• Lacey Pickett

Tips and Tricks for Faster Wood Burning

Updated: Oct 23, 2021

Tips and Tricks for Faster Wood Burning

#1. Have a sanding/planing party (right the most fun!)

This is a good point for everyone but especially people like me who do not really have a shop and do their work in the backyard. Winter is coming and it always will, so when it’s a nice day or week with less commissions, I get lots of Pine. Poplar. Basswood and start sanding or planing depending on how dirty it is. These woods are soft, durable and usually pretty when they are finished. Which is what most people care about. When orders come in, it helps a lot to have some pieces of wood to work on and that are already cut. To take this one step further, if you can make sure all your wood is also square you will save yourself hours of time when commissions come in.

Invite your tiny little hand sander

When you are done with your piece you may notice some of your pencil marks in really tight spots, spots you wouldn’t even dream of trying to get too with an electric sander or even sandpaper. The little sander, though not perfect for large projects, is great for the last perfectionist touches.

Sidenote: If you want to take this even further, when working on a big piece, you have two hands so use two electric sanders (DOUBLE WHAMMY PARTY).

#2 Get a Calendar (I know maybe common sense but it wasn’t to me).

I know for us local artists each commission that comes in is special and we like to think we will remember every detail but before I started using a calendar, I would under book or overbook. I'd have to go back to old chats to figure out all the details again, I’d forget who had paid and who hadn’t and sometimes would even forget what commission was next. So with your calendars always write names, measurements, if they've paid/down payment etc. it is a lifesaver when you are really busy.

#3 STENCIL STENCIL and for the love of cheese STENCIL!

Yes-I know some people think stencils are cheating but stencils are smarter and faster. Words are going to look better in a font you stenciled and be much faster. Furthermore, if your really worried about it not being legitimate, a stencil for portraits and animal pictures will only give you lines, an artist needs to know how to shade that stencil or it’s going to look bad. Last, and most importantly NOBODY CARES at the end of the day how you transferred the font they want. They won’t care if you worked an extra five hours to capture that perfect font. THEY JUST WANT THE WORDS. I trace most words and pictures on carbon paper and it just makes your line work much crisper too.

#4 Know Thy Wood!

What Wood?

It is important to know how hard or soft your wood is. I made the mistake of quoting a piece way below what I should have, simply because I didn’t know the wood! The customer asked for wood that was ULTRA HARD. Spalted Maple. Not only did it cost me money, but it cost me time and my hand wanted to fall apart.


For bigger projects or heavily detailed pieces I'd ensure your working with wood that doesn’t hold too much moisture. For instance I used red oak once for a swing, it was beautiful and luckily only had words on it. The wood however did bleed some moisture, meaning if it had been a detailed picture it could have been very sloppy.


Now this point isn’t AS important but it is a variable. I enjoy choosing woods such as poplar where I know whatever finish I put on it, it’s going to pop and look amazing. Where as wood like Pine can be hit or miss. Again there are beautiful stains and polyurethanes out there that will make your project look great, I just prefer natural poppage (that’s a word).

#5 Always Polyurethane

Clear poly, colored poly, or outdoor poly whatever your preference one thing is constant, ALWAYS USE IT. Now, in the short term this is an extra step and it takes time to dry. However, in the long run you can have a piece of mind and know your piece is protected and won't be easily damaged. I usually do one-two coats for indoor items and a minimum of three for outdoor pieces. Why does this save you time in the long run? Because customers won’t be coming back to you saying their piece started to rot or wear. Meaning no Re-do’s.

I hope you found these tips helpful, and please feel free to share your tips and tricks!

Till next Blog!


Lesia Watson

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