Wood Burning: A Beginner’s Guide (from a beginner!)

This time last year, one of my friends got really into wood burning. It’s one thing to see amazing photos of projects people have pinned on Pinterest. It’s something else to see someone you know actually making those amazing projects. After several conversations with my friend (who assured me that it really wasn’t as hard to wood burn as what I thought it might be), I decided to give it a shot. Christmas was coming up, and some crafty homemade gifts are always a plus. So, I spent about $25 on this neat little set from Amazon, threw in a 12 pack of wooden spoons, and two days later – I was ready to try a new hobby.

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I started with this spoon right here, and I couldn’t have been more proud of my first attempt. I hadn’t read or watched any tutorials, nor did I have any spare wood to practice on – I just decided to wing it. I adore Harry Potter, and I’d seen a similar wand spoon somewhere on Pinterest and fallen in love with it. Luckily, this spoon lasted just long enough to get a few photos of it before my lovable yet destructive husky pup pulled it off the table in the night and decided to make it her new chew toy. ( I wish I was joking.)

My first ever wood burning project was gone, but I’d at least gained a new hobby. Having shared photos of my project with friends, I immediately started receiving requests. Most people wanted similar wand spoons, others wanted ornaments like the one my friend from Cincinnati requested as a Christmas gift for his boss – an ornament memorializing the recently deceased gorilla, Harambe (I lost count of how many people ordered this exact ornament – it was a hit! And so hilarious. XD). I may not be the most artistic person, but one thing was for sure, I was having so much fun wood burning.

And then – just like that – Christmas happened, life got ahead of me, and wood burning sort of got shifted to the side.

It’s been close to a year since I’ve picked up the wood burner, and in keeping with my goals for this blog and for my life, I want to do more of the things that make me happy. And since it took a friend showing me that it really wasn’t as hard as it looked, I decided to be that friend for you and show you exactly how easy wood burning can be – AND there’s still a couple more months till Christmas! You could be making ALL. THE. PRESENTS.

Wood Burning for Beginners
Things you will need:

  • A wood burner (duh!) – shop around and select your favorite. I think the Walnut Hollow tool that I purchased was a great value because it was relatively inexpensive, came with 11 wood burning tips, and can also be used to solder or carve other materials.
  • Wooden spoons are a great item to use for practice. You can get a set of 12 on Amazon for around $13, or you can pick some up at your local dollar store. Also, your nearest craft and hobby store should have a wide variety of unfinished wood items (everything from banks to birdhouses) that would look very pretty wood burnt.
  • Transfer paper. When I first started wood burning, I would draw every design freehand onto the wood with a pencil. This method is perfectly fine, but the only problem comes when you want to replicate that design multiple times and it be identical (such as when I was making the Harambe ornaments). Just be sure to grab some rubbing alcohol or hand sanitizer to clean off any unwanted marks. Depending on the size of your project, you may also want some tape to hold the design and transfer paper to the wood while you trace.
  • Your design. Using the transfer paper, you can take either a sketch you’ve done on paper or an image or text that you’ve printed from a computer, and put it on pretty much anything. Personally, any time I’m going to be doing text, I like to print it out rather than freehand because my handwriting always looks wonky.
  • A pen or pencil

Step one: Transfer your design

When doing text, I’ll print a few different font sizes, just to make sure I’ve got the best fit for the size of the spoon. Pressing the printed paper against the spoon can give you a good idea of how the finished spoon will look. When you’re ready, lay your transfer paper over the spoon, and then tape down your design over top. You want to make sure the transfer paper and design don’t move around while you are tracing over the design with your pen. When you’ve finished tracing, remove the papers and you will have a template to follow with your wood burner. A little bit of rubbing alcohol or hand sanitizer on the tip of a Q-Tip will remove any bit of transfer that shouldn’t be there.

Step Two: Time to Wood Burn

If your wood burner came with an assortment of tips and some instructions, take some time to familiarize yourself with them. The universal point is a great one to try out for starters, but for this project I used the tapered point so I could get around the intricate corners of the lettering. Keep in mind that your wood burner and its tips can be used on more materials than just wood (we’re talking leather, cork, foam core board, etc.), so you’ll want to check your tool’s instructions for a temperature control guide. For this project, I kept the temperature just under the highest setting. The temperature, amount of pressure you apply, and the length of time you have the tip touching the spoon all affect how light or dark your design will be.

If you have some scrap wood around, feel free to practice and get comfortable with your wood burner before starting to burn your actual design. Also, be mindful of the tip – it gets VERY hot! My set came with a metal stand for the tool to rest on which made it easier to make sure the tip didn’t accidentally touch my table, hands, or anything else that I didn’t want to burn.

You’re set – use the tool to carefully follow the design that you transferred onto the wood!

STEP THREE: THE FINISHED PRODUCT

If at any point you need to change the tip on your wood burner, allow the tool to cool completely before using pliers to remove the tip. I used the tapered point for this entire project, but you may decide a different tip would work better for your design.

As I mentioned before, a little bit of rubbing alcohol or hand sanitizer will clean up any leftover carbon transfer so that your wood doesn’t have random blue spots. Once your project is all cleaned up, you’ll have an excellent finished project to show off. I’d love to see what you come up with, so feel free to share your photos in the comments!

If after all of that you decide that wood burning isn’t for you but that you would really like a fun Hocus Pocus spoon for yourself, you can purchase one at my Etsy store – just click here.

Thanks for reading! I hope you find this project as simple as I did, and if you have any questions at all, go ahead and post them in the comments! I look forward to hearing from you 🙂