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  HOME TECHNIQUES WOODBURNING Wood Burning Tools

Wood Burning or "Pyrography" Tools
Picking the Right Wood Burning Tools

The pyrography pen design:
The older units were like a soldering iron where the heat coil, pen and tip were all one unit, quite heavy and hard to handle. The newer units have a separate control box, (pyrographic tool), power line (heavy and light duty cables) and wood burning pen... thus the pen is independent and much lighter. Decide which pen is right for you, ..trading off price for ease of use.

If you are going to get truly involved in wood burning it is not inconceivable that you might work for a couple of hours at a time. With that in mind, make sure that the pen is lightweight and easy to hold on to, or with time you'll find hand cramps become a frequent complaint. The finger rests must insulated your from the burners heat and allow you to hold the pen close enough to the tip that you have good control for fine detailing. Check to see if it feels balanced. Does the cord connection allow for easy handling, while you're still plugged in? Does it have enough flex without creating a lot of drag while using the pen?

The Pen Tips:
To change the pen tips, for more design control, tool manufacturers use one of two methods. Either the entire pen + tip separates from the power cable, and thus changed or... just the tip is removed from the pen holder and changed (usually it is held into place with a small screw or friction fit).

Tip Only:
In this style of nib, just the tip removes from the pen holder and a different shaped tip can be inserted. .....Is this a universal fitting so that you can use tips from various manufacturers, or is it a proprietary connection that will only receive its own tips. In the latter case, check out the selection of tips available to make sure, you will be able to buy the ones you want.

It is also important to analyse the connection - tip to pen. Often these connections can wear rapidly, if you change your tips often, resulting in poor temperature control from power unit to tip. Since this is also the part of the tool that heats up, the temperature change can negatively affect the connection as well, creating frustration in attaching new tips if you are in the middle of a project...... ask alot of questions and try them out.

Usually you use an interchangeable tip pen when the tip is very specialized and used infrequently or for only light duty jobs. ..ie. buying a special tip for writing your signature on your work, or a calligraphy bit for that odd occasion, when you want to add some lettering. It gives you great flexibility at a reasonable price.... tips are usually less than $5.00 a piece.

Pen + Tip:
This design is more expensive, since the pen plus the tip come as one unit. The pens are changed at the pen-power cable junction or at the power control unit. Like the "tip only" variety the connection is often propietary, so make sure the unit's manufacturer also has the pen tip designs you want...

Fixed tip pens are more reliable, since you are not connecting and disconnecting the electrical fittings of the fragile pen tips..... the fitting is at the power cable end of the pen. If you like to change your pen tips often this may be a better choice for your "frequently used" tips.

Often you have a choice between a standard pen and a heavy duty one. The standard is usually a little lighter/thinner and thinner tip wire. It will heat up faster and generally be easier on the hands but.... if you are finding that your tips break often, a heavy duty pen may be called for... especially with "shaders". Heavy duty pens have heavier wire tips, thus they break less frequently .. for "heavy" burning or with "heavy handed" artists a HD pen will always outlast a regular duty, particularly in a school.

...... some tip styles -->

Fine Point: It looks like a felt tip pen and used for fine details and crosshatching. It uses a lower temperature for good control when creating long fine lines of uniform width.

Round tip: This tip is similar to the "fine point" in overall appearance but is much huskier. It is used in heavier dot shading, and thicker, deeper line work.

Shading Tip: This tip looks more like a small spoon with the end bent up. It is used for shading of large areas, often only available in the heavy duty style.

Many other tips are available, just ask for a demonstration of the more specialized ones. Then make sure that you know how to clean your pen for extended life.


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theWoodbox.com Jan 2007