Before moving to Japan, I loved the craft of wood burning. So, you can imagine how happy I was to come home and find my box of wood burning related tools waiting for me to use them again! One of my favorite projects for wood burning is making personalized boxes as gifts, and I recently made one for my friend’s newborn son named Junpei. I was really happy with the results, and thought I would share the process of making the box with you here!
1. First, you’re going to want to choose your design and draw it (or print it from your computer) onto white paper. Then, using carbon tracing paper, trace your design onto your box–transferring the image. It might come out rather light, so you can pencil directly onto the box to make your lines more visible for when you burn them if you like. (If you’re comfortable, you can just draw your entire design onto the box–I did that with Junpei’s name, but practiced my other images on paper to transfer first as they were more difficult for me to draw).
2. Then, begin burning your design into the wood. I often let my wood burner heat up while I’m transferring the design onto my box, and I practice a few lines on scrap wood first to make sure the tip is hot enough. I also tend to be careful as I go, not getting too confident with my lines and shading as–especially with boxes from a craft store–the density of the wood can change from spot to spot and change how quickly the wood burns (thus making your lines unintentionally thicker or darker than you want). It’s okay to make mistakes–remember that they can often be turned into something creative, or, if you are really unhappy with the way you’ve marked the wood, you can usually get away with a bit of sanding to clean up your lines. I always keep a piece of sandpaper on hand for that very reason!
3. Once you’re happy with your design, you can add a bit of water color to make some of the images pop. I usually make my colors pretty light so that they don’t overwhelm the pretty work I’ve done with wood burning, and remember that I can always add more color later (whereas it’s harder to take color away). I try to make the color visible, but subtle. If you accidentally drown out some of the design that you’ve burned with watercolors, you can blot the paint with a paper towel, and even go over the lines again with your wood burner after it’s dried.
4. Lastly, put a light stain on your box to tie everything together. I often just use a glossy varnish, which I think gives the boxes a professional look. If you like, you can also burn a personal message on the box–I think I put something on the bottom just saying “to” and “from.”
And that’s it! Pretty simple, yet lovely and personal, don’t you think?