Jim's Pyrography or Woodburning


Bobbin Lace
Growing Flax
Chip Carving
Mountain Dulcimer
Dalton House
Ezell-Peavy House
1954 John Deere 60

Portrait of Red-Tailed Hawk

During May 2009, Jim took a Pyrography or woodburning class at John C. Campbell Folk School. Instructor for the class was Orchid Davis who has written numerous magazine articles on woodburning and has published two books on the subject. She likes Western wildlife and the images on this page are from her patterns. The image was burned on a piece of basswood. Liquitex colors Burnt Sienna and Burnt Umber enhanced the red colors and provide shading. A touch of gold metallic was added to the beak and eye.

This Red-Tail Hawk is holding a Native American flute. Jim made one of these flutes at the Folk School and received brief instruction on how to play it. The flute is made from a length of bamboo. A piece of sweetgrass is attached which is to make it play "sweeter." Jim carved a bird for the adjustable slide (fetish) that is sometimes called a bird.

Cherokee Hawk Littlejohn (June 1941 – 2000) was perhaps the greatest contemporary Native American flute maker. He lived in North Carolina and his design is reflected here.

Black-Capped Chickadee

The chickadee above was burned on a scrap piece of wood from the woodpile of a cabinet shop in New York where Elizabeth's sister is employed. The rejected pieces are not long enough to make a drawer or have a knot or other defect, but are perfect for wood burning. There is some grain in the wood so one must be more careful as the burning pens tend to follow the grain. This is not much of a problem when using basswood or other very soft woods.

Prior to the class, Jim purchased an Excalibre Detail Master burning system. This system has outputs for two pens. While both pens are not hot simultaneously, a selector allows the operator to select one or the other. He also purchased tow handpieces. One handpiece has a skew tip permanently attached. The other handpiece accommodates replacement tips. We learned that not all replacement tips on the market will fit the handpiece. We also learned that the handpieces. get quite warm while using and the replacement tips don't always make good electrical contact. It's not a good idea to try to change the tips when the unit is turned on--do we need to explain why?

While at the Folk School, we were introduced to Colwood wood burning tools. Class instructor Orchid Davis was a devotee of Colwood burning systems and pens. She uses a Colwood J Tip for most of her work. She had a vast collection of pens for students to experiment with to see how each pen worked. Before the class was over, Jim had purchased an adapter to permit his Detail Master System to use Colwood pens and a handful of pens to go along with it. He purchased two J's for most burning, two M's for straight lines, a C tip for free-hand writing, and a pen shaped to form fish scale.

We like Colwood pens because the cork insulator on the handle is very comfortable. Also, we found that lower power settings could be used on our power supply when Colwood pens were installed.


Chipmunks are a good animal to burn for a first project. Only short strokes are needed to show the animal's fur. Very little coloring is added which permits the woodburning to show. However, washes of Liquitex Burnt Sienna and Burnt Umber were added for color and shaded areas. The black lines on the chipmunk's back are scorched wood and a few strokes of a white Prismacolor pencil enhanced the stripe.