Wood burning engraving tools range from the simple to the complex, but any one of them offers new creative opportunities for those working with wood. Different varieties of wood burn differently so try to experiment and see how results vary. Basswood’s fine and uniform texture makes it easy to work while poplar’s color makes for distinctive pieces. When using any of the handheld wood burners, first trace your design and transfer it to your wood blank using graphite transfer paper.
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Basic Beginner's Tool
The basic wood burning tool has a permanent, fixed tip that heats up to between 600 and 900 degrees. The tip is chisel-shaped and in patient hands it yields some very detailed engravings. Apply the flat portions of the tip for shading, the point for dotted patterns and the chisel edge for lines of various thicknesses and depths. A metal plate or a piece of ceramic tile is useful for preventing unwanted burns you set down the tool. A basic wood-burning pen also has a thinner and lighter wire tip.
Changeable Tip Tool
After using the basic tool, you'll find more options with a tool that has changeable tips. The tips can have many shapes, including cones, stars, diamonds and varying widths for shading. These units come in light or heavy duty, the latter will last longer since they're heavier and and more appealing to artists who prefer durable tools.
This tool is for the serious wood burners, and has a dial that allows the temperature to go to 2,000 degrees in about seven seconds. These units burn quicker and have a very fast recovery time. A thermostat is built into the tool so you have more control for the tip temperature. Tips for these tools come in a wide variety including fish scales and feathering tips.
A computerized wood-burning laser engraving machine attaches to your computer like a printer. You create the graphics in a software graphics program and then send it to the engraver much like sending a document for printing to a printer. The laser vaporizes the wood as it engraves the image. One advantage is that nothing but a beam of light touches the wood being engraved. The finished item is finely detailed. These engravings may have up to 1,200 dots per square inch. You can also make engravings of photographs. Another benefit to a laser engraving system is that you can quickly and easily engrave the same images many times.