Pyrography Tutorial Fixing Mistakes & Hiding Wood Grain in pyrography

In this tutorial I’m going to show you some of the different ways that I use to fix mistakes and hide wood grain in my pyrography artwork.  I will divide the tutorial into four categories; Lighten, Fixing/Filling, Seam Lines, and Grain Lines.  The great thing is that all of my methods are easy to do and require just a few items.   

You can watch the YouTube video version of this tutorial by clicking on the thumbnail to the left. 

 

 

Let’s get going on this subject by starting with the lighten category.

 

LIGHTEN

I think burning an area too dark is a pretty common problem.  I would love to say that I’ve never done it myself, but that would be a lie.   My first method of fixing begins with an ink eraser.

INK ERASER

The eraser that I use is a standard Ink Eraser.  Ink erasers are grey in color and very gritty feeling.  They are also called Typewriter erasers, and more recently I’ve been seeing them called Sand Erasers.  There isn’t a brand I would recommend as they all work the same.

 

 

 

 

Another form of the eraser is the combo erasers.  Combo erasers have the grey gritty ink eraser on one side and a standard pencil eraser on the other.  This type of eraser is also called a Sand & Rubber eraser. 

 

 

The yellow circle is marking the area in the photo that I want to lighten up. 

Ignore the “fixing” yellow sticky note in the photo.  I have been gathering videos clips over the past year to use as real examples for this tutorial.  The yellow sticky note was my way to easily identify the clips I needed without having to watch the clip.

 

 

 

Use pretty firm pressure and rub the eraser over the area just like you would if erasing pencil lines.   Depending on how dark the burn is, it will take several passes before the area is noticeably lighter.

 

 

 

 

 

Here is a before and after composite photo. 

Note that an ink eraser will only lighten the area a few shades.  It will not completely remove a burn. 

 

 

Ink erasers are great for adding subtle and/or soft highlights.

 

 

 

Use caution when erasing over plywood because it can fill in the micro slivers with the grey colored rubber.   This can make the area look dirty.  In fact, any colored eraser (like pink) can do this.     

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Slivering is what I call the tiny slivers of missing wood that plywood has.  I have yet to encounter a piece of plywood that doesn’t have this issue.  The only difference between the boards or brands is how bad the slivering is. 

 

 

 

 

 

I discovered this the hard way when I used the ink eraser on my Nevsky Cathedral artwork.   

The only way I’ve found to fix this is to gently pry out each piece using the tip of an X-acto knife.  Not only is it a very tedious process, but it can make the slivers even larger and deeper.   

Now, I avoid use dark erasers on light areas of plywood to ensure the problem doesn’t happen.

 

 

Ink Eraser Pros:  

  • Inexpensive
  • Can be found in most stores (office, craft, etc.)
  • Easy to use
  • Unlikely to damage the board; unless the board is very, very dry plywood
  • Great for adding soft and/or subtle highlights

Ink Eraser Cons: 

  • Doesn’t keep a point, so not a great option where precision is needed
  • Will only lighten the wood by a few shades
  • Can fill the micro slivers in plywood with grey rubber making the board look dirty

 

SPOT SANDING PEN

A spot sanding pen is an eraser made out of fiberglass.  It is designed for removing rust from metal, so it is very abrasive and can remove a lot more color than the ink eraser.

 

Plus the tip is small and keeps its shape.  The tip measures 1/8 inch in diameter (0.3 cm), so it’s a good choice for working in smaller areas.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What I want to lighten in this photo is the small leather strap.  The area is not very big and it’s pretty dark.  Plus, there is a lot of stuff around the strap that I don’t want to damage, so the ink eraser would not be a good choice.  

 

 

 

Again, this is a super easy product to use.  Hold it like a pencil and rub over the area using a light pressure!  

 

 

 

 

 

 

This eraser is VERY abrasive, and it can easily gouge channels into the wood!  So don’t use it to scrub the wood, instead just rub it over the area with a light to light firm pressure.

Also, CLEAN THE WOOD SURFACE THOROUGHLY after using the fiberglass eraser.  I use a two part system for this; first erase, and then wipe down.

 

The first step of cleaning is to rub over the area with a pencil eraser.  I had to use a different example as I didn’t have photos of the cleaning process with the first example.

 

 

 

 

 

The second step is to rub over the area again, but this time with a damp paper towel.

Let the wood dry completely before doing anything more with it.    In this photo I’m spraying a paper towel with water to get it slightly damp.

 

 

 

After the paper towel is damp, then I rub it over the wood surface (sorry the photo is blurry – my video camera did not want to focus).

 

 

 

 

Here’s the before and after photo.  As you can see it removed a fair amount of color from the burn and it stayed confined to a small area. 

 

 

 

SPOT SANDER PROS:

  • If the color isn’t too dark, it can remove all traces of the burn
  • The small tip is great for working in small places

SPOT SANDER CONS:

  • I’ve only found them online; Amazon and Ebay both carry them.
  • Cost around $10 dollars
  • Can easily damage the wood, especially soft woods like bass wood
  • Made out of fiberglass, so carries a warning on the pen (avoid getting into your eyes!)

 

Also, don’t waste your money buying sanding pens advertised for cleaning watches.  They are too soft and won’t work for pyrography applications.

 

 

SCRAPERS

Scrapers are another way that I lighten burns.  This photo shows a cheap box cutter knife.  I like it because of the wide edge it has.

 

 

In this example I want to lighten the dark band running horizontally on the image.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I use the flat end or non-sharp edge of the knife and gently scrape away at the burning.  You can remove considerable amount of color if you work at this long enough.  In fact, if you can remove all traces of the burn, but depending on where you are using it this might leave a depression or sunken area on the wood.

 

 

 

 

Here’s the before and after photo and as you can see it lightened up the area considerable.  Given the large size of the blade it also removed color from surrounding area.

 

 

 

 

I want to point out that you should NOT use the cutting edge of the knife for scraping.  It’s too sharp and could shave layers of the wood away in a similar way a chisel does.

 

 

 

 

 

Instead use the flat top or the non-sharp edge of the knife for scraping.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Keep in mind, almost anything will work for a scraper.  I have an X-acto knife equipped with a small angled blade that I use for scraping. 

 

There are Cabinet Scrapers that can in an assortment of shapes and sizes.  They can be found in stores for woodworkers and online.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SCRAPER PROS:

  • Almost anything will work
  • Large variety of sizes
  • Can remove considerable amount of color

SCRAPE CONS:

  • Can cut yourself on the blade if using a knife
  • some brands of Cabinet scrapers are expensive

 

SANDPAPER

Sandpaper is another great option to lighten and fix problems. 

It comes in an assortment of grits, so you can use a high grit to add highlights and remove a little color.  Use a lower grit to remove a lot of color including removing all traces of the burn.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I don’t tend to use sandpaper, but only because it doesn’t fit nicely in the jar of tools I keep my by work station.  Since it’s out of sight it is out of mind.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SANDPAPER PROS:

  • Easy to use
  • Large variety of grits
  • Depending on the grit, you can remove a little or a lot of the burn

SANDPAPER CONS:

  • Have to fold and contort them to work in small places
  • Creates considerable amount of dust

 

 

FIXING / FILLING

Now I’ll show you ways that I fix mistakes I’ve made using an X-acto knife and what I do to fix sunken grain lines.

 

 

EXAMPLE 1 – REMOVE BLOTCH

My first example is a dark blotch under the crow’s foot that I want gone or mostly gone.

 

 

 

 

 

Use the flat of the X-acto knife to scrape on the blotch.  Scrape very gently as X-acto knives are sharp and can remove a LOT of color very quickly.  Plus they can easily gouge the wood if you’re not careful.

 

 

 

 

 

Notice how I held the X-acto knife in the last photo so that I didn’t use the pointed end of the blade.  NEVER want to use the pointed end for fixing problems as it digs into the wood pitting and gouging it.   

 

 

Here’s the before / after picture and while the dark blotch isn’t completely gone, it is considerably lighter.

 

 

 

 

EXAMPLE 2 – REMOVE OVER BURN

My next example is along the chest of this bird where I over burned the area a bit.  This happens when you’re working close to the edge of the object and the pen tip is not in optimal position. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Use the flat edge of the X-acto knife to gently scrape along the over burn.  Once again, notice how I’m holding the knife.   I never hold the knife upright like I do a pencil when I’m using the knife to fix problems.

 

 

 

 

Since the over burn was pale, it didn’t take long to fix and now the edge is crisp and clean.

 

 

 

 

 

 

EXAMPLE 3 – DARK TAN LINE

With the seashell there are two things that need fixing.  First the yellow arrow is pointing to a thick dark tan line that is running horizontally on some of the scallop shell ridges.   Secondly, the red arrow is pointing at a thin vertical line running down one of the ridges.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Once again I use the flat of the X-acto knife to gently scrape on the lines. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For problems like this, the goal is to remove just enough color so the line blends in.  Do not scrape so much that you end up getting down to bare wood.  Go slow, lightly scrape a couple of times, and then check the color level.  Repeat as needed, until the line blends in.

 

 

By working carefully, you can fix the problem and no one will be able to tell it was ever there.

 

 

 

 

 

EXAMPLE 4 – SUNKEN GRAIN LINE

The yellow arrows in this photo are pointing to sunken grain line.  Shader pen tips tend to glide over the sunken lines, so they end up looking like pale unburned lines in the wood.    

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fixing sunken grain lines requires the use of a writer pen tip.  I use a micro writer because the tips are so small.   This photo shows Colwood’s micro writers, and you’ll often see me using one or the other in my blogs and videos. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The only difference between them is that the tip on the left, circled in green, is their newer version.  It is a LOT studier than the old version, which has a red arrow pointing to it.  I’ve actually bent the old version, so I’m really glad they came out with a studier pen tip.   

 

 

 

 

 

 

All grain lines darken up much faster than the surrounding wood, so they often turn into dark lines.   Sunken grain lines are not different, so when burning on them use a very low heat setting.

 

 

Equip a small pen tip, like a micro writer, and burn along the sunken grain line.   It will most likely take several times of burning the sunken grain line before it matches that color of the surrounding area.   Keeping the heat set to low will ensure the grain line doesn’t turn black.   

For reference, my unit goes up to 10 and I usually have it set around 1.5 for this.

 

 

Here’s the before and after picture.  The sunken lines look better, but you can still see them.  The real problem I had with this board is that there were so many sunken lines that I got tired of working on them.   If I had spent more time I could have made the lines disappear. 

 

 

 

 

 

PLYWOOD

Plywood has a slivering issue. 

 

 

 

 

 

Slivering is what I call the micro pieces of missing wood.  ALL plywood has this issue, but some brands are worse than others.

Generally I don’t bother trying to burn in the sliver, but it can be done.   You have to use the razor edge of a super thin shader, knife (rounded heel or skew), or a needle point pen tip to reach the bottom.  Keep the pen tip on low heat and use it to get down into the crevasses of the sliver.

 

 

 

 

 

SEAM LINES

Seam lines are where two boards are joined together.  Sometimes they can be hard to see.   The board in this picture has two seam lines.

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you look at the cut end of the board, it is a lot easier to see any seam lines if they are present.

 

 

 

 

The best advice I can give you about grain lines is to AVOID THEM! 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is done by burning above and below the seam line instead across it.  In this picture I’m burning a thick band above the seam line.  This is my “do not cross” line.

 

 

 

 

 

 

In this photo I’m burning below seam line. 

 

The reason I advise avoiding the seam lines is because they are hard to fix.  Seam lines darken up even faster than grain lines do and I have a hard time fixing them.  If I scrape on them it generally creates a shallow groove or gouge along the seam that that looks almost as bad as a dark line.

 

 

 

 

Carefully consider where you place your design if the board has a seam line in it.

 

 

With this artwork, I had a seam line and I spent time considering how to place the design on the board.  I had two options for the seam line; 1) it went across the forehead just above the eyebrows, or 2) it went across the chin area.

I deliberately chose the chin area because there was more stuff going on, so I thought that the seam line would be less noticeable. 

Yes, if you look you can see the line, but it’s not the first thing you notice.  Most likely this would not have been the case if the seam line was just above the eyebrows.

 

 

 

 

 

WOOD GRAIN

You can treat wood grain like seam lines and try to avoid burning over them, but I don’t find that this is very practical.  If a board has a seam line it is generally limited to 1 or 2, but boards have lots of grain lines.

 

 

 

Be realistic with your board.  This photo shows a water lily flower that I haven’t burned in yet.  You can see all of the grain lines on the wood and some of them are pretty dark; red circles mark a few.   Those lines cannot be removed.  Instead you can keep them from getting darker or incorporate them into the artwork.

 

 

EXAMPLE 1

After I burned in the water lily flower, I ended up with some grain lines that darkened up that I could fix (red circle) by scraping to remove some of the charring or darkness.

 

 

 

 

 

Using the flat edge of an X-acto knife, gently scrape along the grain lines to lighten them up.

 

 

 

 

Doing this you can make the grain lines less noticeable, but, in this case, you’re not going to remove all traces of them.

 

 

 

 

With this particular artwork, I was able to incorporate some of the grain lines as shadows on the flower petals.  If they got too dark, which they often do, I had to scrape over them to lighten them back up. 

 

 

EXAMPLE 2

There are times when you can remove the grain line.  I shouldn’t say remove the grain line, but reduce the color of the line to match the surrounding area.  In this photo it was too difficult to avoid burning on the grain line, so instead I burned right over it and you can see how dark the line got.

 

 

 

 

Because grain lines are so thin, I work slow and try very hard to scrape only on the grain line with a small section of flat edge of an X-acto knife.

 

 

 

 

 

A lot of times I rotate the wood and work on the line from different angles.  The most important part is to use a LIGHT pressure and work slow.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here’s the before and after photo and I think I did a pretty darn good job of removing the charring from the grain line and blending it in the artwork.

 

 

 

 

EXAMPLE 2

A lot of times I have a combination problem of a darkened grain line (red arrow) and a sunken grain line (yellow circle) next to it.

 

 

 

 

 

I start with by scraping the darkened grain line.  Again use the flat edge of the blade and NOT the pointed tip.  Also, use a light pressure as you don’t want to gouge the wood.

 

 

 

 

 

 

After the grain line darken has been reduced to the point it’s not visible, I switch to a micro writer pen tip and burn in the sunken grain line.  Make sure to keep the heat set to LOW.  As I said before, my unit goes up to 10 and I have it set around 1.5 when I do this.   

Take you time and re-burn as necessary to build up the color on the sunken grain line so that it blends in with the surroundings.

 

 

 

 

By working very carefully, I was able to completely hide the grain line. 

 

 

 

 

 

EXAMPLE 3

This example has the same problems as the mushroom did.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There are darkened grain lines that have sunken grain lines next to them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

But there is one very big difference between the mushroom and the shell.  The shell has a lot of growth rings that have different tonal values intersecting the grain lines.   The yellow arrows are pointing to a couple of the ridges where the color is paler.  The red arrows are pointing to a few of the dark shadows under some of the ridges.    When the sunken grain line is burned in, the color has to match the growth rings that intersect it.

 

 

 

 

The first step is to remove the charring on the grain line, so it isn’t as noticeable.  Just like before, use the flat edge of an X-acto knife to gently scrape along the darkened grain line.  When I do this, I’m using a VERY light pressure and scraping numerous times to slowly remove the excess color.

 

 

 

 

Then use a micro writer pen tip (or other pen tip that will reach the sunken grain line) and burn it in.   Keep the heat on LOW and re-burn several times to build up the color.   It often takes several re-burns to get the color where it is needed to blend in.

 

 

 

 

When burning on the sunken grain line where a shadow intersects it, I will use a very small back and forth motion to repeatedly burn over the spot.

 

Using a combination of scraping and burning I can hide a lot of grain lines.

 

 

 

 

Here’s another before/after picture of some grain lines that I worked on. 

Be aware that this is not fast work, but it does produce good results.

 

 

 

One last before/after picture showing a darken grain line next to a sunken grain line that I worked on to hide their presence.

 

 

 

 

IN CONCLUSION

That’s it for this blog.  As always, my goal is to provide helpful information and I hope I’ve accomplished that in this blog.  If there is a method or tool that you’ve found helpful for fixing mistakes, please leave a comment and share your knowledge with the rest of us.  

Until the next blog,

Brenda

April 19, 2019

Want to subscribe? 

  • Click on the “Leave a Comment” field at the end of any post (blog) and a subscribe option will appear.
  • Put something in the comment field (if you put “test” or “just subscribing” I won’t make your comment public)
  • Fill in the sections for your email address and name, and then click on the “notify me of new posts via email.”
  • You will get a confirmation email from WordPress confirming you want to subscribe.
  • Click on the confirm button in that email and you’re done.

Please note that I do not send out emails.   If you have a WordPress account there is a way to subscribe within the WordPress system, but I cannot provide specifics on how it works as I don’t know.

4 thoughts on “Pyrography Tutorial Fixing Mistakes & Hiding Wood Grain in pyrography

I love hearing from you, so leave a comment.