Testing Erasers for Pyrography wood burning techniques

According to Wikipedia, the first rubber eraser was invented back in 1770 by Edward Naime.  Like the bread eraser it replaced, it was designed to remove lead and charcoal marks from paper.  With pyrography we need erasers that can remove burn marks, and traditional rubber erasers are not able to do that.  Fortunately there are other items that can be used.  In this short blog I will be testing out 5 different erasers for pyrography to see how good they are at removing burn marks. 

Let’s get started.

If you’d like to watch a YouTube video of this tutorial, then click on the image to the left.

 

 

 

This is a photo of my test panel.  I have 5 different sections burned with gradient shading to test the range of each erasers capability.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SANDPAPER                        

My first eraser is sandpaper is probably the most obvious one.  In this photo I’m using a piece of 240 grit sandpaper that I cut off from a much larger sheet.  

 

 

 

 

Here’s how the test section looked after I had scrubbed for a bit on it with the 240 grit sandpaper.  I think if I had continued on, I could have removed all of the burn marks with this grit of sandpaper, but quite truthfully I just got tired of sanding over the area.

 

 

 

 

 

 

After I was done with the initial testing I did get a piece of 100 grit sandpaper and removed the last of the burn marks.  The sandpaper removed even the darkest burn marks.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Unfortunately I didn’t stop when the burn marks were removed.  I thought I could still a faint burn mark, and I sanded right through the top layer of plywood in spots.  The yellow arrows are pointing to the a couple of spots.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Once you have removed the top layer, the board is ruined as the glue layer has been exposed.  NEVER burn on the glue layer as harmful vapors can be generated when the glue heats up.

 

THE GOOD

  • Sandpaper will remove all of the burn marks
  • Not very expensive
  • Comes in a ranges of grits
  • Can be folded to work in smaller areas

THE BAD

  • Depending on the grit, takes a time to remove all of the burn marks
  • Have to exert some pressure on the wood
  • Can sand through the top layer of plywood
  • Can be tough to do precision erasing

The below items are things that can help when precision work is need.  I have not tried any of them, so I don’t know how sturdy they are, how long they last, etc.

There are products available like Sanding Sticks that come in an assortment of grits.  The sticks can be used in small areas where more precision is needed.  Here’s a link to the product on Amazon:  Sanding Sticks

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There is also a product called Sanding Twigs, but my guess is that they are the same thing as the sticks but maybe a touch smaller.  That’s just a guess as I haven’t tried either product.  Here’s an Amazon link to the twigs:  Sanding Twigs

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lastly there are emery sanding sticks or boards available, and they are considerable larger than the sticks and twigs.  Here’s a link to the product on Amazon.  Note that I couldn’t find the exact product shown in this photo, so I used a link for a similar product:  Emery Sanders

 

 

 

SCRAPERS

The second eraser I tested out was scrapers.  Scrapers are flat pieces of metal that you drag over the surface of the wood to remove thin layers of it.  With enough scraping, you can remove all of the burn marks.

 

 

 

 

The scraper I was using in the previous photo is just an X-acto knife equipped with an angled scoring blade on it.   

 

I also like to use box cutters because they are so wide.  This is a simple, cheap knife with the break-off style of blade on it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I do want to point that that when I’m using the box cutting knife I use the non-cutting edge it has at the end of it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I also have an X-acto knife equipped with a standard #11 blade.  I like the versatility with this blade as I can use the flat of the knife to quickly remove color in small areas.

 

 

 

 

The blade can be angled so less of the metal is in contact with the wood to remove really thin lines of color from burn marks.  This feature can be used to create white whiskers and wispy hairs.

 

 

 

 

 

It’s important to point out that pointed blades can also cause a lot of damage to the wood if not used with great care.  Generally speaking if you are fixing a mistake, then use the flat of the blade.   The only time I would use the point of the blade is when I’m trying to create a whisker or wispy hairs.

 

Oldmedic Bill left a comment on one Fixing Mistakes video suggesting the use of a scalpel, so you avoid gouging the wood. 

I did buy one and tested it out.  It didn’t arrive in time for the initial testing round, but as you can see it works great.   The only drawback to it is that I’m not sure I could create really thin lines with it.

 

 

 

 

 

Bill, thank you for the wonderful suggestion, it’s a great addition to my collection of scrapers.

 

I keep my scrapers and other assorted items I use in pyrography in a jar that is placed next to my work area.  This keeps them within easy reach.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here’s the test section after I was done using various scrapers on it.  Yes, it is a bit pitted looking as I was trying to get this done very quickly, so I exerted more pressure on the knives that I would if I was working on actual art.  

 

 

 

 

 

When using scrapers work slow and apply gentle pressure so you don’t create pits.  This is especially important when working on plywood as you can chip out slivers of wood.  I was exerting too much pressure as I was trying to get the demo done as quickly as possible, so my scrape marks are not very smooth looking.

 

THE GOOD

  • Scrapers will remove all of the burn marks
  • Large ranges of size available, so can do large and very small precise work
  • Can use to create whiskers and wispy hairs

THE BAD

  • If apply too much pressure you can remove slivers of wood

SPOT SANDING PEN

The next eraser is a spot sanding pen. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Spot Sanding Pens are made out of fiberglass and they are designed to remove rust from metal.  They are VERY abrasive, so be careful as you can easily gouge the wood.

 

What I like about the sanding pen is that it keeps a fairly small tip, so can be used in small areas.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Do not use your hand to remove the fiberglass dust from the board as you can get slivers.  Removing them can be challenging as are very difficult to see.

 

 

 

 

 

Do not purchase fiberglass erasers designed for cleaning wrist watches, jewelry, or clocks.  They are too soft to remove burn marks in pyrography.

 

 

Here’s the test section after I was done using it.   It can completely remove tan colored burn marks, but it’s not very effective on the darker burn marks. I use it to remove a little color on areas that got too dark.

 

 

 

 

 

THE GOOD

  • Has a small tip, so good for working in smaller areas

THE BAD

  • Can gouge the wood if you exert too much pressure
  • Cost around $10 each

INK PEN ERASER

Next up is an ink pen eraser. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The eraser is nothing more than a standard ink pen eraser, and are commonly sold with a pencil eraser on one side.  I’m using one that is just for ink pens.   I have also seen these erasers called sand erasers.

 

Ink pen eraser cannot remove dark burn marks.  I use this to lighten areas by a couple of shades.  As you can see it doesn’t remove all of the burn marks, and the darker the burn the less effective it is.

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE GOOD

  • Great to lighten a burn by a few shades
  • Won’t damage the surface of the wood
  • Fairly inexpensive

THE BAD

  • Can’t remove all of the burn marks
  • Doesn’t keep a point or small tip very well, so not great for precision work.

ELECTRIC ERASER

The last eraser I’m testing out is an electric eraser.  This is a recent discovery and I think it has a lot of potential.

 

 

 

 

 

I’m using an electric eraser manufactured by Sakura.  There are many brands available, but some are better than others for heavy duty use.  Removing burn marks ranks as heavy duty use in my book.  Here’s an Amazon link to the Sakura brand:  Electric Eraser

Electric erasers come with standard white vinyl erasers.  They are great for removing pencil and charcoal, but will not even lighten up burn marks.

 

 

 

 

Blue ink erasers are also a common eraser for electric erasers, but for pyrography they aren’t any better than the white vinyl erasers.

 

 

 

 

Recently I found some actual ink erasers, and they work wonderfully. 

 

 

 

 

Here’s a little test panel I did to show the difference between the 3 erasers.  1 = White Vinyl Eraser and no color was removed.  2 = Blue Ink Eraser and no color was removed.  3 = Grey Ink Eraser and considerable color was removed.

 

 

 

The brand is SunDolphin and here’s a link to the item:  Ink Eraser Refills

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Back to the regular demo.  Here’s the test section after I was done using the electric eraser.  It removed most of the burn marks and can even lighten up the really dark burns by a few shades.   Most of the erasers I’ve tested require some pressure to use.  Especially the sand paper and ink pen eraser, but the electric eraser requires no pressure.  In fact, if you press down to firmly you can bog down the motor to the point it almost stops.

 

 

 

THE GOOD

  • Requires no exertion to use
  • Won’t damage the surface of the wood
  • Can remove several shades of color even on dark burns
  • Can do precision work

THE BAD

  • Can’t remove all of the burn marks
  • Cost – the brand I’m using averages $34
  • Need Ink refill erasers
  • Need 2 AAA batteries

IN CONCLUSION

That’s it for this blog.  As you can see there are options for erasers to use in pyrography.  Which one is the best to use is really dependent on you.  I tend to gravitate towards the scrapers and the electric eraser.  I think mostly because they fit into the jar I keep by my work station; something that I can’t really do with sheets or even pieces of sandpaper.   Like I said before, the electric eraser is a very recent discovery, so I’m exploring ways of using it to get different effects. 

Until the next blog,

Brenda

Jan 31, 2020

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10 thoughts on “Testing Erasers for Pyrography wood burning techniques

  1. I’ve YET to put a burn mark on wood. Bought a cheap burner… saw a single video and Knew I needed Your burner . It will be delivered 8/12/20. Meanwhile viewing your tutorials and taking notes. Yes… I am aware of those wonderful detailed (with photos) of each of your tutorial projects… When I finally attempt them, I will use those references.

    Yep, I’m an old woodworker. In addition to creating mountains of sawdust, I made more than 500 pens (prior to computer). Never tried wood burning. Am excited about this adventure.

    Question: What plywood thickness do you recommend?

    1. Hello and welcome to the awesome artform called Pyrography! Hope you’ll enjoy it as much as I do.

      Minisa Pyrography uses a cheap Versatool wood burner (solid point craft burner) and she creates amazing artwork with it. The expensive burners are just a lot easier and more convenient to use.

      Pyrography and wood working seem to be a common pairing. I do you you’ll enjoy the new adventure!

      As for plywood thickness you can use anything, but I’ve found the thinner plywoods have a tendency to warp and curl over time. I generally stick to 1/4″ thickness.

      Have fun with your burner when it arrives!
      Brenda

  2. This info is great and I love the comparison of techniques. What graphite erasers would you recommend? I have been using a polymer artist eraser but it doesn’t seem to remove all the graphite, especially on wood, but even on watercolor paper. I just ordered a kneadable artist eraser from Amazon but it hasn’t come yet. I know part of my issue is that I could be pressing to hard during tracing so my lines are too dark. But even lightish lines don’t erase all the way.

    Any tips?

    1. Hi Laura,
      First off, let me state that if you are using carbon paper make sure it is graphite carbon paper. Regular carbon paper has a wax binder in it and that stuff is extremely difficult to remove. I personally don’t use carbon paper because I’ve never found a brand I liked. They were either too light or so dark I couldn’t erase the lines.

      As for erasers I have several including a kneadable, but I’m not sure of the brands as I tend to remove the wrappers. The only one I still had the box for is Vanish Four In One eraser. I do really like it because it is a bit more abrasive than white vinyl and rubber erasers I use in graphite drawings.
      Vanish 4-in-1 can be found on Amazon and Walmart, but they are a LOT more expensive on those sites; a pack of 4 is $15. Jerry’s Artarama sells the same 4 pack for under $7.

      I also like to use ink erasers on wood. They are also called sand erasers. Warning, these erasers are super abrasive and they can remove burn marks. I think I’m using a Tombow Mono ink or sand eraser.

      Hope that helps
      Brenda

  3. I love your expert tips and tutorials I am working on my fist piece I will email it to you when I am finished thank you so much for sharing your knowledge here’s hoping one day I will get to your standard although that’s a long way to go

    1. Hi Julie,
      thank you so much for the wonderful comment. I’m glad my website is helpful. Have faith and some patience; you will get there!
      The artwork I created when I first started isn’t close to what I can do now. It just takes time to learn what heat settings work best for you and the wood you’re using, what pen tips work best for you, etc.
      I look forward to seeing your work!
      Brenda

  4. Hello, my name is Barry. I just found the desire to try pyrography. I use to sketch as a child and enjoyed it in increments but fell away from it over the years into adulthood. Now that I am in my 50’s I am interested again. I happened along your website through Youtube. The more I view it the more encouraged I become. You have given me hope that I will enjoy it and maybe, with luck, be able to produce some things that others will like as well.

    Thank you for your website. Know that you are encouraging me.

    1. Hi Barry,
      thank you for the wonderful comment. Pyrography is an awesome artform to work in, so I hope you do take it up. If nothing else it is a good thing to learn a new hobby to stay busy. Who knows, you might get addicted to it like I am. I will mention you should be patient with yourself when you get going as we all have a learning curve to get through. Since you have an art background some things will be easier to learn, at least I think so.

      Thank you again for the comment.
      Brenda

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