Once you have your gourd design figured out, it is time to break out the wood burner and permanently burn that design onto you gourd. This blog is assuming that you have at least some experience with wood burning. If you are brand new to wood burning, there are many books and videos available that can teach you the basics on which tools to use, which pens, how to hold the pen and special techniques. See my separate blog on wood burning gourds for the basics on purchasing and using a wood burner.
I use a Razortip brand pyrography machine with temperature control settings. Click here to learn about Razertip products. In my early years I started out using an inexpensive wood burner from the craft store. It worked, but not as well as I wanted it to. Buying a professional model machine can be a big investment, so make sure you are ready.
Ok, first off, tie your hair back. Clear your work area of unnecessary things. All you need in your space is your gourd, your wood burner and a mask. I nearly always use a knife-type pen tip. This is my favorite pen tip because is cuts a line into the gourd as it burns. This gives a cleaner look and it also helps to keep my paint from running from one section to another later on. It also helps later when it is time to start carving on certain areas. Turn on your burner. I usually start with setting #7. Gourds and burners vary so you will have to experiment on a scrap to learn what works best. It just takes a minute or two for the pen to heat up.
When beginning a new gourd design, start with burning the easy, simple lines such as the stem of the sunflowers. Start lightly to test the heat and see how the gourd is going to burn. Some gourds are really hard and require a higher temperature setting. Softer ones will burn easily and need a lower temperature. As I said, #7 seems to work for most gourds. Hold the pen like, well, a pen. Hold the pen firmly and steadily. Try to move the gourd instead of your pen-holding hand to burn the lines. You’ll get a smoother, more even line. Use your pinky finger to stabilize your hand on the gourd. Keep your grip and focus because if you get careless and drop that pen or accidentally touch the tip, yowza, you will feel a burn like no other! It won’t leave a red mark, it will go a step further and leave a white burn.
Once you are comfortable with your temperature setting and have burned the straight easy lines, move on to the other areas. If I am doing a flower, I will do each flower completely before moving on, otherwise, it is easy to miss a line or two. I leave the curviest, smallest and tiniest detail lines for last on each flower or design element. I always go from easiest to hardest. Then I move on to the next flower and begin again.
Once in a while, I quickly wipe the tip of the wood burning pen onto a scrap piece of leather I got at a thrift store. The gourd has natural resin in it which can build up on the pen tip while burning. Just a quick swipe of the tip across the leather scrap will clean it off. If you are a more serious wood burning person, there are special products you can purchase to clean your pen tips.
When you think you are finished burning all your lines, carefully look over your whole design. It seems like I always miss a line somewhere and have to go back later to burn that one tiny line that I missed. When you are satisfied, turn your burner off, take off your mask and enjoy your beautifully wood burned gourd!
In my next blog, I will talk about cleaning up the resin, sticky stuff and pencil lines left after wood burning.