When you are ready to purchase a wood burner, you will first need to do some homework. Get on Google or your favorite browser and search pyrography or pyroengraving or wood burning. Typing in “wood burning on gourds” will get you lots of information specific to gourds. That should keep you overwhelmed for a while.
There are several manufacturers of wood burners available including Walnut Hollow, Optima, Razertip, Detail Master, Colwood, Nibsburner and Burnmaster. Besides the brand, there are many other options to consider. Your skill level, goals and budget will probably be the main determining factors in your decision.
There are two types of pyroengraving systems – a single temperature unit and a variable temperature unit. The single temperature burners are a simple, inexpensive tool ( similar to a soldering iron) which heats to a pre-set temperature. You have to control the depth or darkness of the burn yourself by the speed of your burn stroke or the pressure of your stroke.
When using a single temperature burner, the tip quickly cools as you are burning a line so you may need to frequently stop and let it heat up again. This takes just a few seconds, but still makes it hard to burn a long consistent line. These wood burning units can be purchased at your local hobby or craft store and are excellent for beginners. They usually come with a few interchangeable tips for making various patterns.
The variable temperature burners allow you to adjust the temperature of the burner tips with a dial on the transformer unit so you can burn light or dark, cool or hot. This comes in handy on gourds because some gourds are extremely hard and need a high temperature and some are soft and need a fairly cool temperature or you may burn right through the gourd! I’ve don’t that myself a couple times.
With variable temperature wood burners, you also have a choice when purchasing, of single pen unit or dual pen unit. The benefit of having a dual pen unit is that you can have two pens hooked up and ready to go. If you are going to be using a variety of strokes and techniques on the same project, this will save you time as you will just have to flip the switch to change pens. The pen heats up in just a minute – very convenient.
You also have a choice of buying a pen with interchangeable tips or pens with a fixed tip. With the fixed tip, you change pens when you want to change strokes or techniques.
We aren’t done yet. Now you need to decide on which tips you are going to need. If you buy an inexpensive hobby store burner, you will get just a basic tip and a few decorative ones. If you are buying a more expensive unit, you will have dozens of tips to choose from. If you are new to wood burning, how do you know what to pick? I remember spending a month or two researching and trying to figure out what to purchase. Everyone had a different opinion about what is best. Most people say you can get away with three tips – writing or ball tip, a shader and a skew or knife tip. Personally, I use a knife tip on 98% of my gourds and a writing tip just for signing my name on the bottom.
Most modern wood burners come with padding around the pen or protection to help prevent burning your fingers. During use, the pens can get warm or even hot. But you should still be able to comfortably use them for quite a while. Sometimes I burn for an hour or so before I notice the pen getting hot. At that point, it is a good idea to take a short break to unkink your neck, loosen up your tight shoulders and take a walk around the yard for a few minutes.
If you want to get some serious instruction on wood burning, there are many, many books and videos available. Hit the library first before you spend any money. Likely they will have outdated books, but you will still learn some techniques since they remain basically the same over time. Luckily, the tools have improved significantly over the years.
Here are a couple websites to check out for more information on wood burning gourds and purchasing your burner:
Enjoy practicing and learning techniques. Once you master the basics, you will realize you can burn on many surfaces, not just gourds and wood. So many possibilities…….