Pyrography, or "Burnt Work" as it is often called, signifies etching or writing with fire. It is a method of burning designs on wood, leather, paper, ivory, etc. This decorative art can be one of the most beautiful, but alas ! such terrible transgressions have flooded the market, that what should be a decorative art has become debased by its associations. The chief point to be remembered in attempting pyrography is that the drawing must be excellent, and the objects chosen for this method of decorating must be suitable to receive this treatment. Pyrography is often done to resemble painting or relief work. Great variety in toning can be given, from the deepest black to the palest shades of brown, by pressing lightly or heavily on the point of the instrument. When the design has been drawn it is remarkable how rapidly the burning itself can be done, and what an unlimited number of varying lines and curves can be given, some delicate hairlines, others with steady heavy stroke, according to the effect to be produced.
Outfits for pyrography can be purchased at varying prices, some as low as $2.50 a box. The $5.00 set is adaptable to very excellent work.
The outfit consists of a platinum point, burnishers, an alcohol lamp, a bottle of benzine, a bulb and hand-bellows combined, rubber-tubing, and a wood holder for the platinum point. A more expensive set contains, in addition to the pieces mentioned, a glass filler for pouring the benzine from one bottle to another. It also contains two points, one round and the other flat. These are twice as large as those in the less expensive sets.
Some people use gas for heating the point, but benzine is preferable. A small quantity should be bought at one time and kept in a dark place. Pour a little of the benzine into one of the bottles, and in the other place a wad of loose cotton batting. Pour the benzine into the bottle containing the cotton until the latter is thoroughly saturated. An extra cork with an extra top with two branches will be found in the box. Screw it on to the bottle containing the cotton, and slip the rubber-tubing on the right arm with the bulbs attached, allowing the rubber-tubing to come over the left arm. The platinum point must then be fixed securely in the holder and joined on to the tubing on the left arm. The worker must have at hand some pieces of cotton rags, a few scraps of wood or leather, and a box of matches.
When all is ready, the lamp may be lighted and the pyrography apparatus taken into the hands as described. Hold the platinum point in the upper part of the flame, and then pinch the bulb gently and firmly between the thumb and fingers. The point will assume a golden tint, which will gradually increase to red. As the heat is retained a long time, the lamp may be extinguished and relighted when required.
The worker must get into a comfortable and easy position, and hold the cautery as if it were a pen. Sometimes the platinum point will not light readily. This will be because there is too little benzine in the bottle, or that the puff is not strong enough to send the right amount of gas to the point. A new point takes longer to heat than an older one. Before beginning to work on the article to be thus decorated, practise burning on little bits of leather. Draw in pencil designs of leaves and trees, and outline them with burning. Then make straight short lines, then waves and curves, practising until confidence is gained and something of the technique of the craft is understood. For the outline work the round point must be used, while the flat point is employed for the heavier markings.
It is obvious that anything heated red-hot will burn whatever it touches, so the worker must be very particular not to lay down the heated point so that it will come in contact with the table. It can be laid on the table so that it projects well over the edge, or it may be placed upon a pen-rest.
The worker must not be discouraged if at first the lines are uneven and spotted. These faults arise from two causes, one is that the point ceases to be hot, because the work of the right hand is so engrossing that the worker forgets to use the bulb with the left hand. When this is noticed, too much vigorous pumping is resorted to, which overheats the point and causes a fierce blow-up. Another cause of uneveness is the too great pressure of the point when wood is the material being used. This causes the grain of the wood to interfere with the lines, especially those woods that are soft and hard according to the grain of the wood. The point must merely touch the wood and there must be no pressure at all. A good deal of practice is necessary to overcome these difficulties. There is a great difference in workers. Some make their platinum point last indefinitely, while others are in trouble all the time. The platinum point is a delicate instrument, consisting of a shell of platinum, which is merely the cover for the internal arrangement. If too much pressure is used, this thin shell will wear out much more rapidly than it should.
It is better not to hold the point to the extreme tip in the flame when heating it, but to allow it to project beyond the flame a little. I know of no craft that needs more care and patience than pyrography. Patience must be cultivated for a successful achievement in this art, for if the girl is in too much of a hurry she is liable to burst the air bulb. If it is stiff under the hand it must never be forced - there is some good reason why the passage of air is stopped. Possibly the cylinder may not be quite in its place, or one of the rubber-tubes may be twisted, or a piece of wood may have lodged on top of the tube by accident.
Hall Mirror In Pyrography And Stain.