Today I thought I’d share my pyrography studio set up. I’m very fortunate to have a spot dedicated to my hobby. Even more fortunate for me is to have a husband who does woodworking as his hobby because he can make things that make my hobby easier to do; like my easel and fan holder. The great thing is they are inexpensive and easy to make with minimal tools and supplies, so let’s talk about my studio.
Updated October 2017 to include a section of erasers and tip cleaner.
Obviously the most important items are a work surface and lighting. A work surface needs to be big enough to handle whatever size board you’re working on and a bit more. The reason you need more room is most likely you’re going to have to rotate the board around to get at the best angle for burning, so the space you need is bigger than just the size of the board.
My work surface is a drafting table that measure 31 x 42 inches (78.7 x 106.7 cm). It’s large enough to hold my artwork and a few other items I need at hand like my burner. Because this is a drafting table I can angle the table, but I don’t since I’ve got other items on the table besides my artwork. I bought this a number of years back and I couldn’t even begin to tell you what I paid for it.
I have my table near a window, so I get natural light during the day but I also have two lamps that I use. I place one on each side of the table. The one on the right is high above the table and is in a fixed position. The other lamp is a clamp on folding arm lamp that I can move around to lower the glare on my work. Glare from the light striking shiny spots on the artwork has been one surprising thing to me about pyrography. I never realized how shiny the wood gets when you burn it and if the light is right the glare can be pretty strong.
I recently added another table that I keep nearby to put the assorted items I need on regular occasion like an eraser, pencil, X-acto knife, etc. Got the table at a garage sale very cheap and it’s a little beat up, but for my purposes works wonderfully.
The reason I have my assorted items on another table is that my floor exerts a gravitational pull that increases in strength the further from the floor you get. Because of this localized phenomenon when my assorted items were on the drafting table gravity frequently pulled them off the table and sucked them to the floor. Oh sure, some might claim they got knocked off when I rotated a board around, but there are always skeptics in the world who refuse to see what’s really going on. Skeptic’s aside, by placing the items on another (and shorter) table I’ve reduced the gravitational pull sufficiently that the items stay on the table. I spend less time retrieving them and they are still within easy reach.
Now I’m going to talk about three items Todd made me that have really helped make my studio space extremely functional. The items are my easel, fan/reference holder, and the pen tip holder.
My easel is the one item besides my art table that I consider essential. I love this thing. I used to lay my work flat on the table and hunch over it, but it was so uncomfortable that I could only burn for short periods of time. Plus if I was working on a really dark area the smoke would go directly up my nose and into my eyes. Not fun. With the easel the artwork sits more upright, so I’m more comfortable, I can work a lot longer, and the smoke isn’t the problem like it was before!
NOTE – if you do not have scrap material already on hand, it would probably be cheaper to buy a premade easel. There are a number of very inexpensive tabletop easels for sale on sites like Amazon. Some have drawers, expanders for larger pieces, etc., a quick internet search for Tabletop Easel will reveal a number of options. Here’s a link to one on Amazon, but I can’t promise it will be in stock as things do fluctuate. Tabletop Easel
The easel Todd made me measures 12 x 13 inches (30.5 x 33.0 cm) at the base and has an adjustable hinged top. The cost was under thirty dollars and there was more than enough plywood and doweling to make several easels if I had wanted. Plus there’s enough room on the base (behind the front where I place my artwork) that I can place a couple pieces of scrap wood and the metal polishing cloth (cleaning cloth) for my pen tips.
I keep several pieces of scrap wood handy to raise my artwork when I’m burning along the bottom edge. Or if I’m working on thinner wood (like plywood) I’ll put the really small strips of wood behind the plywood to push the bottom edge out. This moves the bottom edges so it’s even with the retaining lip of the easel, and, again, this makes it easier for me to burn on.
As you can see my piece of scrap wood in the picture is pretty marked up. I used this to test the pen tip heat level and/or to reduce the heat if I had the tip away from the artwork as I checked my reference material.
Easel Parts List
- 3/4″ x 12″ x 26″ inch plywood (1.9 x 30.5 x 66.0 cm)
- 2 hinges
- 16” long piece of 3/8” doweling (40.6 cm long x 0.95 cm diameter)
- Elmer’s wood glue (or other wood glue) or 3 – 1 1/4″ long screws (3.2cm)
Approximate Cost $19
All items were bought at a local home improvement center.
Plywood = $15. We bought a half sheet of the cheapest plywood and it measured 3/4” x 2’ x 4’ (1.9 x 61 x 122 cm). We were able to cut it down to size, but if you do not have a saw ask the place of purchase to do it for you. Most will do so at no additional cost.
Doweling = $1. It measured 3/8” diameter by 48” long.
Hinges = $3. Todd used kitchen cabinet door style hinges, but any style of sturdy hinge will do. The hinge can even sit on the inside of the easel, so don’t feel like you have to get the exact type Todd used.
EASEL ASSEMBLY INSTRUCTIONS
Step 1 – Cut the plywood into the following three pieces: 1-1/4″ x 12″, 12” x 12″ and 12″ x 13” or 3.2 cm x 30.5 cm, 30.5 cm x 30.5 cm, and 33 cm x 30.5 cm. You can make yours wider if you prefer or taller as far as that goes.
Step 2 – Glue or screw the 1-1/4” strip onto one end of the 12” board. Keep one edge of the strip flush (even) with the backside of the 12 board. This will leave 1/2” of the board strip to protrude out from the 12″ board to form the retaining lip. If gluing, clamp it and let it set up for 2-3 hours. If screwing, I recommending drilling pilot holes first and then attaching the strip to the end of the board. Use three screws; one in the middle and one at both ends.
Step 3 – drill two peg holes 3/8” deep holes into the 13” base. Todd drilled several sets of holes so I can vary the angle of the easel. You can drill the holes deeper and it won’t hurt anything, just keep them the same depth and the parallel to the front edge of the board.
Step 4 – cut two 8” long pieces of doweling.
Step 5 – Attach the top to the base using the two hinges.
Place the dowels into the drilled holes made in step 3, ease the top onto the dowels and your easel is ready for use. If you find the angle is too steep or not steep enough, cut different sized doweling or move the dowels into a different set of holes.
FAN / REFERENCE MATERIAL HOLDER
Another item that Todd made and I love is the fan I reference material holder. This item came about after I had to move my studio to a different room in the house. The move required me to change my set up and I lost the convenient spot I had to hang reference materials. I wasn’t super thrilled about the move as the room I left was painted a bright cheerful teal color with white trim. The room I was moving into was a drab tan color, but there was a benefit in that the new room was bigger!
I was asking Todd if he had any ideas on what I could do to have a handy reference material holder. He immediately hit upon the idea of modifying a folding arm table lamp. The only challenge he had was finding one that used screws to mount the lamp to the arm bracket.
We ended up going to several stores before we found one. It had a base versus a clamp on the edge of a table style, but that worked wonderfully as I can move it around on my table as needed.
Holder Parts List
- Folding arm lamp – needs screw lamp attachment (not rivets)
- Small piece of wood 1/8 x 2 x 5 inches
- Small clip on fan (optional)
- Clamp if not using a clip on fan
Approximate Cost $41
Folding Arm Lamp = $25. It would be a lot easier to have one with a screw vs rivet mounted lamp and shade. The base of the lamp says “Asia Lighting model: WK-143-LE”
Wood = $6. Todd had a piece of scrap wood, but I googled and discovered you can buy a 1/8 x 12 x 12 inch piece of plywood at almost any craft store.
Fan = $10. Small clamp on style fan. I bought mine on ebay a few years back. It’s made out of foam, uses two AA batteries, and was advertised as a baby stroller fan. A quick google search revealed that you can readily buy them at several stores and many places online.
HOLDER ASSEMBLY INSTRUCTIONS
Step 1 – remove the lamp shade by grabbing onto the end and twisting counter clockwise.
Step 2 – remove the electrical wire. Todd cut the wire a short distance from where it went into the lampshade and then pulled the wire out from the folding arm section.
Step 3 – Remove the light socket receptacle by unscrewing the screws that attach the receptacle to the mounting bracket. Keep the screws and nuts!
Step 4 – Hold the piece of wood you’re going to use up against the arm and mark where the two holes are. Then drill two holes just a little bigger than the screw in those two places. Attached the piece of wood to the bracket using the screws and secure with the nuts. The only thing I wish was different on this is to have a bigger piece of wood, but it’s still very usable.
Step 5 – Holder is ready for use. I clip my fan to the top of the piece of wood and the fan’s clamps serve as the holder for my reference material.
PEN TIP HOLDER
My pen tip holder is very handy as it keeps all of my tips organized and very accessible. Since Todd made my holder staggered in height, I can easily see all of the tips too. Todd made my mine so it slides onto the end of my art table, but you can also made a tabletop version. Todd put a little wood peg on the end so I can hang my tip remover tool.
The red line is a strip of red rhinestones left over from a craft project one of my nieces was working on. She placed it on the holder to make it nicer looking. 🙂
Below I’ve outlined how to create a pen tip holder, but note that it is a tabletop version versus one that slides onto the edge of a table. Todd said that the one he made for me required a table saw to make and he figures most people won’t have one.
Pen Tip Holder Parts List
- 1 – 1″ x 4″ x 8′ wood board (2.5 x 10.2 x 243.8 cm)
- 1 – ¾” long piece of 3/8” doweling
Approximate Cost $4
Wood board = $4. We bought a board that was 1” x 4” x 8’ and it provided a LOT of wood for this little project. If they sold them in shorter lengths that would have been great, but Todd always has a use for scrap lumber.
Doweling = Free. I used the leftover doweling from the easel project, so I didn’t have an additional cost for a peg to hang my tip puller on.
PEN TIP HOLDER ASSEMBLY INSTRUCTIONS
Step 1 – Cut three 7″ long (17.8 cm) lengths of board. You can make them longer or shorter if so desired.
Step 2 – Glue all three boards together which will give you a block of wood, 3″ x 4″ x 7″ (or whatever length you chose.
Step 3 – Turn the pieces on edge and mark holes along a long edge about 1/4” (0.6 cm) apart from each other and centered on the board. Drill the holes 1” deep (2.5 cm). The holes need to be large enough to accommodate your pen tips – for my tips (I use Colwood) this means the holes are 3/8” wide (0.95 cm).
Step 4 – If you want to have the pen tip extractor attached, then drill a ¼” deep hole that is 3/8” in diameter at a suitable location for you work space setup. Dribble a little glue into the hole and insert the piece of doweling. Let the glue set up for an hour or two before using.
The holder is now ready for use. The holder is going to sit on the tabletop and it’s not staggered, but it’s still very functional. Todd said that a table saw is is needed to create the slide on version.
STAGGERED TOP – – – Alternately, if cost isn’t an issue, you could buy one each: 1 x 2, 1 x 3, and 1 x 4. Cut a length, say 7″ off of each board glue them together to get your staggered height that way. It’ll cost you more and you’ll have a lot of extra wood left over as these typically come in eight foot lengths.
Pen Tip Cleaner. It’s important to have a pen tip cleaner on hand. To use rub the pen tip over the surface until the black carbon is removed.
This particular cloth is called a Final Polish cloth for metal and is made by Gator
My Assorted Erasers. This photo shows the assorted erasers I frequently use in pyrography. I will discuss them going from left to right.
Kneadable Eraser. I don’t use often, but it is handy when I need to erase pencil marks in a small area.
White artist eraser. I use the most often. I prefer the white to pink eraser as they don’t color the wood (or paper).
Ink eraser. The abrasive grey side I use to reduce the color of a burn. It’s kind of like have a piece of sandpaper. NEVER use on plywood. It will abrade the surface and turn it grey.
Sanding Pen. This is actually intended to removing rust from automotive parts. I find it works fairly well at removing some color from the wood. Use caution on soft woods as it will quickly gouge the wood.
X-acto knife. When used properly, the sharp edge of an X-acto knife can fix all kinds of minor mistakes. Gently scrape the spot till gone. Use extreme caution on soft woods as it can quickly gouge the wood.
I hope this blog provided you with some useful ideas to help optimize your own studio set up. Please share any ideas or items that you’ve found to be helpful with your studio set up as I’d love to hear about them.
Until the next one
Originally posted: Oct 16, 2016
Updated: Oct 2017
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