Sue Walters Pyrography


  PYRO NEWSLETTER #14 Page 2  

In This Edition:

Razertip Woodburning Systems...available here & world wide.
Computer Use & Patterns
Dapto Pyrography Group
Having a Ball. (C'mon, it had to be said)
3 Pyrographic Events


Having a Ball

For years wire nib writing tips mostly came in the form of a tightly bent piece of wire. It was and remains an effective writing tip, but it's one draw back is the tip shape isn't perfectly round. The Ball Tips, the new style of writing nibs are perfectly round and have a highly polished surface. The ball shape allows for a perfectly uniform line, no matter which direction the tip takes. The highly polished surface provides less resistance between tip and surface. The less resistance, the more fluid the motion...the more fluid the motion, the neater the burn.

Razertip 99.012 - 1.2mm Ball Tip
Razertip 99.030 - 3mm Ball Tip
Razertip 99.047 - 4.7mm Ball Tip

The 3 sizes of Ball Tips I elected to use on this project.

Burning profiles of the 10 sizes in the Razertip Ball Tip series.

I didn't try the ball tips until recently and I confess, after trying them out I have put away my old writing pen in favour of these little beauties. I not only appreciate their ease of use in general burning but they are the only tip on the market that gives a perfectly round stipple when used as a texturing tool.

As many of you know, I believe that the craft/art of pyrography shouldn't just be viewed as a drawing medium, instead it's full textural capabilities should be considered when burning some projects. With this in mind I decided to have a little play and combine some basic ball tip stippling with the pattern we have just manipulated in the Irfanview program.

I decided to use the stippling to texturally darken around the pattern image, to make it stand out strongly in relief. My particular set of Ball Tips come in 10 sizes, ranging from a minute .04mm to a large 5.5cm. All of the balls come in a fixed pen formate but the set is also available in an interchangeable format, to be inserted in to the Interchangeable BPH Pen. For the tips I use most often or tips where I'll be burning for long periods of time, I always use a fixed nib pen. I find a tip that is soldered to the pen burns more constantly and the handle remains cooler than interchangeable tips ...but if you want to expand your lesser used tip varieties for less money, then the interchangeable tips and a BPH pen are an excellent option. I myself use the 1.5mm ball and 2mm ball tips a lot so I own them in a fixed nib style. The rest of the ball range I own are in the interchangeable format and those are what I used for this project. (The burning on this project was quite hot and lasted quite a while. The pen handle warmed but never got uncomfortably hot at all.)

The BPH Pen. The BPH interchangeable pen uses screws to attach the tip to the pen. A unique feature of this pen is the ability to attach 2 tips at once...very hand when you need to burn thousands of dots or hairs. Interesting possibilities for edging also come to mind Eg: A ball and a skew used in conjunction to burn 2 different lines but at a consistent space.
As a stippling tool I used the 2 ball tip to stipple one line...
...then I staggered a row of stipples in between to completely fill the area.

The Project

1) Once I had transferred my pattern to the project, (a basswood platter), I outlined the design with a skew tip.
2) Seeing that the eye and tendrils are circular in shape, I also used a small ball tip to burn these. The ball tips can be 'pushed' and 'pulled' across the surface, meaning they can burn a full circle in one continuous stroke...without the need to lift off. This makes them the ideal tip to burn tight curves and to burn lettering. It's because of this that this style of tip is most often referred to as a 'writing tip.'

3) I wanted to use 3 different stipple sizes to fill in the background so I needed to divide the background areas somehow. Rather than keeping to the one shape I decided to form the divisions by extending the lines of the pattern. I've never tried this before but I really liked the effect and I think anyone could do it with just about any basic pattern. It certainly seemed to unify the background with the an abstract manner. I used a 2B pencil to draw the lines.
4) After I had finished drawing my pattern, I burnt along these lines with a skew. I then drew a number representing the size of ball to be used in stippling that particular area: 1 being largest, 3 being smallest. I alternated the number patches so that no adjoining patches were the same size.

4a) I felt the design needed some contrast so I decided to add an unburnt strip at the base of the side. To scribe the narrow strip I simply laid a pencil flat on the base and ran it around the entire oval. This gave me a uniform line all the way around. I burnt over this line with a skew.

5) I proceeded to stipple the number areas with dark dots. The heat setting was quite high but not brutally so. Stippling at a high heat tends to over scorch the wood, causing the dot to dig in too far and to be lighter in colour. I used a smaller ball size to burn the narrow gaps in the design.
6) This is a photograph of the partially completed stippling. I wanted to show you this because I liked the checkerboard look and thought it had possibilities for future projects.

7) The project has now been completely stippled and is ready for finish. I wanted to show you what else could be done from this point onwards so I decided not to finish, instead I decided to see what happens if I sanded off the peaks of the stipples.
8) I used a soft, finer grade sanding pad to gently sand the stipples. The stippling process digs into the surface of the wood, creating a dark depression with raised peaks surrounding it. When the stippled pattern is sanded, the peaks are erased but the valleys remain untouched. This creates a soft honeycomb pattern. (Just a thought that's come to mind...this pattern also reminds of reptile skin. This might be an interesting method to burn such a complex subject.) I sanded from the edge inward but decided to leave the dark stippling around the subject un-sanded...this gave a fade out aura around the design.

9) At this point I was pretty keen to see what would happen if I sanded all of the stipples back, so I did!:) I left the side un-sanded because I liked the strong contrast between it and the base.
10) Hmmm...not bad but I now felt that the contrast between the stippled areas was becoming muddied. I also liked the lead lighting effect of my pattern, so I decided to highlight the pattern by re-burning the abstract lines with a skew.

11) I decided to leave my experiments at that, but I hope my playing around showed you a little bit of a the give and take possibilities of pyrography...and also how much fun it can be to simply play at art:) Let's face it, the pattern is simple, the process is simple, but the results are very effective. (Notice how much more rich the pyrography looks after varnishing.)

12) I finished this off in a gloss acrylic spray. I find a spray covers the very uneven surface better than brushing does...besides, brushed varnish can 'foam' a little when agitated against the washboard of stipples. I normally prefer a satin finish for my pyrography but for stippled surfaces I prefer gloss. The glossed little spheres reflect the light at all sorts of angles, making the surface appear jewel like.


If you don't have any ball nibs you can use other textures and patterns to fill in the various patches. An extraordinary range of textures and patterns can be burnt by even the most basic pyrography tips. Here we see a texture board I created with only 3 basic are only limited by your imagination. Imagine using a combination of strongly contrasting patterns in this would give a pyrographic lead light look...very effective indeed.

BTW, the 'texture board' is something I recommend every pyrographer do to get a fuller understanding of what each tip is capable of. It is also one of the most talked about teaching aids I've created. Anyone can do one and they never fail to impress. This chart is included in a chapter on pyrographic texturing in my book, 'Pyrography Workbook'. (Fox Chapel Publishing.)


3 Pyrographic Shows

1) 2008 Woodburning Celebration Show and Competition, Pennsylvania.

Come join the pyrographic celebration at Cooks Forest, Pennsylvania. I was at this show last year but unfortunately I can't attend this year. The venue is lovely, the people friendly, the burning hot and the location is gorgeous. It promises to be another excellent show!

This event is open to all Pyrographic Artists and people wanting to learn this art.


Cook Forest Sawmill Center for the Arts in Cooksburg, PA It is near the western edge of Pennsylvania off I 80 near Clarion, PA The entire facility was remodeled and will be Air-Conditioned now!!!


August 15, 16, 17, 2008 (for exhibitors) Open to Public on Sat. & Sun. only. ALL entries must arrive by 7 PM on Thursday, Aug. 14, 2008! Walk-in entries will be accepted between 9 AM and 7 PM on Thursday, Aug. 14, 2008,

For more information visit Danette Smith's website or Cheryl Dow's website.

2) Canadian Gourd Society Show, Toronto, Ontario

The Canadian Gourd Society would like to invite everyone to attend our annual celebration of the art of the hard shell gourd.

Gourdfest 2008 takes place the weekend of September 27th and 28th, 2008, at Black Creek Pioneer Village located in Toronto, Ontario, Canada This living history park is conveniently located near hotels, restaurants and all amenities. Black Creek Pioneer Village Web site

Gourdfest promises to be a fun filled weekend with lots of gourd related activities to see and do. There will be a gourd art competition, gourds finished and unfinished to buy, artists demos, as well as a make and take area, mini demos, and classes - lots of classes. These include making a drum or a dream catcher, chip carving, embroidery, coiling, paper making, sculpting faces and of course pyrography. Each class is dedicated to meet the needs of novice as well as more experienced artists.

Watch the Society Website for further information and advance class registration. Hope to see you September 27th and 28th in Toronto, Ontario.

3) Sue Walters, at the Woodstock Woodshow, Ontario, Canada. Oct 3,4 & 5

I'll have a stand at the Woodstock Woodshow. I'll be demonstrating, selling Razertip and pyrography products and doing a seminar each day.

If you're in the area, come by and say hello.

You can EMAIL ME if you have any questions.

Here is a link to the show's website

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Copyright Sue Walters