Furniture Painting Technique: How To Wood Burn Furniture

Furniture painting technique: Rustic wood-burned furniture can costs hundreds of dollars in stores. But this technique is simple, relaxing and fun -- and yields masterpiece results.

What is wood-burned furniture? Wood-burned furniture is pre-made furniture that has a design which has been burned into the wood.

What kind of wood is ideal? The softer the wood, the better. Pine is an excellent type of soft wood, and it yields attractive, rustic pieces.

How does the wood get burned? There is a special tool called a wood burning tool, which is available at hobby stores. It is fairly inexpensive, costing around $20-$25. Sometimes it will come in a kit with a few pieces of wood and an illustration of sample designs. The wood burning tool looks like a pen with an electrical cord. It plugs into any standard outlet and has a wood handle. The actual heating element is made of metal and has a pointed tip.

Are there any safety measures in wood burning? Yes! Never hold the wood burner by the heating element. While it is heating up (this takes around 10 minutes), leave it on a heat resistant surface, such as a trivet. Do not set in on any potential fire hazards, such as a tablecloth or near a drapery. And stay there while it heats up. If you must leave home, unplug the device, as you do not want to burn up your house.

When holding the wood burner, be gentle. Do not press hard into the wood. If you do press hard, the wood burner could slide out of control and land on your skin resulting in a burn. Never let young children do this, and if older children want to use it (for a scout project for example) closely supervise them. When you are finished wood burning, unplug the device immediately and let it cool on a heat resistant surface.

What type of furniture should be selected for wood burning? Start small. Before attempting to wood burn something large like a bench, start with a small, relatively inexpensive item. Some examples include a hanging coat rack (rack with about four pegs for hanging coats), a wall plaque, or a small birdhouse. These items can be purchased for a few dollars at hobby stores. The rule is that all pieces MUST be non-finished. In other words, naked wood must be used. If you want to create larger masterpieces, raw furniture stores are ideal stops for selecting pieces to wood burn.

What is the first step? First, sand the wood. Start with coarse sand paper and use a finer paper as it becomes smoother. Generally, the pieces purchased at hobby stores do not require a great deal of sanding, but some sanding will be necessary. You are finished sanding when the piece is smooth and there are no loose splinters.

How do I decide what design to wood burn? The design depends on your experience and how you would like the piece to be used. If you just want a birdhouse, for example, to have a rustic look, simply "dent" it with the wood burner. To do this, hold the point directly into the wood and let it burn for a few seconds, depending on how deep you want the burn. Do this all over the birdhouse for a rustic "beat up" look.

If you'd like to add some design, slowly draw lines to create triangular patterns, or let the heating element sit in the wood (point down) to create larger burnt circles. If you want to create letters, write in pencil. Then, use the wood burning tool to make a series of little "dents" on top of the penciled in letters. Add whimsy with such phrases as "Birdies Welcome" or "No Squirrels Allowed." Just keep tapping over the pencil marks like a woodpecker until the words are complete. You can also use a pencil to draw other designs, such as hearts or acorns. Then, go over these designs with the hot wood burner. Holding the wood burner at different angles will create different effects.

You can make stripes by drawing lines with the wood burner. Later, when you paint, the areas between each line can be painted a different color.

You can look at patterns on rugs or other pieces of art for design inspiration.

What do I do when finished wood burning? When you finished wood burning it is time to paint. Use acrylic paint and a high quality brush (so it does not shed). You can paint it on with no additives, or you can create a "wash" by mixing a glaze with the paint. Glaze can be purchased at hobby stores and it can be mixed (about 50:50) with paint. Apply with a brush or rag and then use a dry rag to wipe it off after it has been applied. The glaze slows down the paint drying process, and allows you wipe it off so the wood grain shows through. This is a very rustic effect.

Unless you are planning to wood burn a huge item, the small jars of paint go a long way for small pieces. Buy a variety of colors and have fun! If you'd like to add a shine, apply a varnish, again with a high quality brush.

What are some larger pieces to wood burn? Once you gain experience (and it won't take long!), you may want to wood burn larger pieces, such as benches, CD racks, coffee tables, end tables, the list is endless. As long as the wood is "naked" (non-finished), the sky is the limit.

Wood burning is very relaxing because the smell of the wood is soothing and gives you a sense of being in a log cabin. So fire up the wood burning tool and enjoy!

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