This section is from the book "Arts & Crafts Magazine Vol1-2", by Hutchinson & Company.
It will now be clearly understood that decoration by means of pyrogravure, or poker-work, consists of burning a design into wood or some other material with an implement having a metal point, which is kept at a certain heat. Presuming, therefore, that the reader is provided with the simple apparatus I have described, let me proceed to tell him how to use it.
Screen, with Pyrographic Decoration executed in Relief.
First, half fill the bottle with benzoline, and fasten the connecting stopper, to which the two rubber tubes are to be attached tightly into the neck of the bottle. Screw the point into the cork handle, and hold it in the flame of the spirit lamp until it begins to glow; then press the bellows with the left hand. When the point has become red-hot the spirit lamp may be extinguished, as, so long as the pressure on the bellows is maintained, the point will retain its heat.
Facsimiles of Various Backgrounds used in Pyrogravure.
There are several trifling things which will cause the point to cool off, such as an escape of air from one of the different connections, or a twist of the tubes. Let the beginner therefore be on the look out for such things before concluding that the machine is at fault. No hard and fast rule can be laid down as to the manner of holding the point. One will soon find out the method that suits him best, and, having mastered it, will, after a little while, be able to manipulate the point as readily as an ordinary lead pencil.
The benzoline being the source of heat, the pumping of the bellows must not be neglected; otherwise the point will become cold, and have to be reheated in the flame of the lamp. On the other hand, the bellows should not be worked more vigorously than necessary. Many amateurs, through impatience, are apt to force the bulb and burst it. If, therefore, it feels stiff, pumping should be discontinued until the air pressure is lessened. When commencing operations one often feels inclined to work the bellows quickly, and to keep time with the movements of the right hand, but after a little practice the difficulty of working both hands independently is soon overcome.
Before attempting anything of importance, the beginner should make himself familiar with the working of the point by practising various strokes and curves upon a spare piece of wood - a piece of cigar box will do. Make the surface perfectly smooth by sandpapering. At first there will be a tendency to begin and end each stroke in a dot, which is due to resting the heated point for an instant on the wood. To overcome this is really the greatest difficulty in pyrogravure, and a good deal of practice will be necessary before the amateur will acquire the knack of putting in the strokes and curves with the slow, sweeping movement of the expert. It is absolutely necessary, in order to avoid making dots and holes, that the point should be kept on the move, without hesitation, while it is in contact with the wood, and that each stroke should be begun and finished in the air, as it were. In working on wood of a hard grain one must beware of letting the point pass over the surface too quickly, or it will jump the grain and give the lines an irregular and spotted appearance. If a tine line is required, a low degree of heat will suffice. Do not try to produce deep lines by pressure, but increase the heat slightly, and slacken the speed of the point over the wood.
The next important step is the burning in of backgrounds. This is a matter needing careful consideration, as the ultimate effect of a piece of work will be much influenced by the style of background employed. Backgrounds suitable for a variety of work and easy of execution are illustrated herewith. Before burning in a design always decide whether to leave the background light and let the forms show up dark against it, or whether the forms are to be shown light against a dark background. In the latter case it will be necessary to draw all stalks or branches in double outline, as a single line would be merged in the dark background when filled in. Let me mention here that where large surfaces are to be burnt away the eyes may be protected from the effects of burning wood by the use of "goggles." For a few pence one can buy a pair made especially for pyrographers. W. D. Thompson.
Actual "Poker" Etching. By Henri Glerard.
(To be continued.)
Pyro-Velours, or poker work on velvet, is a fascinating branch of pyrogravure. It may be used for enriching velvet, wherever that material is admissible, either in the decoration of the home, as for cushions, mantel borders, or table centres, or for such articles of personal adornment as belts, collars, or trimming for dresses. The work seems specially suitable for the long winter evenings, as it can be clone by gaslight, and there is none of the fumes which some ladies find objectionable when doing heavy burning on wood. Velveteen of a good quality is best for the purpose. Beautiful effects can be obtained by the soft brown lines and shading on delicate tones of velvet, such as primrose, pale pink or pale green, and in some cases the beauty of these effects may be enhanced by the judicious use of transparent stains, applied either in bold, brilliant flat tints, or in delicate half tones within the pyrographic outline. Madame Blanche Lily, of Harrogate, sends for our inspection a beautiful specimen of such work, in which she has adapted for a piano front, "A Song of Roses,". a design by Marion Reid.