The Heart Box Pyrography Art wood burning

scrolling heart wood burning pyrography bmj

I work at a grain elevator and every year the union organizes an auction for charity.  Normally I donate baked goods, but this year I decided to donate pyrography artwork.  I had a little wooden box I bought at the craft store and decided I would decorate it,  line it with velvet, and hope it would make a nice jewelry / trinket box.

Material used:  Store bought craft box (birch top, pine sides)

Size:  8 x 8 x 2

Time: 15 1/2 hours


I found a pattern than I liked that symbolizes love and transferred it onto the wood.  This project was a lot of fun to burn as I was free to do as I pleased.   Each shape could have its own unique shading/tone pattern, but I will admit that I didn’t realize how

many little shapes there where until I started burning it. 





Pattern Outlined

The only area I had to leave blank was the center as I was going to personalize it based on the auction winner’s preference.









Like always, I planned out my areas of my lightest and darkest tone values.  I knew I wanted the central heart to be the lightest spot making it the focal point, so everything else had to be darker.   The elaborate scrolling pattern around the heart would be showcased by having darkest tone framing it.


Pattern with Shadow emphasis

This photo shows how I burned a dark shadow or border around the outside edges of the pattern to accomplish to provide some high contrast.  I liked how this look, but wasn’t sure if it would be enough, so I started burning in the scrolling pattern.  







My progress on this is shown in the photos below.

Progression photo
more progression











It was getting very obvious to me that the pale background was going to steal the thunder from the center heart.  I had thought to stain the background, but my husband said that staining the wood would be very chancy.  He said that nothing would guarantee the stain wouldn’t bleed into the burned areas and I didn’t have enough time to start over if that problem happened.   The only option was to burn in the background.


dark background

The dark wood patterned background I created was done on accident.  I had turned up the heat pretty high on my pen and started burning long lines.   I burned from left to right and when I finished a line I picked up the pen, returned to the starting point to begin a new line.  Well during one of those return trips to the left, the tip had built up excessive heat, so when I started the new line it charred.  I kept burning line and the charring eventually diminished leaving a charred black line that faded to a dark line.  I was using the flat of the shader, so each line was very thick (probably around 1/8”) and the charring really stood out.




Since I figured I could sand out the charring and make it uniform once I was done, I didn’t worry about it.   After getting a quarter of the background done I decided that I liked the how it looked, so I started deliberately putting randomly charred lines into the background.  I would also speeding up my hand movement so the line was lighter creating more contrast against the charred lines.  It resulted in a nice old wood pattern that was visually interesting and gave the heart the center of focus.





At this point I thought it looked great and was ready to move onto lining the box, but Todd thought that the sides of the box should be dark too.  The sides were made out of pine, so when the hot pen tip hit the pine the resin would bubble up creating sticky spots on the wood.   YUCK!!  If that wasn’t bad enough, the resin would coat the pen tip making it drag which meant more charring than I wanted.   Once I started I was committed as it would look really stupid having the sides only partially darkened.   To keep the burn tip clean I wiped it often on a piece of really fine emery cloth (metal polishing cloth).  Any sort of thick heavy rough cloth like denim or canvas will do the same thing.  You can even use a piece of scrap paper, but it doesn’t clean as well a rough material will.   After I was done burning the sides, I took my X-acto knife and scraped the resin off as best as I could.   Todd figured that once we sealed the box it would remove any last stickiness and I’m happy to report that it did.


The last spot I had to tackle was lining the box with velvet.   I had two small vials of flocking that were different colors and for once I tested out an idea before acting on it.   I discovered that while flocking is really easy to use, the small vials I had didn’t even begin to coat the bottom of the box.   I would have to get a lot more flocking to get my project done.  A trip to my local craft store was fruitless as they didn’t carry flocking and a quick online search revealed that flocking is not cheap.   I was running out of time! I had to get my piece done in time for the auction, so I had to decide to either paint the box or line it with fabric.  I went with fabric because I thought that would look classier.

A quick trip to the fabric store yielded a beautiful red velveteen fabric (mock velvet) that cost me a mere $2.00 and provided enough material to line at least 2 boxes.   A permanent acid-free glue stick, the same type used for scrapbooking, was used to adhere the fabric to the inside of the box.  I was reluctant to use liquid glue because it can easily soak through the fabric ruining it.

I did test run on scrap wood and it worked wonderfully.   I ran the glue stick over the wood several times, placed the fabric on the glued spot, smoothed it out,  let it bond for 15 minutes, and then tried to remove the fabric from the wood.  While I could remove the fabric, it was difficult and pieces stuck to the wood, so I decided my experiment was a success and could be done on my project.

Creating a template out of card stock, I used that to mark the pieces I needed on the back side of the fabric.  I used a fabric marker (disappearing ink) to accomplish this, but you could also use a magic marker that is a couple of shades darker than the color of the fabric.   After I drew the needed pieces on the fabric I cut them out and had ready to use pieces for my trinket box.  If you have one of those fabric cutting wheels, you could easily just cut around the template.  I might invest in one if I ever do this type of project again.

Working one section at a time I coated the area with the glue using a wooden craft stick to smear it in the corners where the glue stick couldn’t get to.  Then it was an easy matter of placing a piece of cut fabric over the area.  I found it was best to work from the top down applying and pressing the fabric onto wood.  The velvet lining turned out very well for a first attempt, and I was rather impressed with my results.

If I were to do it again I’d color the seams of the box first.    I wasn’t perfect in lining the box, so there were a couple of spots where you could see the wood between the joint seems (corners) of fabric.   Hiding this was easy as I used a fine tip red sharpie and colored it in, but next time I’d color it in first as I doubt my lining will ever be perfect.   I would probably use sharpies again or watercolors since I’m not sure how well the glue would stick to acrylic based paints.

Another important thing I discovered is that when I decided to burn the inside edges of box the pen tip easily burns the fabric!   It stinks and melts the fabric, so I had to snip the little burned spots off.   Lesson learned and next time I will burn the edges before doing the lining.

In conclusion, I had a lot of fun working on this piece even though I felt a bit rushed to get it done in time.    It challenged my abilities to work small and not scorch or tone the areas nearby the spot I was working on.  I got experience burning on two more different types of wood; birch and pine.   Best of all, the box was a success.  It generated a couple hundred dollars in the auction and I considered that absolutely amazing since it only cost me around ten dollars in materials (box and fabric).  I had so much fun doing this piece it sure didn’t feel like work.

What I learned:  

  1. Burning on birch is nice, but pine sucks.
  2. High heat on pine brings out the resin making sticky spots. YUCK
  3. Lining a box with velvet was a little challenging, but a lot cheaper than flocking.
  4. Color the corners before lining the box
  5. Burn the edges before lining the box
  6. Creating the dark wood tone was easy and looks really good.
  7. It’s fun burning a project where I didn’t have to worry about making sure it looked realistic like I do with animal subjects.


Nov 1, 2015

6 thoughts on “The Heart Box Pyrography Art wood burning

  1. Looks fantastic!! Such a great job. I was keen to give this a go. Do you have the pattern you used handy?

    1. Hi Chris,
      thank you. Sorry, I do not have a pattern for this one. You could probably take the photo where I’ve burned in the trace lines and use that for a pattern as it isn’t much more than a line drawing at that point.
      Thank you again for the interest.

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