Monday, 24 April 2017

Colouring Pyrography

Hi all,
Adding colour to pyrography is not something that all pyrographers agree with. Some say it spoils the whole concept of pyrography while others see it in a different light. It is the same with wood turners. While some purists only like wood finishes that show off the grain, there are others who like a bit of colour.

To be honest I'm not bothered either way, I certainly would put colour on wood just for the sake of it, but there are times when it can bring a piece to life. So, such was my dilemma when I recently turned a "T" light holder. It looked pretty good just with the pyrography on it, but I was desperate to colour something with the airbrush that I had for my birthday.

Anyway, the need to colour won and I gave the leaves a quick spray of yellow and another of orange to represent autumnal leaves. I didn't have to mask the leaves off because the stains I used came out of the airbrush in a very fine mist so they could not be seen on the dark pyrography background.

Here it is with the colouring on.
My wife preferred it with out the colour and so did a few members of the Pen turners forum
I'm on the fence, I liked them both, but in my mind, if you don't try anything new you will stay ver much stuck in the rut you started off in.

Just a word on the finishing of this piece. I used a high gloss melamine spray and although it does put a shine on the wood. Be warned, it needs to be used with a safety uppermost in you mind. The vapours are very strong so only use in a really well ventilated room, outside would be even better, and wear a mask that is rated for fumes. The mask you use for dust will be about as much use as tits on a bull.

In actual fact, I don't like using spray finishes at all, but it is the only way to get a seal over the colouring that would otherwise wipe off if a normal wax finish was used. I am going to invest in a can of wipe on melamine finish so that I can use the spray just to seal my work with one coat and any susequent coats will be the wipe on stuff.

Anyway, at the moment I seem to have got the colour bug and in my next post I will show you my next project which involves 6 different colours.

If you have any questions or comments they are all welcome

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Trinket pot

Hi all,
I decided that instead of making another pen I'd have a go at another needle pot, well that was what it was supposed to be, but it came out a bit shorter than I intended so I'm calling it a trinket pot.

Just as a reminder, here is the needle pot that I made recently. The leave design is done with pyrography and it's coloured with sharpie markers. The finish was done with CA, better known as superglue.
Anyway, I enjoyed making this needle pot so I made another with a different design which again was done with pyrography. One of the main reasons for doing another needle pot was to experiment with a different finish. Super glue or CA as it is known in wood turning circles has been a firm favourite, especially with pen turners, for a number of years. However, more recently its popularity began to decrease in favour of other finishes like melamine. I won't go into the reasons why, but if there is a better alternative to CA then I'd want to use it.

So with this in mind, I turned a new needle pot and then burnt on my pyrography design. I finished the lid using a gloss melamine spray and finished the body with CA. Here is a picture of the finished pot.
It's a fine little pot even though I do say so myself, but it did have its problems when it came to the finishing. So far I'm not convinced about either finish and here are the reasons why.

First the melamine finish.
I used this on the lid, spaying it in a cardboard box so that the spray didn't go every where. I had the door to the workshop and two windows open but it was still a dire process. It was a case of spraying one side of the lid and then beating a hasty retreat to a place more friendly, in this case it was the garden. After waiting a decent period, I went back in, turned the lid around and then sprayed it from the other side. This process was repeat four times in total to make sure it got a good coating. The fumes from this finish are very strong so I was not happy with the process at all.

The CA finish.
I put five coats of thin viscosity CA on the body and all was going well until I gave it a coat of medium CA. I had intended on giving it three coats of medium CA, but after the first I noticed a white bloom in a large area of the pot. This wasn't what I expected so decided to go no further with the CA. I put the lid on the pot a burnished them both with burnishing cream. I was hopeful that this would get rid of the white bloom and I'm pleased to say that it did.

It seems that using CA for finishing is a bit of a lottery, most of the time it comes out great, but often it doesn't. I don't like the fumes CA gives off and there is always the danger of sticking parts of one's anatomy together, or even worse, sticking a part of one's anatomy to the lathe.

My conclusions are that I will rarely use CA again for a finish due to its unpredictability and, for the time being at least, I will use the melamine spray. I think the melamine itself is okay, it is the spraying that is the big issue, so I'm going to investigate the wipe on type of melamine and I will let you know how I get on.

My next project is a T light holder, decorated with pyrography and coloured with the new toy I had for my birthday. I can't wait to try it out.

By the way, if you are interested in downloading a free copy of one of my books from Amazon it will be free from Wednesday 19th of April until Sunday. It is called "Bossyboots" and is the funniest book I've written. Don't let the childish title put you off because it is grown up in its content.

To get a copy just click on the book's tab at the top of the page and then click on the book's cover to go straight to the book on Amazon. Please grab a copy while you can because it will be a long while before it is free again.

Thursday, 6 April 2017

New Pen Kit

Hi all, Up until a couple of weeks ago, all the pens I turned were made from slimline kits. This is the classical slimline pen shape.
Slimeline pens are great for pen turning beginners because the kits to make them are inexpensive. One of the downsides of this popular pen is the shape. It has a metal band in the middle which gives the pen a wasted look that not everyone, including my wife, finds attractive. Making the pen thin enough for the centre band means that, to make the pen look anything like right, the top and bottom need to be reasonably thin also. This means for somebody like me, that wants to decorate the pen with pyrography, the canvas to work on is very narrow.

It is possible to modify a slimline pen kit by doing away with the centre band altogether.
Here is an example where I have used a pyrography band has been used to differentiate between the bottom of the pen and the top.

In the next example, I have modified the slimline kit and changed the shape in the centre instead of using pyrography bands.
Anyway, after doing thirty odd pens made from slimline kits, I had the urge to try one of the bigger pens, which would give me more space for burning. I choose a design called a Zeta. The Zeta is a beautiful, top quality pen kit that can be purchased from
They come in a couple of colour ways and this is the first one I made. The pen kit is gun metal and chrome and the wood is black palmera.
I think you can now see the difference between a slimline pen and Zeta. I think this pen is stunning, even though I do say it myself. I was bought up under the notion that if you didn't blow your own trumpet nobody else would bother blowing it for you. Having made this Zeta, I made the next one from a gunmetal and gold kit and used maple for the wood blank, so that I could do some pyrography on it.
Here is the finished pen with a leaves design burnt onto it with my pyrography iron.
Sadly, you won't find any Zetas for sale yet in my
shop because my wife bagsied both of them. On top of that I've had an idea for the pyrography decoration on another needle pot so that will be the subject of my next post. I hope you enjoyed this piece about different pens kits, if you have any question please let me know.

Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Needle Pot

Hi all,
I'm a bit late with this post, I made the needle pot that I am featuring here just over a week ago. The sharp eyed may have already seen a picture of it on the woodturning's page but I thought I'd give it a mention here. As usual time is short because my wife is always thinking of ways to keep me occupied, while I'm working on one task for her, she is busy adding to the list of other things that she need doing. On top of that, Spring is here and the garden also needs my undivided attention.

Ah well I shouldn't moan. I decided to do a needle pot, I call it a needle pot even though my wife has filled it with tooth picks. She has never been big on sewing.

Anyway, I thought a needle pot would be a change from making pens, but at the same time be relatively quick. I did a quick sketch of the shape I was aiming for and did a leaf design that I would burn into the pot with my pyrography iron.
Here's the sketch.
I would turn the wood from a 35mm square spindle that would finish up about 75mm tall. The species of wood is unknown because it came from a bag of off cuts that I recently purchased when visiting ockenden-timber.
If you haven't been to okenden timber I can recommend it. The prices are fair and it is in a beautiful part of the country on the Welsh border near Church Stoke. It takes me the best part of 2 hours to get there, but it a lovely journey.

One of the things I liked about making this needle pot was that I didn't have to hollow it out. I just put a large forstner bit into my jacobs chuck and drilled the inside out.

Once the pot was turned, I drew my leaf design onto it freehand and then burnt it in with my Peter Childs pyrography iron, using a spoon tip.
Here is a picture of the finished pot.
It looks quite nice but I'm not 100% happy with it. Firstly, the leaves on the lid are a bit bigger than the leaves on the pot and this ruins the harmony of the piece. The second thing I don't like is the colour of the leaves, they are just too bright. I would have probably been better to leave them plain but I was experimenting. I had read in a couple of places about people using sharpie markers to colour their wooden projects. This seemed to me to be a good idea and easier than messing about with stains so I thought I'd give it a go.

I was aiming for an Autumnal look, so I coloured them mostly with a light yellow marker and just put a dab of orange here and there. After applying the marker colours the pot looked pretty good, however, the problem with the colour arose as soon as I applied the first coat of finish, which in this case was CA or superglue as it is generally known.

The CA must have reacted with the colour in the marker pens and it left me with a decision to make. Should I live with the colour or should I sandpaper it off, which would take most of the pyro work with it.

I choose the former and decide to finish the pot as it was and learn by the mistake. Has it happens, my wife really likes the colour so it didn't turn out too bad. If you have and comments about the pot please let me know.

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

New page added

Hi all,
 Just a quick one to let you know that I have added a new page to this blog. If you look along the tabs at the top you will see one called wood turnings; on it you will find a selection of the stuff that I have turned and burned since buying my lathe last May.

Please take a look.

I will be doing another post in a few days and I will show you a needle pot that I have just finished, which turned out really well.

Friday, 17 March 2017

Light Pull

Hi all,
Last week my wife asked me to put my newly found woodturning skills to good use and make her a light-pull for the bathroom. She wanted some flowers on it it go with the rest of the decor was the only stipulation, other than that I could do whatever I wanted.

I opted for a simple pear/gourd shape and decided to burn some daisies onto it. These would then be painted with acrylic paints to make them stand out.

Here is a picture of the turning, which was done from a piece of tulip wood. On it you will see that I have randomly burnt a daisy pattern. Also note that I have not parted it off yet because I need to put it back on the lathe to finish it. (for non woodturners, the last sentence means that the big ugly lump of the wood at the bottom isn't part of the light-pull, it is the means by which the turning is attached to the lathe.

Because of the shape of the wood, tracing daisies onto it would be very difficult so I just draw them on by hand. They are easy to draw if you follow a simple procedure.
1 Draw a small circle for the centre.
2 Draw a single petal at 12 o'clock.
3 Draw another petal the same size at 6'oclock
4 Then another at 9 o'clock
5 Then another a 3 o'clock
6 Now just fit another petal in each of the four gaps
Practice on a piece of paper first and you'll find that once you have done a 3 or 4 it will become very easy.
If you have a go at doing something like this don't be tempted to leave it like this and call it done. When I first started doing pyrogrphy I did a lot of outline work like this and was scared to do any more in case I spoiled it. Now however, I rarely leave my pyrography at the outline stage.

This photo shows how I go about shading in around the daises.
And here it is with the shading complete.
If you compare the first photo with the one above I'm sure that you'll agree that the shading in makes all the difference. The next step was to paint the daises, I use my wife's system 3 artist acrylics but any decent acrylic paint will do. Don't use watercolour paints because it will come off during the finishing process.

I know my wife likes things to be super shiny so I decided to put a CA finish on it. CA, or superglue as it is commonly known, is used for finishing turned pens, but I thought it might work on something this size just as well. Whether or not it stands up to the steamy atmosphere of the bathroom is another matter and I will let you know if it goes tits up.

Here is the finished light pull hanging in its place.
Ignore the black blob underneath because that is just the head of a screw that is holding the dado rail to the wall. Anyway, I like the pull and my wife was very pleased with it too. In fact, she was so pleased that she asked me to make two more, one for turning the shower on and another for the shower extractor fan. Ah well, it's nice to be appreciated, perhaps I'll get chance to turn another pen one day soon. If you have any comments, or questions about pyrography, I'd love to hear them.

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

My Method

Hi all,
I said in my last post that I would explain how I go about getting a pyrography design burnt onto a pen. Here goes.

The whole thing really starts in my head. I get inspiration from the most unlikely places, but once I get an idea I write it down or make a quick sketch. It is easy to think that I will just remember my idea, and sometimes I will. However, more often than not in days gone by, if I didn't write it down I would just forget it.

Anyway, nowadays I'm a bit more disciplined, once I have an idea, at the soonest opportunity I do a sketch of it in a book that I keep especially for my pen designs. It is a small sketch book and I have two pen designs per page.
First I draw the outline of the pen like the one on the left above. Then, I do a pencil sketch of my design. Once I am happy with the design I ink it in with a fineliner pen. This gives me a pretty good idea of what the finished pen will look like. It would be nice to be able to trace the sketch and transfer it straight to the pen, but due to the shape of the pen I find it impossible. The best way I have found is to use the sketch as a practice piece and draw the image again straight onto the pen with a pencil.

This is probably the hardest part of the process because of the shape of the pen makes it difficult to draw on. The good news is that when it comes to the burning process it is actually much easier. The reason for this is that the tip of the pyrography iron digs into the wood as it burns, and this makes it easier to do the drawing than it did with the pencil.

One of the best tips I can give you is to leave your pen attached to the mandrel while you do the drawing and pyrography work off the lathe. This will give you something decent to hold onto while you do your work on the pen.
Here is a photo of the actual pen that came from the sketch above of the pen with the harebells.
Here is another of some bullrushes (reedmace) and one with some leaves.

Here are the pens that I produced from those sketches.
Here are two more
I haven't turned the one on the left yet, but here is the one on the right which features some tulips.
And here is two more. I haven't done the one on the right yet.

So that is how I go about getting a pen design from my imagination onto a pen. They are all burnt using a Peter Child machine with a spoon tip which in my view is essential.

I burn the outlines of the images first on a medium heat setting to avoid over burn. Once the outline is done, I turn the heat up a fraction and shade in the background using a circular motion. Another tip is to blow on the iron tip as you make contact with the wood, this will help you to avoid getting dark black scorch marks on your work wherever you put your tip down first. It also helps to keep your tip moving, it is better to go over an area twice rather than to try and burn it too dark in one pass.

Like everything else in this world that is worth doing, practice as much as you can and the movement of your pyrography iron will soon become second nature.

Please feel free to use any of my designs above, all I would ask is that you send me a picture of your creation. If you have any questions please feel free to ask and any comments are welcome.