Friday, 21 September 2012

A Good Finish

Hi all,
I've been doing pyrography now for almost 18 months and I thought I'd tell you what I've learnt about finishes. Lots of money can be wasted on finding the right finish for pyrography so here's how I got on.

When I started doing pyrography, I did a bit of research and bought three books on the subject in an effort to give me a good grounding. I did some of the exercises in the books and followed the advice of the authors wherever possible. When it came to finishes, Danish Oil was what they recommended, because it is colourless and they said that it would bring out the beauty in my pyrography work.

It was a bit on the expensive side, so I purchased the smallest can I could get and gave it a try. I tried it on a book marker that I'd done some grasses on and I was disappointed. I paid about £14 for that tin of Danish Oil and about £13.95 worth of it is still left in the tin.

I'd like to find something good to say about Danish Oil but I can't. If anybody knows of any attributes that I may have overlooked perhaps they'll let me know what they are. From my point of view it doesn't provide much in the way of protection and it doesn't give my work the rich look I'm after. Besides that, it smells funny and needs to be left for at least 4 hours before re-coating. But worst of all was the warning I found on the back of the tin. This warning reads something like this,"After you've applied the Danish Oil with a rag make sure that they are laid out flat to dry. Otherwise they may set on fire due to spontaneous combustion."

I like my workspace and I'm not taking the risk of having it burnt down to the ground because I forgot to flatten out a piece of oily cloth.

Another oil that I tried was chopping board oil. When I started pyrography I, like many others, went down the kitchenware route. I burnt patterns onto wooden spoons, egg cups, and chopping boards etc. These items need to be finished with chopping board oil because it is safe for items that come into contact with food. I still have most of that left in a tin too because I've stopped doing kitchenware items, and to be honest the finish wasn't anything to write home about. One of my chopping boards can be seen below.

Anyway, after giving up on the oils I decided to give good old-fashioned varnish a chance to shine and when compared with the oils I was very impressed. It dries quickly, gives a really nice glossy finish and it protects my pyrography work. I don't know if it is just me, but people seem to have got very snobby over the use of varnish. They seem to think that it's just something that sailors use to coat the bottom of their Yachts. My advice would be give it a try a see the results for yourself.

I use Ronseal quick drying gloss varnish, which dries in 1 hour, so my usual three coats can be done in half a day. The brush I use can be cleaned easily with soap and water so no nasty chemicals are involved. If you want your work to really shine, give your work a light sanding with some fine sandpaper before you apply the last coat.

You can get Ronseal varnish in various shades and besides the clear gloss I also use light oak where my wood needs to be warmed up a bit. I wouldn't go any darker than light oak because if you do it will cancel out some of your pyrography work.

Here are some tips about the use of varnish.
Work quickly and always brush it on in the same direction as the grain on the wood.
I apply several thin coats rather than a couple of thick ones.
Lastly, before you put the lid back on the can, take a piece of kitchen towel and wipe any varnish off the lid and from around the rim on the tin. The reason for this is because if you don't, the next time you open the tin, little bits of dried up varnish will drop into your tin and these will be transferred onto your work. The net result is that you will have to chuck the tin away before you have used half of it, due to it being full of bits. I know this is true because it happened to me. At £8 for a small tin chucking any of it away seems like a daft option, but there again I've always been as tight as a drum skin.

Above is a honey pot that I did and you can see varnish gives it a bit of sparkle.

In my next post, I'll explain my use of colour. Why use it at all and when do acrylics give better results than watercolours.

Friday, 14 September 2012

Treasure Chest Part2

Hi All,
Following on from my last post, the next thing I did was darken the background. It needed to be dark to create the right contrast with the daisies, which I will be painting white and yellow.

Shading in the background can be difficult especially if you try to go too dark too quickly. Also you will find that when you go around the edges of the flowers you will have to take your time. The trouble with taking your time with pyrography means that you will get a very dark burn and a dark black line around the flowers which looks ugly.

To overcome this issue, I turn the heat down on the pyrography iron and work quickly around the flowers. I also try not to go in straight lines when doing the shading because this produces straight dark lines which don't look right.

I do the shading by burning in a circular motion and vary the speed at which I move my pyrography iron. By doing this I can give the wood a mottled effect that gives the flowers a nice background. It took me quite a while to burn my way around all the flowers and fill in the rest of the blank wood, but like I said in my last post, I find it quite therapeutic. Below is the box after I'd burnt in the background.
The box was beginning to take shape at last, and although the background looked good it needed something to make it special. I decided to paint over the pyrography work with a light oak varnish which provided a luxurious finish. The varnish gave the whole thing uniformity and gave it a walnut sort of look. At this stage I also painted the inside of the box with the same varnish.
Once I was satisfied with the background, it was time to tackle the daisies. Every petal needed to be painted individually and that was a big task. In total there are approximately 460 petals on that box. I used acrylic paint, a very fine brush and a skip-load of patience. If you ever use acrylic paints on a subject like this, wash your brush out after completing each flower because if you don't, you will soon find your brush is ruined. Only dynamite can wreck brushes faster than acrylic paint.

Once the petals were done, I also gave the centres a coat of white acrylic. I would later paint them yellow, but I find that if I use an undercoat of white first, it helps the colour to shine through.

When you are using a pyrography iron or paint brush on an odd shaped thing like a box, it is easy to get the wobbles. So I use a couple of blocks of wood to rest my hand on while doing the work. If you haven't got wooden blocks just stack up a few books and rest your hand on them.

Despite being as precise as possible when doing the painting, I find that I make the odd mistake and go over the odd pyrography line on the petals. We're all human and it doesn't matter because I just wait until the paint is dry and burn the line in again. This needs to be done quickly or you will find that the white paint soon becomes brown and I've never seen a daisy with brown petals.

At this time I will also touch up a few of the petals by giving them another layer of white paint and then paint the centres yellow.

Once that was done, I gave the whole thing 3 separate coats of clear gloss varnish.

Lastly I stuck a layer of felt on the bottom of the box, both inside and out, and also put a layer inside the lid. Here is the finished box. I think it looks great and I had a relaxing time whilst doing it.
In my next post I will be tell you what I think about the various finishes that can be used on pyrography work. I've produced a number items now and by following the information I found in pyrography books I've wasted some money on various finishes and that's not a good thing.

By the way, all of the pyrography work done on this box, was done with a spoon tip. In fact I rarely use anything else.

Thursday, 6 September 2012

Treasure Chest

Hi, I have just started a new pyrography project and thought I'd take you through the process I use.
Those of you who have been following this blog will know that I have done a few small round trinket boxes but this is my first rectangular jobbie.

I was going to use my pyrography iron to burn a tree, some mushrooms and a fairy into it, but decided it was too small for such an intricate image. After soul searching through the image banks in my mind I came up with a daisy pattern. This would suit me because it would be simple to draw and the pyrography work would be therapeutic in its simplicity. Here is a photo of the box after I had drawn the daisies on it with a pencil.
Drawing a daisy might at first glance look very skillful, but I'll let you into a secret, its easy peasy. I once read a book about drawing that said the best way to draw anything is to break it down into basic shapes, so that is what I do with daisies.
Draw a circle first for the centre of the daisy, then draw an upside down tie. Follow my diagram and you'll soon be drawing daisies everywhere. It didn't take me long using the method described above to cover every side of the box with pleasing compositions. I always find that flowers look better if there are a few overlapping petals here and there to give the image a bit of perspective. I  don't worry  about being too precise or trying to make my daisies too symetrical because nature doesn't work like that.
Anyway, I soon put my pyrography iron to work and burnt in the daisies at one end of the box. I did an end first to allow me to get into my stride with the pattern. I find it best to do the centre circle first and then do the petals. At this stage I don't follow my pencil marks exactly, I use them for guidance only and once I start burning I get a feel for the pattern.
Once I have completed a side I get out my eraser and remove all traces of pencil before I forget. It looks horrible if you can see a bit of pencil work once the varnish has been applied.
There are 22 daisies on this box and there are those who may think that burning that many flowers on a small box with a pyrography iron is very tedious. Well I don't, in fact, I find it very therapeutic and often find my mind mulling over the plot for my next book. There are those who may think that it is not cost effective to spend so much time burning and later painting so many daisies. Well its true that if I was doing it for the money I'd be earning less than a slave, but there again I could have wasted my time doing a jig saw puzzle and, at the end of the day, have to break my creation up and put it back in the box so my Mrs can lay the table for our evening meal.
And here is another thing, how many hours a week do people spend doing crosswords and Soduko, just for fun? The answer is millions. Okay, it may take me ten hours to create a box that I'll probably sell for less than a tenner, but I've had great value from the sheer joy of doing it. Anyway,  that's enough of that, here's a photo of the box after all the pyrography iron line work was finished.
It is now at the half-way stage and I think it looks kind of cute. In my next post I hope to be able to show you how it turned out

Sunday, 2 September 2012

Free Book

Hi, I just though I'd let my readers know that I'm giving away a free download of one of my novels, Bossyboots today 2nd September.

Please follow this link to Amazon USA or Hope you enjoy readiong it.

Normal pyrography stuff will be resumed in my next post.