the size you want to use on your item. The design size has to fit the piece of wood available. Some designs look better on a small or large piece of wood. In that case, you should have what you want in mind. 

Choose and prepare the wood for the project. Bear in mind the maximum temperature each would tolerate. Softwoods burn at low temp and hardwood at high temperature. Sand your wood as you prepare it for burning. Choose the way your grain has to go. Burning across the grain makes the process easy. Using pre-fab items makes the process easy as well. 

Affix your design to the wood. Tape your cut-out design to the carbon oxide and then to the wood. A wood design is an outline meant to fit your wood. Trace your design onto the wood using a pen. After tracing, you may start burning the traced outline. 

Follow the carbon line you traced onto the wood using the pen. As you follow the line, follow the grain. 

Finish shading and complete the project. Use the shading tip to fill the spots. As much as you stick to your design, you are allowed to go creative. Stain the piece if you want to have a sheen look.

Using the shading tip, carefully fill in the spots that need it, according to your design or creative brain. You can also stain the piece to give a sheen and finished look.

The main components of a wood-burning pen

Tip

The tip has contact with the wood. There are different types of pen tips depending on the type of wood you are working on. The pen tip requires proper maintenance and repair when it wears or tears down. 

Heating element

The heating element transfers power from the power source to the tip. It controls the amount of heat produced. It works with the regulator or temperature controls by preventing making more or less heat than needed.

Types of wood-burning pen

Get a pen that you know how to operate and execute to its full potential. There are two types of pens, and these are the solid-point burners and wire-nib burners. Knowing the types of pens and their differences helps you in choosing the best pen. 

When choosing a wood-burning pen, consider what you want to use it for. Find out what you can do with the pen and what you cannot. What you will be doing more often with the tool determines the features you will be looking for. 

The solid-point burner is ideal for beginners, and the wire-nib pen is for advanced users who have invested more in wood burning for a long time. That is an upgrade to a more industrial burning tool that requires skill and experience. 

The solid-point burner is a pen that requires a screw-in tip. However, some new models do not feature a non-screw tip, and they are kept in place by a sleeve and a nut. Extra tips differ in thread type, and you should be observant when buying one. 

The tips are screwed tightly using your hand and finish off using a pair of pliers. Solid-point burners create heat by heating an element that is inside the pen. The heat is transferred to the tip and starts operating at a fixed temperature. 

The wire-nib burner holds wire tips made from Nichrome wire of different gauges. Insert the pen wires into collets or hold them in place using screws that tighten unto them. They create heat on the nibs by electric current going through them.  

The differences in the two main types of wood-burning pens

The Solid-Point is more popular and affordable than the wire-nib pen. You can easily give it to someone as a gift. It looks like a soldering iron and comes with soldering tips. 

The solid-point pen is bulkier than wire-nibs because the heating machine is into the pen. That makes it difficult to hold. The wire-nib pen has machinery attached. The solid-point burner comes with a pen, a cord, and sometimes a temperature gauge attached to the power cord. That makes it compact. 

A woodburning pen with temperature controls is easy to work with. A darker burn comes with burning slowly, and a light burn attracts burning quickly. Heat control allows you to keep a comfortable speed. 

Some pens have two heat settings on a switch, and some have several heat settings. However, there are some pens with a dial on the cord. Your elbow keeps rubbing it, and that compromises production. 

A temperature regulator gives you control over the pen. A solid-point burner has tips that go in like a screw. Do not screw tight the pen tip since it bends when hot. It takes time to heat up. The pen has a  limited number of solid-point tip styles, whereas the wire-nib tools have multiple tips. 

It is easier to get the specific style you want with a wire-nib instead of a solid-point burner.

The solid-point pen could be the best option if you are new and not sure you even like wood-burning yet, if your budget falls under 50, if you have the patience for the slow heat up, cool down, and overall burn time. In short, if you are a beginner on a tight budget.

David D. Hughes
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