In this blog I’m going to talk about the different products I use in Pyrography. I put the products in alphabetical order other than the burner and pen tips. Keep in mind that some of the items I list I don’t use that often, but I wanted to have one location for you to find any of the products I’ve used. One thing I’ve done with this blog is to try and explain why or when I would use certain products. Plus, if I have any blogs that go into greater detail about the item, I’ve included a link to that blog.
Be aware that while I’m supplying you this list and links to many of the products, I am not affiliated with any of the products or manufacturers of said products. I do not make any money or receive compensation of any sort if you purchase any of the products.
Almost all of the links are for Amazon. With some items, like art supplies, I have provided multiple links because I find they are generally cheaper on Jerry’s Artarama versus Amazon. I did not compare prices between the two to see which one was cheaper, so I recommend you do so.
I’ve mentioned numerous times that I use a Colwood burner. It is the only brand I have ever used, so I cannot tell you if it is the best. Instead, I can tell you that I’ve used the heck out of mine and haven’t had any problems with it. I did write a blog about the Colwood burner I use: Colwood Super Pro II review
Here’s a link to Colwood’s website: COLWOOD
Mountain Woodcarvers is another site that sells several brands of burners. Plus they occasionally have sales. I have not bought from them, so I can’t tell you how good or bad they are to work with. Here’s the link to Mountain woodcarvers site: MOUNTAIN WOODCARVERS
BURNER PEN TIPS
I have only used pen tips Colwood manufactures, and I buy them from Colwood. Keep in mind that other places do sell them and they might be cheaper and/or go on sale. I’ve already put a link to another seller besides Colwood, and that is as much as I’m going to do.
There are options with the Colwood pen tips; fixed or replaceable tips, polishing, and bending.
Fixed tip or replaceable? The fixed tip (FT) is permanently mounted to the handset. It lacks the lip a replaceable tip (RT) as to pull the tip from the handset. I’ve used both and I couldn’t tell a difference between the two. Note that all of the links I provide are for replaceable tips.
Please keep in mind that I didn’t use the fixed tip very long; just a couple of minutes.
I use the replaceable tip system because it’s what I was given (Todd bought the burner).
The replaceable tips are easier for me to store. Todd made me this wooden tip holder that sits nearby when I’m burning. Here’s a blog with directions on how to make one. Build a pen tip holder
Other than being shinier, polished tips are easier to clean and glide over surfaces a bit easier. Are they worth the extra fee? Probably not unless you plan to burn on leather. Then I highly recommend it.
Bending pen tips? I personally like my shaders bent to a 45-degree angle. Shaders are the only pen tips I like bent. I should mention that I bend my own pen tips and it’s not something I recommend. For one thing it voids your warranty, and I bent my tips before I knew better. Plus, the place where I bent the tip is a very fragile area, so the risk of breaking the tip increases.
This composite photo shows a J shader. The far left is how the shader looks without any alterations. The middle image shows the shader after I bent it. The far right image is the bent shader from Colwood.
Again, the location where I bent the shader (middle pen tip) is a fragile area, and you can easily break the tip of the pen off. I do not recommend doing what I did.
Which pen tips to buy?
Please keep in mind that we are all different, so I’m telling you information based on my preferences. That doesn’t necessarily it is the right thing for you. For example, both Valarie of Drawing with Fire and Richy Coelho like using spoon shaders. They do fantastic work with the spoon shader. I bought one to try it out and absolutely hated it. I just couldn’t be sure where exactly I was burning, and I didn’t like that lack of control. That is one of the reasons I very seldom use ball pen tips. Several artists have told me that ball pen tips are awesome because they glide over the wood very easily and you can create all sorts of textures with them. The fact that they have found a pen tip that works for them is wonderful because at the end of the day that is the only thing that is important; finding what works for you.
I honestly think all you really need are two pen tips: shader and a writer. That said, the two most versatile pen tips are:
D shader is an extremely versatile tip because it has 4 burning edges. The left straight side produces a medium width burn. The upper left corner produces a bit thinner or smaller width burn result than the left side. The tip provides the smallest results, and the right edge produces the largest or widest burn results. Here’s a link: Replaceable D tip
Note that Colwood identifies their pen tips with letters, and the letters have nothing to do with the shape or function of the pen tip.
C writer is a great writer. The pen tip can be turned on edge (inset photo) to get really thin lines, or you can use the wider side to get thicker lines. The pen tip is large enough to fill in small areas quickly, and it doesn’t sink into the wood like the micro writer does. Link: Replaceable C tip
Additional pen tips. Before I get into that, I want to mention that I like to do small detail work. I do mean small details. This is not something that appeals to everyone, so keep that in mind. If you don’t like working really small, then wouldn’t bother with the pen tips in the small category.
Micro C writer. This pen tip only produces thin lines. I often use this to burn in trace lines and stippling (dots). The image shows two pen tips. The left pen tip is the current model that Colwood sells. The right pen tip is the old version. I show this because I still use it and you’ll occasionally see it in my videos. They are the same pen tip. The only difference is the new model is much sturdier than the old.
In fact I accidently bent the old model when I exerted too much pressure on it when I was first learning pyrography. I was using it to create divots or shallow holes in the wood. Now I use a completely different tool for that! Replaceable micro c tip
J and mini J shaders. I find that I use the J shader a lot, but again that’s because I like to work on small detail stuff. It was a pen tip that I automatically gravitated to. I’m sure that you will find there are certain pen tips you will like and use more often. The mini j shader is the smallest shader Colwood currently makes.
E shader. The E shader is one of the largest shaders Colwood makes. It comes to a point, so can be used for detail stuff. This tip is so large, so I use the heavy duty side of my burner. The reason is that I don’t have to turn the heat up as high. On the detail side, the heat gets a bit uncomfortable if burning for any length of time. Replaceable E tip
LSS shader. This stands for large square shader, but since the corners are rounded I don’t really consider it to be square. In theory you can burn a very wide stroke with this, but I find I have difficulty holding the pen tip properly to get a wide burn stroke. Maybe that’s because I’m left-handed. I don’t know.
What I have found this pen tip to be useful for is creating fur texture when I want a thicker fur. Or fur that doesn’t look like lots of fine lines or thin hairs. Replaceable LSS tip
*Updated June 15, 2021 – I have found that this pen tip is rather helpful for doing longer fur on animals. I used it to help with the thick fur around the neck of the Mexican grey wolf, and I’ve been using it on the mane of a lion I’m working. I’m really starting to like this pen tip.
Large ball pen tip (#3). This image shows all of the ball pen tips Colwood currently makes. They even offer the set at a cheaper price than buying all three separately. I have found that I personally only use the large ball pen tip (#3) on the far left. The C writer can produce dots of similar size as the medium (#2 – middle), and the micro writer can produce dots the size as the small (#1 – far right).
As I said before there are artist who swear that the ball tips are essentials and highly functional for their burning style.
I don’t use ball tips that often. I use them in mandala art and for adding texture to animal tongues and noses. That’s about it. Replaceable large ball tip
MR rounded heel. This tip is excellent for burning thin straight lines. I use this when creating dark borders around the edges of my art. I use it when burning buildings that have straight lines. Because the edge is very thin it does have a tendency to sink down into the wood. Replaceable MR tip
I do have a blog that explains how i create straight lines for my borders. Borders & Straight Lines
S Shader. This is a medium sized shader. I like it because it has a slight curve at the end, so it is less likely to catch on the wood when I’m pushing the pen tip away from me. Replaceable S tip
If you want more information about the pen tips I use including samples of burn width capabilities, then here’s a blog to read: Colwood Pen TIps
I only use this when I’m burning on paper. I should add a stipulation to that. I use it when I’m working on a project I plan to keep. I’ve don’t several portraits for tutorial purposes. I don’t know the people in the photo and didn’t keep the artwork, so I wasn’t concerned about keeping the acid-free properties of the paper intact.
To keep paper archival (acid-free), you need to avoid touching it. Since I rest my hand on the paper when burning, I wear the glove to protect the paper. It can easily be used by left or right-handed artist. Artist Glove
I use either blending stumps or torillions to smooth or blend colored pencils. I don’t use colored pencil a lot in pyrography, but I found that blending it helps push the color down into any micro groves the wood might have. You can use a Qtip or cotton tip, or a piece of paper towel to do the blending. I use the blending stumps because I have a lot of them from my pencil drawing days.
Blending stumps are made out of paper that’s been tightly packed or rolled, so the stump is solid. They hold their point fairly well. To clean and reshape, just rub the stump on clean sandpaper.
Tortillions are made out of rolled paper, but the center is hollow. Tortillions tend to lose their point rather quickly because the paper caves in on the tip. If it loses its point, I use a thin long stick (like bamboo sticks for shish kabobs) to poke it back out.
I use a Nikon D3400 camera that has a lovely metallic red body. Red is my favorite color. 🙂 I bought my camera quite sometime ago and it was part of a kit that I got for around $400 USD. Now the camera with a basic lens goes for that price.
I’m not what I would consider a photographer. I have all of the settings on automatic, so it’s basically an expensive point and shoot.
CARD MAKING STUFF
I have a greeting card making tutorial coming out soon (late July or Aug 2021). In that tutorial I use a couple of items I wouldn’t normally use with pyrography, so that’s why I put them in this category.
Paper creaser. I actually bought a set of creasers for doing leather work, but so far I haven’t used them until I made the greeting card. These are listed as ‘bone folders,’ but they are made out of plastic. Amazon Arteza creaser
Embossing Marker. Embossing markers have a glue that allows the powder to adhere to the them. The brand I’m using is no longer available, but I did find a clear marker and that will work. It’s rather amazing how old a number of my craft supplies are. 🙂
I found a clear embossing marker on Amazon. Amazon Embossing Pen
I permanently borrowed a couple of small rubber clamps from Todd’s shop. I use them to clamp the reference photo to my easel someplace close to the board. I’m pretty sure that Todd purchased his at Harbor Freight, but I can’t swear to that. Amazon Clamps
This is what I use to clean my pen tips with. It is called: 800 Ultra Fine Crocus Cloth. I cut one sheet into 4 pieces and keep a piece next to my easel. I clean my pen tips after each burning session.
There are those who claim that this is a type of sandpaper, so it will wear down the pen tip. This is probably true, but it is what came with my burner and it’s what Colwood sells.
Note: I am a bit of a cynic, because I do realize that it benefits the seller if your pen tip wears down quickly. Also, I couldn’t find it on Amazon, so I’m providing the Colwood link. Cleaning Cloth
I am aware that some pyrographers recommend using Aluminum Oxide and a strop for cleaning pen tips. I haven’t tried it, but I did read the safety data sheet for Aluminum Oxide. It says that this stuff is toxic if fumes or dust is inhaled. From my limited understanding, I would think that the compound would dry on the strop. The dried compound seems like it would create dust. Is this true or possible? I’m not sure, but my health isn’t worth the risk.
I don’t tend to add a lot of color to my work, and if I do it is almost always colored pencil because I hate using paint brushes. That said there are times when I use other products.
First off I would NOT use acrylic paint over pyrography because it’s too opaque and would cover the burning unless diluted down to a consistency of watercolors. Instead, I like to use acrylics on the edges of my boards. I only do this if the background on the board is dark or if I burn a border around the board. Since I’m using this just on the edges, I buy the craft paints in the bottles. I’m sure that any brand your local craft and/or art store sells would be fine.
Yes, I do have an airbrush system, and I use the Iwata brand. I also use the Iwata Com-Art paints. I did not buy an airbrush for doing pyrography. Instead I had one from my airbrushing days. My original one was very similar if not identical to the one shown in the photo. The photo is a kit from Jerry’s that includes everything you need to get started in airbrushing. The only thing that you might consider missing is frisket film. It’s not an absolute necessity as many artist are able to use shields to mask off areas, and this kit comes with a basic shield.
Why I like using an airbrush? The color is super smooth looking, and its fast to apply over large areas. Since I use translucent colors, my pyrography still shows. It’s like using watercolors without having to use a paint brush. 🙂
There are numerous kits on Amazon that are much cheaper than the Iwata. Most of the brands of I haven’t heard of, but I don’t keep up on the subject anymore, so it isn’t surprising. Since even the ‘cheap’ kits are over $100 USD, I’m not going to provide any links because I wouldn’t know if any of the kits are worth a darn.
The color on the northern shoveler duck artwork was added via airbrush. Here’s a link to that blog and in it I talk about the airbrushing portion of the artwork. It’s not a tutorial. Northern Shoveler
I have three brands I use: Faber Castell, Prismacolor, and Soho. Note that I am not recommending any particular brand. I am not a colored pencil artist. I dabble with them and that’s it. I am also aware that there are many, many brands of colored pencils available. Don’t ask me about them as I don’t know.
As I said I’m not a colored pencil artist. Instead I will admit to you that I have a bit of a colored pencil addiction. I love the assortment of colors and that fact that they don’t require a paint brush to use. What’s really pathetic is that I very seldom use any of my colored pencils, and there are a few other brands that I want to get sets of.
If you plan to colored pencils in your work, I highly recommend making sure to use colors with a high lightfast rating. Not all brands are the same, and colors within the same brand can have different ratings.
Generally speaking, if I’m adding lots of color, then it’s not something I wouldn’t sell because I don’t check the lightfast rating. Usually I’m doing a ‘craft’ project and just having fun. If it’s something I would consider selling, then I do check the lightfast rating and stay in the ‘very good’ or better range.
Here’s a chart showing how the lightfastness of a color can impact its longevity. I had problems finding charts for the 3 brands I use. I did find a couple of websites that provided information. Both claimed that of the three brands I use, Polychromos has the best pencils with regards to lightfastness.
Here are the websites I found. Be aware that I have no idea if they are presenting good information, but considering how much information they are presenting I would hope they know what they are talking about. If you have questions about a particular brand, I would start with one of websites I’ve listed below.
Pencil Place: https://www.pencilsplace.com/
Best Colored Pencils: https://www.bestcoloredpencils.com/
Polychromos is a brand that several colored pencil artist love. This brand has a many pencils that are rated archival which means the color is supposed to last 100 years before fading. The pencils are not cheap, but quality products generally aren’t.
These colored pencils are the inexpensive version of polychromos. They are not lightfast, but they have some of the same colors as the polychromos. I’m not even sure when I bought this set of colored pencils.
Some of the pencils by Prismacolor, like the titanium white, are lightfast. Most of their colors are not rated as high. Interestingly this is the only brand that I was able to find a lightfast chart, but it was on a Dick Blick’s art supply website. I couldn’t find it on Prismacolor’s site.
Lightfast chart: https://www.dick-blick.com/pdfs/20508color.pdf
Soho states that their “professional” colored pencils are “light-resistant,” which means they are not truly lightfast. I wouldn’t use them for commissioned work.
Pearl Ex is a powdered pigment, and they claim it is has an “extreme colorfastness,” but I couldn’t find a chart anywhere that lists the ratings of their colors. I like to buy variety sets that has an assortment of colors in little jars. You don’t need a lot as a little goes a long way.
Note – pearl ex is a powdered pigment, and it doesn’t have a binder in it. This means you must mix it with something that has a binder so it will adhere to the surface you’re painting it onto. The binder can be paints (including watercolor), glue, wood finishes, etc. Pearl Ex has a water based gloss varnish they sale, so I’ll put a link to that.
Apply the pearl ex after you seal the board with finish. Matte and Satin finishes will remove or dull down the metallic sheen of pearl ex. I won’t tell you how I discovered this, but I’m sure you can figure it out.
Note: If you are using a gloss finish, then you can apply the pearl ex before you seal the board.
Yasutomo metallic watercolors is another brand I’ve used to add a metallic sheen to my art. Since these are watercolors, all you have to do is add a touch of water and apply. I have no idea about their lightfast rating.
I cannot recommend any brand of watercolor. I have a super, super cheap set of paints that are similar to what you’d get for kids crafts. In fact, I’m sure that’s what they are geared for. My guess is that they have a terrible lightfast rating, so I wouldn’t use them for commission work! Since I can’t paint, no problem there. 🙂
6/30/2021 I recently upgraded my watercolor paints because I planned to make a greeting card. Since Winsor & Newton is my favorite brand of paper to burn on, I decided to try their Cotman watercolor set.
The Winsor & Newton paints are fanciest paints I’ve ever owned. I bought a set of 24 colors in half pan size. I didn’t include links to Jerry’s or Dick Blick because they didn’t carry the 24 color set. Plus their other sets where more expenisve.
DIAGONAL BOARD HOLDER
DRYWALL TAPING KNIFE
This is handy when using a torch to burn borders on a board. It protects the center of the board from the torch. The wooden handle doesn’t conduct the heat, so it’s comfortable to use for extended periods of time. This is an item that you can find at most home improvement stores. Amazon Tape Knife
I have a blog where I discuss using the taping knife to shield areas while using a torch along the border. Borders & Straight Edges
I keep a mini foam fan near my easel. It clamps onto the easel and runs on batteries. I use this to suck the smoke up and away from the board. Never rotate the fan so that it is blowing air onto the board! The reason is that it can interfere with the heat output on your pen.
I like the foam blades because they won’t do any damage if I touch them while it’s running. Which I have accidentally done. They are marketed as stroller fans and if you do a little searching you can find them in all sorts of colors and designs. Amazon Mini Fan
I always use an easel when burning. It angles the board so that it’s easier for me to see and work on. Plus it keeps most of the smoke out of my face. 90% of the time, if not more, I don’t burn dark enough to general smoke. In the upper right corner you can see a large paperclip or paper clamp attached to the board. I’ve upgraded to a plastic clamp, and it works so much better!
Todd built my easel back when I was into airbrushing. Thus the reason for the many paint lines. Unless you have scrape wood on hand, it’s cheaper to buy one.
I did write a blog about how to build this smaller easel in my studio set up blog, but again I do think it’s easier and cheaper to buy one. Build an Easel
Here’s a link to a very inexpensive one on Amazon. There are many styles out there and difference price points. Just do an internet search for Desktop Easels. Amazon easel
Embossing tools are also called ball stylus tools. I use them to create divots or shallow holes and other effects. I have a video that shows some of the different ways I’ve used tools like this. Using Embossers
I use an assortment of erasers.
I like the tombow erasers because they keep their shape allowing for very precise erasing. I use this type of eraser on portraits. I don’t burn in the trace lines on portraits, so after I’ve gotten an area block in I erase the pencil marks. There are often pencil marks nearby that I want to keep, so precision is needed.
This photo shows a combination eraser that has both a pencil and ink side. This style is cheaper than purchasing one dedicated to ink. The links are to the dedicated ink erasers.
Ink / sand erasers can remove medium to light colored burn marks. Another feature is to use them to create a soft or subtle highlight by removing just a little color from the burn.
I use kneadable eraser to remove excess graphite if I got my trace lines drawn on too darkly. I lightly rub the eraser over in one direction over the board. After 4-5 passes with the eraser, I knead it to get it clean and continue on. I doubt that one brand is better than another, but what I currently have on hand are the Prismacolor brand erasers.
I like the vanish eraser because it’s a bit more abrasive than a standard pencil eraser. It won’t remove burn marks, but it’s pretty good with stubborn pencil and white charcoal marks.
I like using an electric eraser to quickly and precisely remove color from a burn. I often use it without turning it on because I like the small tip of the erasers. The erasers don’t lose their shape like the ink / sand eraser does.
My electric eraser is made by Sakura, and it’s old. Many, many years ago when I researched getting an electric eraser, this one received very high ratings. Plus, it was rated excellent for heavy duty use. I can’t promise this is still true, but it still gets good reviews.
You must use sand / ink erasers for this to work on wood. This is not something that comes with any electric eraser that I’ve seen. I’ve only found these refills on Amazon. Amazon Sand Refill
Spot Sanding Pen
Another eraser or type of eraser I use is a spot sanding pen. This is made out of fiberglass and is very, very abrasive. This eraser is another one that keeps a small tip, so I can remove color in a fairly controlled fashion. I will admit that since i’ve found a pyrography suitable refill eraser for my electric eraser, I seldom use the spot sander. There are 4 reasons for this.
1. The spot sander creates fiberglass dust, and I’m sure that’s not good to breathe in.
2. A box of refill erasers is cheaper than 1 spot sander.
3. The refill erasers are smaller, so I can get more precision out of them.
4. Spot sanders are geared for removing rust of automotive parts, so they are extremely abrasive. It is very easy to create gouges in the wood; especially on softwoods and plywood.
Be aware that these tend to fluctuate in price quite a bit on Amazon, so I’d recommend doing a search to see who is selling it the cheapest. Also, I think you can get these in stores that sell automotive parts. Amazon sanding pen
I do have a blog where I compare the different erasers to see how effective they are at removing burn marks. Pyrography Erasers
FINISH / SEALANT
I personally prefer a matte finish because I don’t like reflected light interfering with viewing the artwork. Matte finish isn’t always available, so the next best thing is Satin finish. I won’t use semi-gloss or glossy finish, but that’s a personal preference. Also I would check with your local home improvement store and purchase finishes they as are likely to carry several brands in an assortment of sizes and finishes. Plus it might be cheaper.
Note: There are many, many brands of finish. I’ve only listed Minwax, because I know Todd uses it. Part of that is because that is what is available in my small town. Please don’t ask me about other brands, which one is best, etc., because I don’t know. I figure they must all be fairly similar otherwise the big stores wouldn’t carry them.
Lacquer. The nice thing about lacquer is that you don’t have to sand between coats. I couldn’t find matte finish on Amazon, so the links are for satin. Amazon Lacquer satin finish
Polycrylic. Polycrylic finish is easier to find with a matte finish than lacquer. The drawback of this finish is that you need to lightly sand between coats. Also it has a slight plastic feel to the finish. Amazon polycrylic satin finish
I recently found switched over to a new light system called the Duolamp. It has two arms that you can move around and 4 different brightness settings. It uses LED’s, so doesn’t get hot. That’s important for me because if I’m burning for any length of time, the heat from the lamps I used would make my burning area warm. I’m hoping that the new lighting will help improve my videos as I’ve had a couple of people tell me the images were a touch dark.
I got the table lamp, but it’s not very tall. I have to put it up on a stand so that the arms are above my easel, but I do have a large easel; it’s over 20 inches tall (50.8). They have a clamp on version and in hindsight that probably would have worked better for my situation. They also have a floor model, but I knew that wouldn’t work for me. Amazon Duolamp
I buy my leather from Tandy Leather as they are the only leather store semi-close to me. I’ve done some searching and they have good prices. They often have “special purchase” leather that is really cheap, and I’ve discovered there is a reason. When burning I keep getting waxy spots that emerge. I don’t know what it is, but I think it’s called bloom.
With my order I chose to purchase leather in their Craftsman Oak series. Covid was raging at the time, so I had to order online. I asked them to send me something that was very pale because I planned to use it for pyrography. They sent a wonderfully pale hide, and I was very pleased! Another feature I liked was that the flesh side was smooth; unlike the special purchase leather. I’ve since learned that if the flesh side is rough, then the leather wasn’t processed very well. Most importantly I haven’t had any issues burning on the Craftsman Oak series.
By the way I used my personal email information instead of my pyrography one, so they didn’t know I have a website or youtube channel. I avoid getting preferential treatment because I want to see the product they send to the average joe blow. In fact, I do this with all of my supplies.
Lastly, I want to mention that I’ve found Weaver Leather Supplies’ youtube channel to have lots of valuable information for those just learning; like me. That’s where I learned about rough flesh being a sign of a poorly cured hide. Weaver Leather YouTube
I use a mounting board if I’m working with paper. I secure the paper to the board to keep the paper from buckling. I choose a scratchboard versus hardboard because I have tape remove thin layers of the hardboard. Also, the ampersand brand is archival, so I don’t have to worry about it altering the acid-free qualities of the paper.
Burning on paper is a bit more difficult than wood, and it’s a lot harder to fix mistakes. On the flip side, paper comes in a wide range of sizes. Is easy to store and frame. You don’t have to do anything to get the paper ready for burning; unlike wood. Paper is cheaper to ship, and you don’t need to seal it. Lastly, 1 sheet of paper is often cheaper than a similar sized piece of wood.
NOTE: Make sure to get hot pressed, 100% cotton paper. The hot pressed surface will have a smooth texture and that allows for finer details to be created. If it isn’t 100% cotton or rag then you will have problems with it fading and/or discoloration over time.
PAPERS I DON’T LIKE
Papers I’ve tried and haven’t much cared for: Cartridge paper, Lanaquarelle, Fluid Speedball, Meeden Baohong, and Strathmore 500 series. As I try burning on more papers I’ll update this section.
I wouldn’t have included this section other than I’ve been asked about it. For pyrography any pencil will work, so don’t spend a lot of money.
I use a mechanical pencil with a 0.5 mm lead for tracing patterns. I like the fine point that I never have to sharpen. I don’t know the brand I use, but I can tell you it was something super cheap. I’m not creating art with it, so it works just fine for my purposes.
I like to use HB leads because it tends to be soft enough to produce a nice dark mark, but firm enough so it doesn’t break.
I personally don’t like the lead larger than 0.5 mm, and the smaller leads break too easily for tracing purposes. I will tell you now that the link is to the first pencil on Amazon and it looks to be much nicer than what I use. 🙂 Amazon Mechanical Pencil
Pencils sets include a number of pencils in the H range which are too light for coating the back of patterns. Ironically sets are much cheaper than a box that contains just one tonal value.
The set I found is extremely cheap, so I’m sure they are very low quality. Again, all we’re doing is coating the back of patterns with them. Even tossing out all of the H range pencils, this set is still cheaper than a box with one tonal value. Amazon Cheap pencils
Compressed Graphite Sticks are great for quick coverage of the page. I also love to use them when working with larger patterns; again because it’s so much faster than a regular pencil. Plus, you don’t have to sharpen them. The downside is that your fingers get covered with graphite. Since I hate that I wear rubber gloves when using these. Amazon Compressed Graphite
I have recently started using pencil extenders to hold small pieces of the graphite stick. Small pieces are difficult to work with, so the extender solves that problem and I don’t get messy fingers. Amazon Pencil Extenders
Epson workforce WF-7620 is the printer I use. I picked this specific printer because it can print ultra large up to 13×19 inches and scan up to 11×17. I don’t use the large sizes often, but on occasion I do. For me scanning is important because I create patterns; otherwise, I wouldn’t care.
I bought this print several years ago and it has been discontinued. Now the printers available are either used or obscenely priced. I think I paid around $400 USD, and now they are almost double.
What would be a good substitute? I couldn’t begin to tell you. Instead I would direct you to an article by Good Housekeeping. I have not read the article as I’m not in the market for a printer, but good housekeeping has a good reputation and that’s why I picked them.
I use 220 grit sandpaper to prep my boards before burning them. I have no idea what brand I’m using, but I doubt it really matters. Also, some people like to sand their boards with a higher grit to get a smoother finish. There’s nothing wrong with that.
The only problem I’ve ever experienced was a guitar fretboard that Todd had sanded to 1000 grit. It was so smooth that I couldn’t get pencil marks to adhere to the surface.
Some people use sandpaper to remove and/or fix mistakes. I seldom do, but that is only because I don’t feel like I have much control with the paper. Or to put that another way, I have troubles being precise with the sanding.
I’ve seen some artist on youtube who use sanding sticks or twigs. I haven’t used them, but they do look intriguing. Amazon Sanding Sticks
I always keep a piece of scrap wood by or on my easel. Sometimes I use it to elevate the artwork so that it’s easier to burn along the lower portion. As you can see from the photo, my piece of scrap wood gets a lot of use. I blot my pen tip on it after pauses in burning. This removes any excess heat and helps prevent dark burn marks from appearing.
I use scrapers to create highlights, whiskers, and remove mistakes.
I don’t use the cutting edge of the blade. Instead I use the blunt non-cutting end that the green arrow is pointing at. Also, I get the really cheap ones that have scored blades that you can break off. I couldn’t find anything but a box of the cheap style I use online, but I’m sure that a home improvement stores sell them.
I use tape secure reference photos and/or patterns to the board for tracing, and I use tape to secure paper to a mounting board to keep it from buckling.
First aid paper Tape is what I use if I’m working with leather or paper. The tape is low tack and won’t mar the surface of either the paper or leather when you remove it. Amazon paper tape
This image shows the damage regular tape, like scotch tape, did to my watercolor paper when I removed the pattern. That’s why I only use the first aid paper tape on paper and leather.
Scotch tape is what I use on wood. Just make sure not to burnish (rub over) the tape as it might damage the board. I know several people prefer to use painters tape; this a great idea and one I haven’t implemented yet. Amazon Scotch Tape
White artist tape is what I use this tape to secure paper to a mounting board. It is acid-free and forms a good strong seal. I have had problems with it marring the paper upon removal, but that usually happens because I had the paper secured for a long time.
I have a bernzomatic and I’m not overly thrilled with it because it runs out of fuel very quickly. Mine can be used as a soldering iron, so is okay for doing more than lighting a candle or the bbq grill. I couldn’t find the one I use, so I’m providing a link to the “best seller” brand of soldering iron torch on Amazon. Whether or not it’s any good I can’t tell you, so if you want a torch I recommend doing your research. Amazon mini torch
I don’t use tracing paper.
I kept buying different brands to try out and I hated them all. Either they were to light to see well or they were so dark I had problems erasing them. I quit wasting my money and use my tried and true method. I coat the back of the pattern with graphite and place the graphite side down on the board. Then secure the pattern with two pieces of tape, and proceed to trace over the pattern.
This is a great product to use if you want to use watercolors on wood. Without this watercolor, inks, markers, etc., behave like stains. By that I mean that they instantly penetrate the wood instead of floating on the surface. Brush marks don’t blend.
I should mention that there are other brands of watercolor grounds. This just happens to be the one I tried.
There are many brands available, but I’ve only used Generals and Conte. Generals is easier to find and cheaper, so that’s the link I’ll provide. Jerry’s and Dick Blick only sold sets that included black charcoal, so I didn’t bother with them. Amazon White Charcoal
My preference is solid wood. In order of preference I like basswood, maple, and poplar. I will burn on plywood because it’s readily available and a lot cheaper than solid wood. My complaint with plywood is the texture and the fact that it doesn’t age as well as solid wood. I’m sure that has to do with the fact that glues are involved.
While I was researching some information for a community post on YouTube, I came across a company, Ocooch Hardwoods, that sales basswood online. They also sale maple and poplar. They sale it in one foot lengths by various widths, and the prices were too bad. I haven’t worked with them, so I don’t know how good their service is. Ocooch Hardwoods
Basswood is my favorite to burn on. It’s a pale wood and doesn’t tend to have a lot of grain lines. If you do not live in the USA, then basswood will be called something else. In some places it is called linden, common linden, and common lime (no relationship to lime fruit trees).
I buy mine at an exotic lumber store in Portland, Oregon. The store sells it as rough boards, so Todd has to do a bit of work to get them useable for me.
If you have a lumber yard or exotic wood store check with them to see if they carry it or maybe they would be willing to have some brought in for you. Be aware at the time of writing this (April 2021) lumber prices are really high and some items aren’t available.
Amazon and craft stores sell basswood planks. Usually you’ll can find planks with and without bark on them. Amazon Bass Plank
Basswood panels are another option. They are technically a plywood, but the ones made by Ampersand are artist grade. I’ve found them to be of good quality. They have a nicer surface texture and they age much better than regular plywood. FYI – You have to scroll down past the cradleboards to get to the panels. Jerry’s Artarama Bass Panels
MAPLE & POPLAR
While I like burning on both of these woods, they are something I buy a lumber stores. Yes, you can buy lumber online and have it shipped, but the freight gets expensive. Plus as I mentioned before lumber prices are really high right now. I did provide a link to an online website that ships wood (see above section for Basswood).
Plywood. Plywood tends to be inexpensive when compared to solid woods. Be aware that plywood doesn’t age well. By that I mean it tends to yellow or darken over time and the artwork gets harder to see. The art boards are better in this regard, but the tend to be expensive; often costing more that solid wood.
Also, I don’t recommend using anything thinner than 1/4 inch because it is prone to bowing and buckling. Even 1/4 inch might buckle or bow.
B/BB grade. B = decent. BB = not so decent
12×12 x ¼ (pack 12) Amazon plywood B/bb squares
A = nice surface
12×12 (5 pack). Unfortunately the only one I could find is very thin (around 1/8”) Amazon plywood A squares
If you have problems with thin wood bowing, then attach it to a wooden frame base. This image shows a cradleboard that can be purchased at art supply stores. It is nothing more than a piece of plywood with a wooden frame base. Depending on the brand, the plywood is much better quality than what you will get at home improvement stores or the listings I provided for Amazon.
I do have a blog where I tested out different brands of cradleboards. I do recall that Ampersand was my favorite from the initial round of testing. I’m still doing the second round of testing, so I haven’t updated the blog to reflect what I thought of the boards after I burned artwork on them. Cradleboards
That is it for this blog. I know I didn’t provide any great or grand information, but I do hope that having a list with links on where to get supplies is helpful.
Apr 16, 2021
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