Sun-burned Woodworking?

Sun-burned Woodworking?

The recent mention of the pyrography book reminded me of something I had read recently – solar wood burning. I can see some benefits from using the sun and a magnifying lens to burn wood, such as low operating cost and the burn point will glide effortlessly over opposing grain and other bumps or uneven surfaces. However, I am wondering if the concentrated spot of light will be damaging to eyes, and what sort of precautions may be reasonable to take before trying this. Your thoughts are appreciated. – Lance Gardner

Chris Marshall: I burned plenty of little odds and ends as a kid using a magnifying glass, and in all likelihood it wasn’t safe for my eyes. I remember seeing spots…but such was the life of a kid in the ’70s. From those days of “field testing,” I recall that it’s difficult to control the intensity of the light and the concentration of the burn area by holding a magnifying glass in hand. I would think that, with pyrography, you would want a high degree of control to be able to vary the effects of your burned detailing. Seems to me that a woodburning tool with various interchangeable tips and even a small, concentrated torch would be better choices for doing precision work.

Tim Inman: As a boy, I remember fondly learning of the energy of concentrated beams of light focused by my grandmother’s magnifying glass. What power I had in my hands. The ants, however…

Yes, solar power can be concentrated to the degree needed to burn wood. Laser cutters are, after all, nothing but concentrated and highly specialized forms of light. If I were interested in doing artistic woodburning, and willing to spend the time to execute my designs, I think I would opt for either a laser, or a conventional burning knife setup. Skimping on my tools has never worked to my benefit, in the long run. It might be fun to try the solar option, though!

Posted in: