How To Erase An Overburned Mistake In Wood Burning

Everyone sometimes experiences that little error during their pyrography/woodburning that you really want to fix, other times the error is not at all little and happens to be a serious mistake on the wood. This is not permanent and is easily fixable if you know what exactly you have to do. So, how do you fix a mistake when wood burning?

To erase an overburned area on your wood while wood burning, you must remove the burned layer without noticeably damaging the surface. The best way to remove such a pyrography mistake is by using the side and tip of a very sharp blade and gently scratch off as much of the burn as possible.

Fixing wood burning mistakes takes a very long time. You must be extremely patient as even tiny corrections to your design may take tens of minutes to fix.

Using a sharp blade is only one of the few ways that you can erase a burn on wood. It is the best method in many cases, however, you should be aware of the other techniques that could be more suitable to your specific burn, more on the different ways of erasing mistakes below.

Top 3 Best Ways To Fix a Pyrography Mistake

Different ways of erasing a burn are used in different kinds of burns. Sometimes it is also a good idea to use two or even all three methods at the same time or switch between methods if the method you first tried doesn’t seem to have a good effect on the wood.

Erasing a burn with sandpaper

One of the simpler ways of erasing wood burns is by using sandpaper. Sandpaper takes off the outside layer of the wood causing most or all of the burned area to come off.

To sandpaper the wood and remove a wood burn you should start with a 220 grit and sand the wood until most of the burned wood is taken off. Then continue to 320 grit paper to remove all of the grey areas and the “shade” which are the last signs of a burn on wood. Finally, finish with a 400 grit to achieve a smooth surface on the wood.

Sandpaper, as you may imagine, is not great for removing small mistakes in precise areas however it works best when you are removing large areas with pyrography that you no longer want. Sandpapering the burn away also takes much faster than most other ways.

A disadvantage that sandpaper has over some of the slower methods, is that it scratches the wood, often leading to a visual difference. This especially happens if you are removing a darker burn with sandpaper, as they will make you sand deeper into the wood making the wood to be more visually scratched.

With that said, if you sand to a certain depth and only remove the outer layer of the wood, the wood will not noticeably change its appearance. Therefore removing “light pyrography” or wood burns that didn’t burn too dark is perfect for this method as they don’t reach a depth past the outer layer.

Removing a burn with a Sharp Blade

This technique was already discussed in the first few paragraphs of the article, but we wanted to go into a few more detail on how it is best performed and what kind of burns is it best used against.

First of all, it is impossible to emphasize enough on the amount of patience you will need when removing a burn with a sharp blade. Especially if you are removing more than 1 squared centimeter of wood burn, it will take you a long time, so it’s important to consistently do a good job if you want to keep a good visual appearance of your wood.

Here is how you should work with a sharp blade to remove the burns:

Gently scrape off the burn using the edge of your knife in movements following the direction of the grain. On areas that are thinner than the edge of your knife, use to point of your knife. Make sure that you are not cutting off a layer of the wood with your movement, and instead, scraping off the weak, burned fiber that is getting thinner every few strokes.

The reason that you should not press on the knife is that you don’t want to leave a visual scratch on the wood. A very sharp and easy-to-use blade is the X-Acto #1 Precision Knife, Z-series. It is not a large investment in removing the burn off the wood, and you can find it on Amazon making the delivery very convenient.

This method is best when you are removing either small detailed mistakes on your woodpiece or when you want to leave the minimal possible mark on your wood.

A sharp blade is also useful to have nearby while woodburning. In case you make a minor mistake you can always scrape it off seconds later.

Removing a burn with a Ceramic Blade

A ceramic blade is a little different from a metal blade. The technique you will use is more or less the same, but ceramic being the material will make a difference in the effect.

Ceramic blade edges are harder than metal edges, however a little more brittle. This brings a slight difference to the outcome of your work as a harder blade will remove more of the outer layer of the wood.

This does not happen instantly or any faster than if you were to use a metal edge knife, however after a long enough period of time the metal edge will stop removing the wood unless you press down on it (pressing down will cause unevenness making the wood look damaged) while the ceramic edge will remove more of the outer layer without the need to use force.

Ceramic blades are very good for all kinds of burns (except for large areas). Especially if the wood is damaged, just like with the metal blade it does the job exceptionally well, and even better on darker burns that require a deeper cut to fully remove them.

We would recommend you only use the ceramic blade only in areas where you want to cut deeper as it is very difficult to sharper and much more expensive than metal knives. Therefore once you need to remove a deeper burn use it on that area, but for the rest of the time, it’s better to use the metal edge.

A good ceramic knife for removing burns is the Slice 10562 Folding Utility Knife that you can also find on Amazon, the lifetime of this knife is 11x longer than a good steel knife, and it is proven to be good for detailed work that erasing burns needs.

How To Avoid Overburning Wood When Wood Burning

If you are frequently burning your wood too much then it may be helpful for you to implement some prevention techniques to reduce the likelihood of such errors happening. It is not only about “keeping concentration” and “being careful” in fact there are some really useful tips for wood burning that expert woodcarvers use frequently.

So here are the 4 tips to help you when wood burning:

1. Use a test wood

If you have a spare block of scrap wood that is preferably the same or similar to the wood that you are actually burning, it will really help the quality of your work.

There are a lot of things you can use a slab of test wood for, or example:

  • Measuring the temperature of your iron
  • Checking how fast this wood burns
  • Assessing the effect of burning against the grain
  • Warming up your skills before burning the real project
  • Using it the wood as an ultimate playground for idea creation

The most important thing here is, of course, making sure you know what you’re doing once you touch the real wood piece. As mentioned in our beginner guide to wood burning article, planning is a crucial piece of the process, therefore mentally being aware of what you’re doing will lead you to fewer mistakes, and a wooden test piece will help prepare you.

2. Lower temperature

Working with a higher temperature on your soldering iron will make wood burning or any other kind of pyrography faster. However, this comes at a cost that usually the quality of your work suffers…

When forced to work faster, there is a much higher chance that lines become wavy, the shading less realistic and if you try to slow down in difficult areas you will burn the wood.

There is only one way of fixing it, and it is to lower the temperature on your wood burning to something you are truly comfortable with and keep in mind that wood burning is an art that requires patience.

3. Check for smoke

It is probably not a surprise that when the wood is smoking too much it is a bad sign.

This links up to our previous point of lowering the temperature. While you can work with “smokey wood” and do a quick design out of it, you know this is not pyrography is about.

Do note, that little and seethrough smoke is almost always present, it is just not noticeable at most times. Therefore if you see some steam on a low temperature don’t take it as a sign to lower it, even more, you still need heat to burn the wood.

4. Take is slow

If you are working on a project that you want to make the best possible job of. Give it a lot of time.

The slower and more aware of every detail that you burn you are, the higher the quality of your work will be. Of course, when you want to make a quick drawing there is nothing wrong with that, but we are talking about how to make the perfect wood burning design, and that can only be created with excess time.

Martin Swizz

Hi! This is Martin, I like to research, experiment, and learn new things related to wood carving and other kinds of woodworking.

Recent Posts