This will be a quick tutorial to explain how to clean off the carbon build up on pyrography pen tips. I’m also going to discuss a few things to help your pen tips and burner last longer.
PART 1 – CLEANING THE TIPS
Use a polishing cloth after every burning session. Turn the power off on your unit, allow the tip to cool, and then rub the tip along the surface of the polishing cloth for a second or two. Afterwards, examine the pen tip and if it still has some residue on it, then rub it on the cloth again. Repeat until the pen tip is clean. If I’m burning really dark, I will periodically stop burning and clean the tip. Carbon buildup causes the pen to drag on the wood and can produce an uneven burn.
Here’s a before and after photo of a pen tip after I cleaned it using a polishing cloth.
I want to point out the grit rating on this polishing cloth; it is 800. Never use sandpaper with a lower grit on your pen tips as it could be too abrasive. Some coarse sand papers can file down your pen tips and ruin them.
Occasionally, when burning really dark or on leather, the carbon builds up a thick layer really quickly as this photo is showing. For really heavy buildup like this, I use the backside of the polishing cloth. It has a coarser weave, so knocks most of the heavy buildup off. Again, the power should be off and the tip cool before doing this. After I’ve knocked down the worst of the carbon buildup, then I’ll switch to the 800 side of the cloth and finish cleaning.
A cleaning burr is a great way to deep clean your pen tips. They are designed to work with a Dremel and Colwood sells them in packs of 5. Colwood assures me that the cleaning burrs are safe to use on a daily basis. I deep clean my pen tips once a week. A google search reveals that the tips are called “Rubber Bullet Polishing Burrs.”
Oct 2018 – – Note that I tested out using the cleaning burr without using a dremel (rotary tool) and it works. Just rub the pen tip over the surface of the burr until clean. It takes a little longer this way, but still produces fantastic results.
WARNING – – March 2019. I have been using the cleaning burrs for a little over year and while I love how deep and quickly the clean the pen tips, I’ve noticed that my favorite shader is showing signs of thinning. I had started using the cleaning burr on it almost daily instead of using the polishing cloth. I have used the polishing cloth for years without any problems, so I know it has to be my frequent use of the cleaning burr. If you decide to use a cleaning burr, use it sparingly.
To use, power the dremel to low setting, hold it still, and guide the pen tip over the surface. Check after a second or two to see if the tip is clean. If not, repeat until all of the carbon has been removed.
Here is a before/after of the pen tip I was cleaning in the photo above. The cleaning burr is fantastic at removing carbon buildup!
Here’s a before/after of the pen tip I initially cleaned with the polishing cloth. The cleaning burr restored the pen tip to almost factory condition.
PART 2 – PREVENTATIVE MAINTENANCE
Protect your pen tips by storing them properly when not in use. Colwood ships all of their tips in a plastic tube, and it’s a very good idea to return them to this tube when not using them. Avoid putting them in a box or plastic case where they can jostle around as this could damage the edges on the pen tips.
Another option is to make or buy a tip holder similar to the one in this photo. It allows the tips to stay in an upright position, keeps them organized and readily available for use. I have a blog that explains how to make a holder similar to this: Pen Holder.
Don’t allow the pen tip to get so hot that the metal turns red! This is extremely bad for the metal.
Below is a composite photo showing the metal getting hotter and hotter and turning redder by the microsecond.
If you’re not actively burning, then turn the unit off. If you step away for any reason, turn the unit off.
Even if it’s only going to be for a few seconds, turn the unit off.
This photo shows two handpieces, and the one on the right has a cork heat protector on it. While you’re burning; periodically assess how warm the handpiece is. Prolonged high heat burning sessions can cause heat related damage. If the handpiece is feeling really warm, by that I mean it’s getting uncomfortable to hold, then turn the power off and allow the handpiece to return to room temperature. Doing this simple thing will prolong the life of your handpiece and your burner unit.
That’s it. I said this would be a short tutorial, but I hope I was able to provide some practical and valuable information in it.
Until the next blog,
May 11, 2018