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How To Clean And Prepare Wood For Pyrographics

Updated on April 19, 2009
C.S.Alexis profile image

C.S. Alexis works in an art gallery located in the Calumet region of Northwest Indiana. Come see her at One Best Life at Tinker's Attic.

A Deep Pan,an assortment of brushes,bleach,hand pruning shears
A Deep Pan,an assortment of brushes,bleach,hand pruning shears

What To Do After You Get Your Woodburning Tools Together


The next project in order is to prepare the wood for your artwork.There are many ways to prep wood before you start to woodburn the piece you want to put your pyrographic design on. There are some instances where I just use the wood as is, but those times are rare, usually just because I have a habit of being spontaneous. I find that I prefer to work on a good hard, smooth surface, when possible, so it is best to take care of that business up front. Since I do so much woodburning and collecting I usually go through a few routine steps merely out of habit, and from experience..

Brushes, Bleach, A Good Deep Pan Work Wonders

I start by dry brushing my driftwood with a soft long bristled brush like the green one in the photo. You can pick one up at any discount store for about a dollar if you do not have one laying around the house. They often come in a set that includes a small dustpan.The white brush with long blue bristles is also soft. This is just a different style of the same idea. I might use both on any given piece. The idea is to brush off dirt and sand that is stuck to the wood. Using different brushes allows you to get into cracks and crevices. Small brushes will get into those hard to reach areas on your wood. Old tooth brushes work great for this.

Dried mud is a little tougher to remove. I resort to a stiffer bristled brush when trying to take that off. A scrub brush will work, but sometimes they are just too big and do not fit in tight areas. That is when I try to do the job with any assortment of other brushes. Some kitchen brushes work well, I have a collection and would suggest trying whatever you might have handy. These can also be purchased at minimal cost.

Bleaching Driftwood To LIghten The Natural Color

The lines created by woodburning are dark by nature. I recommend applying a solution of bleach to driftwood that is very dark colored when you find it. This does not have to be done but, it will lighten most wood and, it allows your pyrogrphy to stand out better on the finished product. However, this is a matter of judgement and experimentation is sometimes a good idea. You can often test-bleach an area that will not be noticed if you are unsure of what to do. Put a dab of your bleach solution on the back or someplace that will not hurt what you want to achieve.

I use several different methods to apply my bleach solution. I like to soak a group of small driftwoods in a pan when that is feasible. This way you can do more than one piece at a time. It also allows you to use the solution repeatedly before it gets too dirty and has to be dumped. The solution will stay clean longer if you do a good job of drybrushing before you put the wood to soak. The idea is to make sure that the entire piece of wood is uniformly covered in the bleach solution.

Dark Wood Before Bleaching To Enhance Your Design Application

Pieces Of Driftwood After Applying A Bleach Solution

Larger Pieces Of Driftwood Can Be Bleached Using Another Method

It may not be practical to get a big container to bleach larger pieces of driftwood. I have a couple of ways to handle these bigger pieces. I put one half of the wood into the pan for awhile and then turn it over and insert the dry end later. This works out great if the wood is not huge. When you have a very large piece and the pan is just too small you can apply the bleach solution with a rag.

All you have to do is mop the solution onto the wood and cover the entire surface. This can be pretty messy. I suggest working in a large sink if you are inside. You can do this work in your driveway without too much concern for hurting anything that might come in contact with your bleachwater. You should always be careful none the less. Bleach will harm your clothing and can severely burn your eyes and skin. It is wise to read all labeling on the bleach container before you use it.

Too Big For The Pan
Too Big For The Pan

How To Mix The Solution And Finalize The Bleaching Method

The bleach solution should be mixed according to the directions on the bleach container. Put water in a large vessel and add your bleach. Mix it up carefully and add the piece or pieces you want to bleach.You do not need to leave the wood in the solution too long because, you only need to lighten the surface. You do not want your wood to become waterlogged. When you have the entire piece coated with the bleach solution you can remove it to a drying area. Find a place where the air will circulate around the drying wood. It is great if you can elevate it so that the air will flow under it as well. I like to do this out in a hot sun if possible. The bleach smells and it helps to be outside. The sun also helps the bleach to work. When the wood dries out completely you will be able to tell if it has lightened enough to satisfy you. Sometimes I will repeat the bleaching process in order to lightn the wood more. This is all up to your discretion. Much of this is an experiment as you go situation.Happy woodburning!

You can find more information in my next Hub if you follow the link below.


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    • agvulpes profile image

      Peter 7 years ago from Australia

      Thanks for these tips I have never thought of using bleach to lighten the wood. I will try it for sure.

    • SweetiePie profile image

      SweetiePie 9 years ago from Southern California, USA

      The tips you have here are good nad things I never knew.  Thanks for sharing how bleaching the wood makes it easier for woodburning to show up on driftwood.

    • C.S.Alexis profile image

      C.S.Alexis 9 years ago from NW Indiana

      I hope to write many more hubs about pyrography and publish them here on HubPages. I have a lot of detailed work that is much different than what I have been showing. It will take me some time to work up to more advanced technical material. I have to run around and photograph work that has sold locally.I am glad that you have enjoyed this. Good Luck! If you have any questions feel free to send me an email.

    • Michele Engholm profile image

      Michele Engholm 9 years ago from Hutchinson

      Ok, now I am so excited to do this, and the weather here is too cruddy for me to get out to gather the driftwood. Snow is still covering everything....I will be on this as soon as I can. Thanks for the wonderful hub!