Trout Lake Cribbage Board Pyrography Art wood burning

Every year the guys at work have an auction to generate money for a local food bank.  The items in the auction range from guided fishing trips, car detailing, baskets filled with baked goods, and many assorted hand crafted items.  I’m always amazed at how talented many of my co-workers are.  There’s a metal smith, leather crafter, crocheter, glass blower, lapidarists, and even a lady who creates sculpture centerpieces from horse shoes.  Needless to say the yearly auction has a large variety of items in it every year.  Last year Todd & I decided to create a cribbage board for the auction.  Given the number of fishermen at work we knew it had to be themed around fish.  This blog is going to talk about the creation of the Trout Lake Cribbage board pyrography art that we created and a new way to use the zigzag stroke.

You can watch a timelapse YouTube video of this artwork being created.  Just click on the image to the right.  



Todd makes the cribbage boards out of maple and it takes him 30-45 minutes to drill all of the pegging holes using a template he made.  Afterwards he sands the board to an ultra-smooth finish for me to burn on.


Number Stencil



First I draw in all of the pegging (scoring) numbers on it using a tiny airbrush stencil.   I found the stencil on E-bay and it cost just a couple of dollars. Each letter is around 1/4 inch (0.64 cm) tall, so they are small and perfect for the cribbage board.





burning the numbers with a writing tip


Each number is burned in with the using Colwood’s Micro-writer tip.







Colwood micro-writer tip








separation lines burned in with a knife tip

After I burn in the numbers I burn over the line I drew on either side of the number with a knife tip.  This is another Colwood tip and they call it a rounded heel tip.    






I like knife tip better, so that’s what I tend to call it.

Colwood rounded heel (knife tip)









Numbers on the cribbage board

Here’s a close up of the board after I’ve burned in the numbers and separation lines.   I have a confession to make; I dislike burning in the numbers.  They are tedious and the numbers never turn out perfectly.  I tend to obsess over little details, so every number of the same type should look exactly alike.  Or put another way every single 5 should look identical, but they don’t and I hate it.   I’ve discovered that if I try to fix a number it ends up looking worse, so it’s a situation of burn it once and move on.  It takes me around 30-40 minutes to get all of the numbers and lines burned in. 



Trout Lake sketched onto the board

After the pegging numbers are burned in then I will start on the artwork.  The cribbage boards don’t have a lot of surplus room, so the space I get is generally around 3 x 4 inches (7.6 x 10.2 cm) or less.   This photo shows the lake scene sketched in and, as you can see, there isn’t a lot of detail there.






Burning in the sketch lines

I tend to burn in the pencil lines.  I’ve read some comments on other sites about whether or not you should burn in the trace lines.  Truthfully I don’t think there is a wrong or right to it.  For me I find it to be a helpful process, but others may consider it a waste of time.   You have to decide what works best for you.





Starting to contour the trout


With the trace lines burned in and residual graphite erased I’m starting to define the trout.  You might notice that the mountains in the background are still in pencil form.   I wasn’t sure that I liked what I had drawn in, so I left them in pencil form.




Trout roughed in


Here the trout is basically colored in, but doesn’t have the fine details yet.








creating the trees with zigzag lines

Now that I’ve got the trout roughed in, I’m starting on the background.  In this photo I’m working on one of the trees.   It was during this process that I discovered another way to use the zigzag stroke.

In my blog about how to use the shading pen tip, I mention there that I use the zigzag stroke to create fur texture.  Well, it’s also great for distant trees.   Later on in this blog I will go into more detail and try to demonstrate how I’m creating them.     Here is a link the to shading pen tip tutorial:  How to Use the Shader.




Trout Lake progress photo


Here’s a progress photo of the scene so far.







starting on the mountain


In this photo I’m starting on the mountains behind the trees.  Mostly I’m just roughing in a couple of areas to decide how dark things should be.





Continued work


Continued work on the left mountain area.








Starting to work on a different mountain


Starting on another mountain.









Continued work on the second mountain

Continued work on the other mountain.   The mountains are created by drawing jagged lines down the size of the mountain.  The lines vary by length, color, and are never straight…at least not for very long.  

After the general shape is filled in, making sure to leave white spaces, I add a few darker spots to indicate shadows, deep crevasse, etc..







Burning in distant trees on the foothills

Here I’m burning in the trees that appear in the foothills.  I didn’t give them much definition as I wanted them to appear distant.  I used a very tight vertical zigzag for these trees.   You could also just draw individual lines.  







Trout Lake progress photo

Here’s another progress photo of the scene so far. 

The second mountain now has some darker lines on it, but notice how I lost my trees on the mountain to the left?   I need more contrast.







Re-burning the trees

The easiest way to increase the contrast is to make the trees darker, so in this photo I’m re-burning the trees.  Ass you can see they are standing out and they push the mountain further into the background.





continued work on the shoreline


Continued work on the trees and the shoreline on the left side.








Burn a dark thin line for the tree trunk

So I mentioned before that I’m using a zigzag line to create the impression of trees.  How?  First, they start with a vertical line that represents the tree trunk.









Use edge of shader to zigzag down trunk

Starting at the top of the trunk, use the razor edge corner of the shader to make small zigzag lines down the trunk.  I increase the width of the zigzag the further down the trunk I go.  









Starting a second tree


Here I’ve started a second tree near the first one.  They both have a vertical line for the trunk and zigzag lines that increase in width the further down the tree trunk they are located.







Continued work

Continued work.   My zigzag method of creating the trees doesn’t take long.  Especially with trees this small.  Each tree only took a few seconds to do.








The trees will overlap and that’s ok


Don’t worry much about overlapping the zigzags.     








Another, smaller, tree started


Here I’m burning in another tree.   Yes, that’s how I tend to create these.  I start a couple and then add a few more.  

If I’m going to put trees in front of ones I’ve already burned, then I don’t burn the background trees all the way to the ground.  This gives room for the tree in the foreground tree to show up.  






Almost done


Here, I’m almost done with the little copse of trees.








Adding fine details to the trout

In this photo I’m starting to add some of the fine details to the trout.  Given the small size I did most of the fine detail work with the writing pen tip.






Continued work on the trout


Continued work on the trout.







Trout Lake progress photo


Here’s another progress photo.









Working on the distant mountains

I’m working on the distant mountain in this photo.  When you are working on outdoor scenes like mountains and lakes, the further away something is the lighter in color it becomes.  So this means that the distant mountain range I’m burning on need to be the lightest in color of all of the mountains in this scene.






Working on the shoreline

Here I’m working on the shoreline.  I don’t know if you’ve ever watched an oil painting show, but I’ve watched many of them and they always burn darkly along the shoreline and then have a thin white separation line.  The separation line is supposed to indicate where the shore ends and the water begins and it looks great. I try to use the same method, but this was too small for that so I left the shore paler and just burned a dark separation line.    I thought it turned out decent.





Below are some progress photos of the lake being burning in. 
























Foothill work

With the lake essentially done I’m again working on the background.  In this photo I’m continuing the foothills out to meet up with the trees on the right.  Again, I’m using a vertical zigzag line motion as what I’m really after is a jagged hill line.  Each little dark peak (line) will give the impression of a distant tree top.







Adding darker trees near the shoreline


With the foothill trees done I’m adding some darker more defined trees in the foreground.





Continued work on the trees and shoreline


Continued work on the more defined trees.







working on the last mountain


I’m almost done, just need to finish burning in the last mountain.  In this photo it shows how I’m using the razor edge of the shader to burn in the jagged lines along the mountain.





Continued work



Continued work on the mountain.








Adding contrast around the water spray


Ok, I thought I was done, but I decided that the white water spray needed more contrast to show up well.  So what I’m doing in this photo is darkening up the water around the spray.






Continued work on the water around the spray


In this photo it’s pretty easy to see how much better the white spray stands out with darker surroundings.









Trout Lake progress photo

Here’s a progress photo. 

I looked at the art and critically analyzed it.  You do the same thing right now.   What do you think?

Is the artwork done or does it needs some fine tuning?






After I was done critiquing it, I decided that I didn’t like how the water to the right of the trout looked like the sun was reflect on it.   I only wanted one sun path on the water and that was located on the left side of the trout.  This meant I needed to darken up the water on the right.

Darkening up the water


So here I am darkening up the water.









adding some tiny dark dashes

After I darkened up the water I decided to add little dark dashes (super short lines) here and there to give the impression of some choppy water.








Here’s the final photo after I was all done and signed my name to it.

I’m glad I darkened up the right side of the water as I like the look a lot better.  I’m still undecided about the lake or mountain mist in the background where the lake kind of disappears.  Not that it matters at this point as I can’t change it.  I think the one thing I should have done differently is to reduce the size of the mountain on the left as it seems just too big compared to the others.  I should have also darkened up the rocks in the water a little more.  Oh well, because again, there is not much I can do about that at this point. 


The cribbage board was a success fetching a winning bid of $400 in the auction!  I do have to admit that by the time we did this board, I was tired of burning fish.  We had done 5 or 6 cribbage boards already that featured fish as the artwork, so I think anyone could understand why I was tired of them. 

Anyways, even though this blog wasn’t a tutorial I hope that I was still able to give you some helpful information that you can use in your own artwork.  Or, if nothing else, that it provided a little  entertainment to see how the artwork progressed along.

Lastly to answer a few commonly asked questions.   The cribbage board is made out of maple and measures 4 ½ by 16 ½ inches (11.4 x 41.9 cm).  It took me a total of 3 hours to complete all of the wood burning on the board including the pegging numbers.  Trout Lake art measured just 4 1/2 x 2 inches (11.4 x 5.1 cm), and took me 2 1/2 hours to create.

Until the next blog,


June 11, 2017

2 thoughts on “Trout Lake Cribbage Board Pyrography Art wood burning

  1. Hello. Please will you add me to your mailing list. I have a new business doing etching and pyrography for customers. A lot of my work so far has been personalised log wedding cake stands. It will be great to hear about a fellow burner’s experiences. I look forward to reading your blog.

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