I’ve mentioned that I use a Colwood burner for my artwork in numerous blogs and YouTube videos. In this blog I will discuss in greater detail how the burner works.
Watch the YouTube video version of this review by clicking on the thumbnail to the left.
Let me state right off, that other than a fixed heat craft burner or soldering iron, I haven’t used any other brand of burner. I couldn’t tell you if Colwood is the best or worst burner out there. That said I haven’t had any problems with my burner and I like to think I’m producing good art with it.
PROBLEMS WITH THE BURNER – – – I am not a representative for Colwood. Despite this I get a lot of questions asking about potential problems with the burner when it doesn’t perform as expected. The questions generally runs along the lines of, “I can’t get any burn results until I turn the unit up to 5, what’s wrong?” Or, “I get really dark results even on a low setting, what’s wrong?” You have two choices. Contact the manufacturer or read their article on adjusting the internal heat setting (that’s not what they call it, but it’s how I think of it).
Here’s a link to their website: https://woodburning.com
Colwood article link: Adjust The Heat
As of November 2018, Colwood offers 6 different burner units: Craft Burner ($15.99), Cub ($67.75), *Detailer ($79.75), *Super Pro II ($111.00), Galaxy ($192.00), and the Olympiad ($227.00). The prices are US Dollars. * = units that are available in 220/240 volts.
I’m not going to discuss the details between the different burners as I would just be paraphrasing what Colwood’s website says. Here is a link if you wish to look into the different models yourself: https://woodburning.com
Let’s start with the basics. This is the front of the Super Pro II.
There is an on/off switch that glows red when the unit is on (blue arrow). A toggle switch (red arrow) in the center of the machine allows you to select between the Detail and Heavy Duty sides of the burner. Lastly, the temperature control dial (yellow arrow) has a range of 0-10.
The back of the unit has the power cord and pen cord hookups.
Here’s a close-up of the pen cord hookups.
The side of the unit has plastic keepers that helps ensure the cord doesn’t pull away from the power hookups in the back.
The pen holders are metal clips and they can be repositioned to suit your preferences.
The Super Pro is equipped with two cords of different gauges; 14 and 16 awg. They wrap one of the cords with colored tape, so it is easy to tell the two apart.
The 14 gauge wire is referred to as “High Power Cord” is on the left in this photo. The cord is much thicker than the 16 gauge “Heavy Duty Cord.” I don’t care for the names of the cords as I think it’s confusing. Instead I think they should have named the cords according to the side of the burner they belong on. 16 = Detailer. 14 = Heavy Duty. I will discuss the difference between the two cords later on.
The end of the cord has fork prong connectors that hook up to the power on the back of the unit.
The other end of the cord has the input connector that the handset attaches to.
Colwood sells two types of handsets; fixed tip (FT) and replaceable tip (RT). The FT handsets have pens tips that are permanently attached to them. The RT handsets have pen tips that can be removed.
The only physical difference between the two styles of pens is at the top where the pen tips connect. The replaceable tip (RT) as a wide lip (red arrow) at the base of the pen tip, so it can be gripped with pullers for easy removal.
Colwood ships all of their handsets and pen tips in protective plastic tubes.
Plus they write on the bottom of the tube the letter that identifies the pen tip. This tube holds a J shader (my favorite).
This photo shows a replaceable tip (RT) handset with the cork heat shield attached. If you order a replacement RT handset, this is what you will get. The handset is 4 3/8″ long (11.1 cm), not including the prong at the end of the pen. The pen is slightly bigger around than a ballpoint ink pen like the Acroball by Pilot. I only use that particular brand as a reference as it happens to be what is currently on my desk.
The RT handset has a ridge along the inside that guides the pen tip into place.
The replaceable pen tips have a groove on one side (yellow arrow) that you must line up with the internal ridge on the handset.
This photo shows a pen tip that is partially set onto the handset.
This photo shows the tip firmly placed into the handset. When the pen tip is properly set into place, there shouldn’t be a gap between the top of the handset and the lip of the pen tip. A yellow arrow is pointing to the spot I’m talking about.
The pen tips are snug in the handset, so it’s easier to remove them using a Tip Puller.
The tip puller is made out of metal and has curved notched ends that allow for a secure grip just under the lip of the pen tip.
Squeezing on the sides of the puller brings the notched ends together just under the lip of the pen tip. With the puller in one hand and the handset in the other, firmly pull in opposite directions to remove the pen tip.
It takes a little pulling power to remove the pen tip as they are pretty snug. I hear a popping sound once the tip comes free.
The cork heat shield can also be removed the from handset. Of course the pen tip would need to be removed first on the replaceable tip (RT) handset. Colwood sells replacement cork shields and have foam shields. I haven’t tried the foam shields, so I have no idea how good they are.
The heat shield makes it more comfortable to burn for longer periods of time as they help prevent your fingers from getting warm/hot while holding the pen. Unless I have been burning for a long time at a high heat, I haven’t had any issues with the pen being uncomfortably hot to hold.
TEST BURN – DETAIL vs HEAVY DUTY
Let’s do a burn test so I can show you the difference between the detail and heavy duty settings. Just a quick reminder, the Detail side is attached to the 16 awg cord and the heavy duty side uses 14 awg gauge cord
For the first burn test I set the temperature control dial to 3.
Then I set a timer for 20 seconds to let the pen tip heat up.
Using a J shader I burned a few spots on the board marked Detail.
Then I repeated the process, but this time I switched over to the heavy detail side of the unit.
Here’s the test board. On the detail side, I got a nice tan burn color. On the heavy duty side I got a black color. In fact, the pen tip was so hot it made a sizzling sound upon contact with the wood.
Since the pen was too hot, it created a lot of smoke as I burned. This discolors the wood around it. The red arrows are pointing to faint tan areas that got ‘smoke’ stained. It’s always a good idea to test out how hot the pen tip is on a scrap piece of wood before you start burning.
The test was repeated, but this time I turned the temperature control dial down to 2. Now the detail side is barely visible, but the heavy duty side is a dark tan color.
I did the same test with two other pen tips. The C tip is a standard writer pen tip and the Mini J is just the smaller version of the J shader. The heavy duty side produces a MUCH darker burn than the detail side.
Generally speaking, to get the same burn result between the two sides I have to reduce the temperature control dial by 1 for the Heavy Duty side. This means that the color I get with the Detailer set at 3 is similar in color as the Heavy Duty set on 2.
Use the detail side when burning on leather. When I’m burning on leather I cannot use the heavy duty side of the burner with my shader. Even on 0.25 the pen tip is too hot and burns dark. I can’t get tan colors. Also, I never use the Mini J shader on the heavy duty side because the pen tip is so small that it heats up too high. This means I have a very difficult time getting tan colors.
DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE SIDES
DETAILER. The detailer side uses the 16 gauge wire and is the ‘fine art’ side of the burner. This side allows greater control of the heat and that allows for a wider range of “color” especially in the tan ranges. I primarily use the detailer side to create my artwork, and I usually have the temperature control dial set around 3.
HEAVY DUTY. The heavy duty side uses the 14 gauge wire. The thicker wire allows for more power to reach the pen tip and it doesn’t get as hot as the wire on the Detailer side. It is good for prolonged dark burning, so this is the side I often use for background work. The heavy duty side is also the side I tend to equip my writer pen tip on, so I can quickly switch between the writer and the J shader as those are two pen tips I use the most often.
Another time I use the heavy duty side is when I’m using the large E spade shader. This shader is considerably larger than the J shader, so it requires a higher heat setting to work.
ESSENTIAL PEN TIPS
There are two pen tips I consider essential: a shader and a writer. I use the J shader and micro writer, but if you were just starting out and only wanted to invest in 2 tips I would actually recommend the D shader and the standard C writer pen tips as they are more versatile.
The D shader has the ability to produce a wider range of burn widths than the J shader I generally use. I bought my D shader to try after I had gotten attached to the J shader and now it’s mostly habit that I always grab the J shader.
The C writer, is Colwood’s standard writer pen tip. Again, it can produce a wider range of burn widths than the micro writer I tend to use. In fact, I find I’m using the C writer a lot more than I used to because it can write and easily shade in small areas. Shading in small areas with the micro writer is harder and isn’t as smooth looking.
This picture shows the J and mini J shader and they are the shaders that I use in most of my artwork.
BONUS PEN TIPS
Bonus Pen tips: Rounded Heel and the medium ball pen tips. I call these bonus pen tips because while they make certain tasks easier, the shader and writer can be used instead.
The rounded heel is what I use to draw thin straight lines. I also use it to create an engraved texture. The razor edge of a shade will replicate what a rounded heel can do, but sometimes it’s not as easy to do.
The medium ball pen tip is in the middle in this photo. I use it to create dots. The dots are great for animal noses to add the subtle bumpy texture they have. I also use the ball points in Mandala artwork. You can use the ball point to write with and even shade with. The smooth rounded surface glides over the wood easier than a lot of the pen tips, especially the micro writers. Regardless, I’d have to be honest and say that I don’t use mine that often. Plus, a writer pen tip can easily create dots; they just tend to be smaller in size.
I did write a blog discussing the different pen tips I use and when I tend to use them, so if you’d like more information on that then click on this link: Colwood Pen Tips
That’s it for this blog. I have no complaints about my Colwood burner. I have well over 1000 hours of problem free burn time on my unit, and I don’t expect that to change. I’m producing very good artwork with it, at least I like to think I am. The real question is if I think you should buy one?
That depends. If you are just getting into pyrography and don’t know if you will like it, then probably not. I’d recommend a craft burner (soldering iron) with a temperature control on it instead. If you have been burning and want to upgrade then I definitely recommend the Colwood. It’s a great burner with a lot of pen tips available.
Do I get any sort of compensation from Colwood for recommending their product? No. I doubt they are even aware I exist. In the off chance they are aware of me and would like me to be their spokesperson, I’m interested. 😉
Until the next blog,
Nov 23, 2018
Last updated Dec 27, 2020
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