Birch branch or pre-cut and drilled wood slices
Drill (if you’re making your own slices)
Chop saw or hand saw (if you’re making your own slices)
Narrow plaid ribbon or twine
Pliers (to change wood burner tips)
Old chopping block or cookie sheet (to protect work surface from wood burner)
*Ashley used a 50% off coupon at Michael’s and bought a wood burner
for around $25 plus tax. I’ve linked to the same tool on amazon, which is about $23 plus shipping. We chose this tool because it came with a variety of tips, a stand, and was a great price. Plus, it can also be used on leather and other materials, so it’s pretty versatile.
Ashley’s Handy Hubby cut birch slices for us and even
drilled the holes so they were ready for hanging. If you’re tackling this project, you can also buy wood slices sanded and ready for use. We left the bark on,
instead of peeling it off and sanding smooth, because Ashley preferred
the rustic, natural look.
Wine in hand (not recommended), we spent an evening taking turns with the wood burner, creating a series of snowflake designs – no two alike! First we roughly sketched out a design using a pencil (using these as our inspiration), and then simply tried our best to trace that design using the wood burner. You can also transfer a design on to the wood slices if you’d prefer to use some clip art – the wood burner I linked to even includes a transfer point so you can transfer laser printed images onto a surface with ease.
Neither of us had used a wood burner before, so we really experimented with different designs and all of the wood burning tips. We created some duds during our experimentation, but we had a lot of fun – actually, this project is kind of meditative because it’s so repetitive and simple. Plus, the burning wood smells strangely good.
When we were done, we let the designs cool and then threaded a narrow plaid ribbon through the drilled holes, finished with a knot, and then used a dab of clear nail polish to keep the ends from fraying. These would also make adorable gift tags, and you could burn initials, names, or meaningful dates on the other side.
I can’t say we’re pros, but we learned a few tips for any wood burner newbies:
- Protect your table with an old chopping block or cookie sheet so if you drop the tool, or switch out the tips, your work surface is protected.
- Start with a simple design while you get the feel for the tool – snowflakes were easy!
- If you can, it’s best to sketch out only a rough design as a guide and free-hand with the wood burner as much as possible, because erasing the pencil, if any isn’t covered by the wood burner, is tricky.
- The hotter the wood burner, the smoother and more fluidly it will move across the wood, so experiment with the heat a little (the instructions recommend only a range of temperatures).
- “Drawing” with the wood burner is not what you might expect: we ended up making lots of short strokes – kind of like sketching.
- Work slowly and build up the intensity of the wood burned areas – you can go over areas as many times as you like to smooth out the design.
- Practice is key! Have some scrap wood on hand to experiment with techniques, tips and heat – especially if you bought pre-cut wood slices and have a finite number of them.
- Take breaks so you don’t overheat the tool.
- Use a pair of pliers to change the tips and allow a new tip to heat up before using.
Here’s a look at the wood slice ornaments on Ashley’s tree. She has such a cute assortment of rustic ornaments, with a smattering of glittering balls for some sparkle. I helped her trim the tree before I left and we spent a long time weaving that plaid ribbon garland just so, so if you want to take a moment to admire our handiwork, we definitely won’t mind…
Have you used a wood burner before? I’d love to hear your tips and experiences!