How to Burn Designs on Wood

by Scarlett Gauthier

Many artists create elaborate designs on wood by burning the outlines and images into the surface. The finished pieces are often sold as decorations for buildings, offices and homes. While some artists burn the designs directly into the wood freehand, artists generally use stencil burners to create the designs. Stencil burners provide precision edges for the burning design, which allows even amateurs to master the burning technique. You can create and burn designs with a stencil burner and materials found at craft stores.

Items you will need

  • Glass tray
  • Double-sided masking tape
  • Wood pieces
  • Stencil burner
  • Printer
  • Mechanical pencil
  • Tracing paper
  • Graphite paper
  • Thick glass piece with beveled edge
Step 1

Cut and place a few pieces of double-sided masking tape on the bottom of the tray. Place the tray on your work surface and press down gently to adhere it to the work surface. You want the tray to remain in place during your work.

Step 2

Decide on a design. Select an image from the Internet or a magazine. Pick an image that is simple, as complex images can lose detail when traced.

Step 3

Use a mechanical pencil to trace the image on tracing paper. Trace only the outline and other lines you want on the finished piece.

Step 4

Transfer the design to the graphite paper. Place the graphite paper on the wood piece with the shiny side down. Place the tracing paper on top of the graphite paper. Use the mechanical pencil to gently trace the image, which will transfer the design to the graphite paper.

Step 5

Plug in the stencil burner device and allow it to heat up. Position the beveled piece of glass on the work surface. Place the piece of wood on the beveled glass, with the graphite paper on top of the wood.

Step 6

Hold the stencil burner the same way you would hold a pencil or pen.

Step 7

Move the burner along the graphite paper stencil on the wood, following the design. Apply a small amount of pressure and use quick strokes. Avoid remaining in one spot, and make crisp lines. Turn and move the wood piece to make the burning procedure more comfortable. The area of the stencil you are working on should always be in front of you.

Step 8

Repeat the procedure in Step 7 if you want to darken any lines on the design. Unplug the stencil burner when finished. Allow the burner to cool.

Tips & Warnings

  • Always use protective eyewear.
  • Use a clear work area. Wood chips, paper and other flammable materials should be removed from the work surface.
  • Keep a fire extinguisher and a bucket of water handy in case of unexpected flare-ups.
  • Work in a well-ventilated space.

About the Author

Scarlett Gauthier began writing in 2003. Gauthier has a graphic design/arts DVS from Rosemount Technology Center in Montreal.