5 Year “Wood” Anniversary or Anytime Gift Idea

Wolfcrest Photography

Adam and I had our FIVE year Anniversary last October! I literally have no idea how it’s been five whole years since we were married, but alas, it is so. I do think this DEFINITELY officially qualifies us as no longer “newlyweds” (I’ve been in denial for about two years or so), which is a little depressing. Eight years I’ve been with Adam, and five of those eight years we’ve been married. Time really does fly by so fast.

When I researched what the “traditional” wedding gift was for five years of marriage, I discovered that the year’s gift was wood. I love basically anything made out of wood so I knew Adam would have no difficulty at all, but I will be the first to admit that I’m far from being considered a “handy”-type person. I definitely love DIY and all things crafty, however those *extra* cool DIY projects that involve large power tools that are capable of potentially losing fingers scare me away pretty quickly. I would have LOVED to personally build him something but I knew that the end result was probably not likely to be attractive (as well as likely to fall apart). Instead I opted for an idea that was presented to me by my father-in-law — pyrography. I had never messed with a woodburning tool before but loved the idea of this and wanted to give it a shot!

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I went to Hobby Lobby and picked up a woodburning toolkit by Walnut Hollow called a “Creative Versa-Tool”. The price was $30.00 — it included 11 interchangeable points and I actually had a coupon for 40% off of one item, so the tool and the tips ended up costing less than $20 total!

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Now this part is entirely up to you, but I opted to burn into some planks of wood that were meant to be mounted to an outdoor pull-up bar station. Obviously this is a personal thing, but Adam has been wanting a pull-up and dip bar in the backyard for a while. Since we moved into a new house this past summer and the backyard is spacious and had a nice little spot for it, he ended up pouring some concrete and setting a station out there. I intended on covering the front sides of the posts entirely with these planks of wood I was burning, but currently I only have four planks completed to begin with. I burned some of his favorite quotes into each plank and added in a few extra “romantic” (quite possibly lame) quotes from me to him, since… well… it IS an anniversary gift after all! *snort*

(And just in case you’re wondering: no, I did not mean to have the stain match our oak floors to a T. Haha. I hope the boards aren’t too lost in the wood color of the floors for you guys to see, but I don’t have pretty kitchen counters so I just thought the flooring might be okay!)

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After doing a little bit of research on techniques for wood burning and some trial and error, I learned a couple of things that I would like to share:

– Obviously it’s always a good idea to pencil out what you’d like to burn first. I started each plank off by drawing in what I wanted to trace with the tool, and that made it much easier to envision what each plank would look like. This really should be a must!

– I ended up purchasing the wood from Lowe’s, however any craft store would carry wood that could work for this sort of project. When I was in Hobby Lobby I saw some unique pieces of wood for sale that looked like little tree stumps and know that you could get a ton of great projects out of just about any type of wood. The planks I got from Lowe’s were 3/8″ thick and made of pine.

– You must press the woodburning tool into the wood at a fairly slow speed to give it enough time to burn into it. If you write or use the tool at a normal writing pace, it won’t see anything marking the wood at all. Obviously, with that being said, if you drag and hold the pen TOO long in one place, it will darken even more and it will start to make an indentation in the wood. That may be the look you are going for (rugged/rustic), but if you’d rather not have bumps and ridges in what you’re burning, just be cautious about how long you leave the tip of the tool pressed onto the wood. You can see some of the indentions I made intentionally in the image below:

Wolfcrest Photography
– Be extremely careful when you are holding or changing out the tips. There is a section on the tool handle that is shaped like a wider disc that blocks you from grabbing the metal, however even touching the tool CLOSE to that part will burn you. I ended up getting a second degree burn on my left ring finger by getting a little too comfortable  and getting too close to that disc. Let me tell you, it did not feel good. If you use it with caution and use it while NOT falling asleep, you’ll be good to go! 😉

– When you’re using the tool, be sure to keep the cord over your hand so you don’t accidentally knock the cord out and burn yourself. I found that grasping my right wrist (since I’m right-handed) with my left hand and using it as bit of support helped to keep my hand steady. After you’ve been burning for a while at a slow pace and trying to be as precise as possible, your hand will tend to get tired and it’s fairly easy to get sloppy when it is.

– Keep a glass jar on hand to drop the different tips into. You’ll need a pair of needle-nose pliers to switch the tips out, so keep the pliers and the jar close-by so that you can change out your tools quickly, safely, and with ease.

– Keep the fact in mind that you are burning into wood… so having absolutely perfect handwriting and/or straight lines is not a guaranteed thing. Dependent on the type of wood you use, you may notice more grain and difficulties burning with some types than with others. When you try to fight against the grain and wanting to keep that line extra straight or perfectly curved, it’s likely not going to be a fight you can win. The designs I burned into the planks are imperfect and I am totally okay with that! I feel that it just shows that they are hand-made (with love).

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I actually ended up mostly using only one tip so the others in the kit really didn’t serve much of a purpose for me. Perhaps I just need to experiment more and with different types of designs, but my favorite tip ended up being the calligraphy tip. This makes total sense though being that most of the things I burned were script or lettering of some sort. I basically used that same calligraphy tip for all of the wood planks I made here. Since I was mainly doing lettering, it ended up being the easiest for me to use and since I was being very careful and meticulous with it, I was able to make fairly thin and thick lines all using the same tip. However if I wanted VERY fine lines, I would not have been able to pull it off with the calligraphy point. The ‘fine detail’ point ended being more of a headache for me to use than I decided I wanted to deal with, so I mostly strayed away from it. I’m sure with patience and practice it could have been extremely useful, but I really wasn’t looking for anything incredibly intricate because I wanted this project to look a little more handmade.

After I burned all of the planks, I ended up taking a cloth and smearing the wood with an outdoor deck stain (since the pull-up bar is outside in the yard). The good thing about putting the quotes on these planks is that when we move, we will be able to take it with us. I’m sure Adam will always want a pull-up bar in any yard we have from now on. And even if he decides against it at our next house, we can always mount it on something else (deck, railing, etc). I thought the end product was pretty cool and personal and he ended up loving it!

Wolfcrest Photography

Wolfcrest Photography

Wolfcrest Photography

Wolfcrest Photography
And just because I want to share his gift also, here is the wood gift Adam made for me! Please excuse the grainy Instagram pic! The project he made for my anniversary gift was also essentially free because he used some free wood pallets that someone was getting rid of. Adam disassembled and reconstructed the wood pallets to create a statement piece to mount over our fireplace! How awesome is he?! We slapped on a wreath I had made for our front door – I felt like everything together fit perfectly on our mantel and I am just in love with the outcome. 🙂

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Anyhow, I hope this blog post helps anyone who is thinking about trying out pyrography! I’ve definitely found a new interest and can’t wait to start on other projects!

xx, Sara

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  • SteveAugust 23, 2015 - 3:56 am

    Your art pieces are beautiful. I need menus. I have 5-10 wooden Baker’s peels to be used as wall menus & I would like to use pyrography. I’m located in Bethesda, MD. Do you freelance? How much do you charge? I’m highly interested & serious. Best way to contacte me is through emailReplyCancel

Sara and Adam are are a husband and wife photography and cinematography team based out of Fredericksburg, VA. Our primary work consists of weddings, engagements, portraits, studio photography, and pets. We are available for travel within Northern Virginia, DC, Charlottesville, and Richmond and would love to speak with you. Please shoot us a message in the form to the right and we will be in touch shortly!

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