Ravenous Craft

Wood Burning

IntermediateMallory LanceComment

Wood burning plaques, signs, wooden boxes, or really anything made out of wood is a great activity to do in groups. The most challenging part of the process is finding a decent piece of wood to burn into. Though they sell wooden pieces at craft stores, we always prefer to use reused or reclaimed wood so as not to directly contribute to deforestation.

This winter, after Christmas season was over and there were tons of discarded trees all over the streets, I was determined to cut myself off a few tree trunks. Little did I know, sawing through a Christmas tree trunk is no small task. Now I have a couple of tree trunks in my apartment just waiting to be cut up into rings. In the meantime I got started on burning a welcome sign for my grandma.

My grandparents have a pile of old wood in the backyard of their Pennsylvania country house, remnants of a tree that had to be cut down after a storm knocked it over. My grandma told me the story of the tree that her father, who bought the building she grew up in in Brooklyn, planted when she was a child.

It grew into a very big tree in their front yard, and years after she had moved out of the house, she got a call from one of her tenants that the tree had fallen after a storm. They had to come down to cut it up since it wasn't salvageable. So they kept much of the tree to use as firewood in their country house.

So here we are now, with this beautiful piece of wood. My grandpa Nick brought out his tools and got me started on sanding it so I could continue and restore the smooth surface.

What you'll need:

  • A piece of wood
  • A wood burning tool
  • Coarse sandpaper and a wood block
  • A design in mind
  • Lacquer or sealant (optional)


1. Wrapping the sandpaper around a wooden block, sand the wood until it is clean and smooth.

2. Draw your design in pencil on the wood. It helps to put down some newspaper on your work surface if you don't want to accidentally burn it.

3. Making sure your tool is very hot first, begin gently pressing into the wood to burn the design in. The tips are very versatile to use for thin lines, thick lines and corners. Work slowly and deliberately.


4. Continue working, making sure to follow your penciled sketch, until finished. At this point, you can apply the lacquer if you so choose. If the sign will be outside it should be coated with a waterproof lacquer. If you'll be leaving it indoors, no need to treat the wood.