|Questions and Answers|
What temperature setting do I turn my dial to when burning?
The question that you asked me; what temperature setting to turn your heat dial to when burning specific areas is one I'm asked a lot. Unfortunately there is no definitive answer because a lot of variables come into play to determine what the heat setting you should be on.
I'm going to list the variables below so that you get an idea of what sort of things come into play when selecting the correct heat setting …but before that I need to explain that even though we are using the same machine, in this case a Razertip, many of the variables below will still also dictate the settings I use in comparison to another razertip user.
These variables that come into play mean, when I do an instructional video, that it is almost impossible for me to say "for this section I'd like you to set your temperature dial to 5."
Some of the variables are:
1) Machine selection. Some machines burn incredibly hot at a low dial range where others are more gentle and have a larger heat range. This will determine greatly the temperature dial you set to burn certain areas.
2) The cord. The gauge or thickness of a cord will also help determine where to set the dial.
3) The amount of metal used in tip construction. A shading tip has a lot more metal used in its construction compared to a thin skew or a small writing nib. The most important thing to remember is the more metal used in a tip, the more power it will need to burn an impression. Less metal used in the construction of the tip will mean that less power is needed to heat that tip and burn an impression. Because there are numerous types and sizes of tips on the market you can see this one area can greatly determining the heat setting of your dial. Dial setting 7 on my machine might be perfect for burning with a large shading tip, but that same heat setting will see a small skew glow red hot and be unsuitable for controlled burning. This is one reason I always recommend people have a scrap piece of material next to them to determine the correct heat setting after they have changed to a new nib.
4) The material being burnt on. You will find that a cooler tip temperature will make a decent burnt impression on basswood, but that same tip temperature won't make a dent on a more dense timber. All woods tend to burn at different tip temperatures. Even the same species of timber can burn at different temperatures, depending how dry it is…oily it is…and so on. The same applies to other materials. You will only need a gentle heat to burn on leather but you will need a red hot tip to burn on bone. It's important to always have a scrap of the same material you're burning on, set aside, so that you can practice your strokes and get the right tip temperature that is relevant to your project material.
5) Hand speed. If you tend to burn with a quicker hand motion you will need your temperature dial turned up slightly more compared to somebody that burns with a slow hand motion. This is because the person with fast hand motion will need a hotter tip to make an impression in less time compared to a slow tip speed.
6) Clean tips. The dirtier you tips the less evenly and cleanly they will burn and you will find that you will need a slightly higher temperature compared to clean tip burning. This is particularly important to remember when you're using interchangeable pens and tips. If the grooves of the pen or the metal posts of the nib are getting dirty there will be less clean conduction and therefore you will have to turn your temperature dial up more to burn the same impression compared to a clean rig.
7) Air temperature/breezes. If you're burning in a cooler room you will require more heat temperature than you will in a warm room. If you are burning by a window and breeze is moving across the burning tip this will also drop the temperature of the tip and you'll have to turn your temperature dial up. It's important to remember that environmental temperature and other working room variables can affect the temperature dial settings. This is also true of power points. Some power points give a better current than others and this can also affect how high or low you should set your temperature dial to burn the same impression.
8) Tight connections: if you have loose connections then the current cannot move smoothly to the tip and this will also affect your temperature setting, you will have to set it higher to make the same impression than if you had tight connections.
9) Sub adjusters. Some companies like Razertip do have sub adjusters on their dual burner machines. This sub adjuster can be adjusted high, medium, low or any other range in between to change the temperature range of the dial. This means if I am burning on leather I would turn my sub adjuster down to provide a comfortable burning range for that particular material. If your machine has a sub adjuster then your heat setting at 6 might be entirely different to my heat setting at 6 depending on where my sub adjuster is set.
I think if you look at the list of variables above you can see that there is no definitive way of recommending the setting the temperature dial should be. It will very much depend on individual circumstances.
It's because of this that I recommend strongly that people do have a like material, a scrap piece, next to their work station so they can practice strokes and heat before dedicating them to the main picture.
Thanks for asking the question Robert, I'll post this on Facebook and other places so people can also share in this information. (Robert kindly agreed to this.) I know it's a complex subject but it is one I've been asked a lot about so I think it's worth sharing the information so we can all get a better grasp on temperature setting selection.
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