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Wood burning is one of those rare hobbies that's cheap, easy to get into and you can start making awesome things in just a few days. How easy you ask? I have the artistic skills of a dead horse and yet I was able to make this on my first day.
When you're just starting out, it doesn't make sense to spend a lot on the iron. Just buy the cheapest one, it's good enough for now. In fact, if you already own a soldering iron, then you don't even have to buy the extra one for wood burning.
Just don't use your best soldering tip and you're good to go.
You'll obviously need some wood. If you want to use normal wood, then you'll have to sand it first. Otherwise, the surface will be too rough and you'll have a really hard time trying to make decent shapes.
The best thing you can do is buy a piece of plywood and then cut it up into smaller sections. Plywood is really smooth with a nice texture and is ideal for wood burning. Best of all, no sanding required.
You'll also need a piece of sanding paper, something around 300 to 400 grit. As the wood burns away, soot begins to collect on the tip. This can leave marks and will reduce the heating effect, so it's a good idea to quickly wipe the tip every so often.
Finally, don't forget about your health. Inhaling smoke is never a good thing, so make sure you have some sort of ventilation. For example, I'm using my 3D printed solder fume extractor.
That's actually all you need to get started, so let's go!
It's easier when your hand stays in the same position and you move the work piece instead.
You should spend the first few minutes getting familiar with your new tool. Try making straight lines, circles, bold lines, a bit of shading. See what happens if you press down harder. In short, play around until you get the feel for it.
By now you might be wondering what's next? Unless you're one of the lucky few who can actually draw, you'll have to use some sort of a stencil.
You'll find plenty of different methods online, but they're either messy, don't work well or you have to fiddle around with chemicals.
By far the best and easiest method is to use an inkjet printer. If you use empty sheet of sticker paper, you can print directly on it. The surface is smooth and plastic-like, so anything you print doesn't get absorbed by it. This is perfect for transferring the image.
Carefully put the paper in place, hold it down and then use some sort of edge to transfer the image.
A quick clean-up and you can use the same paper over and over again. As a side note, if you have a 3D printer, you can make any kind of stencils you want.
Ok, now comes the easy part - tracing the image. Start with the edges first and then fill it in later. Try to be as consistent with your speed and pressure as you can.
Once the outline is done, you can move on to filling it in. I've found that making small circles instead of lines gives you better results. You have more control over how much it burns and the surface should end up looking smoother.
If you want to get really straight lines, use a metal ruler.
Once you get some practice, you're ready to move on to shading. You should use a wide tip for shading. Just keep practicing and it'll look better every time you do it. Shading is tricky because it's easy to overdo it. Just a split second too long and it won't look good.
Before we move on to the last step, don't forget that you can combine your work with paint as well.
If you've already familiar with calligraphy, you can use the same skills with wood burning as well. The only difference is that instead of pushing down on the pen, you simply slow down, which will increase the width of the line.
If you haven't done calligraphy before, why not give it a try? I've made a separate video on how you can get started, so be sure to check it out.
When you're done, it's a good idea to apply some kind of protection. Going with the easy theme, there's nothing easier than using spray lacquer.
And there you go, we're all done. I hope I've convinced you by now to give it a try. It's cheap and easy and I can't wait to see what you'll make.
Amazon affiliate links (US and Germany only)
If you wish to buy any of the items mentioned here, you can use my Amazon affiliate links below. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.