Passion for Woodburning with Woodcraft’s Sam Dulin

When our patrons call for customer service on products, you can bet they are not just ordinary people answering the phones.  They are very knowledgeable regarding all of our product lines and most are also woodworkers in different venues.  Some have taken woodworking classes, furthering their education to support the Woodcraft effort, and some even teach classes within our Woodcraft hometown store in Parkersburg, WV.  Some are avid woodworkers with various size woodshops at home, spending relaxing times enjoying the passion for woodworking.  One of our customer service team members and special artisans in Woodburning is Sam Dulin.

What is Woodburning?

Woodburning, also known as pokerwork means “writing with fire”, from the Greek pur (fire) and graphos (writing).  It can be practiced using specialized modern pyrography tools, like the Razertip tools at Woodcraft.

About Sam.

Sam is a pleasure to work with, always kind and outgoing at her service job, but truly enjoys an artistic flair, while being our resident expert in woodburning.  Her colorful personality reflects in all of her works.  Sam stated, “Woodburning all starts with a design, and God has blessed me with the art to draw since I was in elementary school.”  Sam has enjoyed her Woodcraft employment for 25 ½ years.  She’s been woodburning for 15 ½ years, since she received a wood burner for her 10th anniversary at Woodcraft.  She began instructing woodburning classes in 2003, teaching 4 times per year, once every quarter.

While at home, Sam’s workbench is her kitchen table.  She tells us her favorite subject matter is: “Nature in all of its forms and glory, Christmas ornaments, scenes including all of the holiday magic with snowmen, reindeer, trees etc.”  Within the realm of nature, she enjoys burning “little critters”, animals, dragons and seashell designs.  Giving away more than she keeps, other cherished items include lighthouse patterns, underwater scenes, and burning designs onto spatulas, spoons and bowls.

Sam’s Wood Choices.

Most of her burning is done using basswood, but she has used oak and pine as well.  Cedar is her all-time favorite because of the associated colors and fragrance of the wood.  In this photo right, Sam shows an example of how different woods burn with their varying grain patterns, colors and densities resulting in distinctive appearances.

Sam’s Techniques and Safety Tips.

Woodburning in different forms has been around from the caveman age to present day.  The key I have found is patience: letting the burner do its job instead of pushing hard on the wood and going so fast that the heat does not have a chance to stay on the tip.  I found out that a gentle burn that can be gone over to achieve the darkness you need is much better than getting frustrated when the tip digs into the wood, which can damage the tip or set the wood on fire.  No matter what style of burner you have, whether it has a heat regulator or not, you can achieve amazing results with a little patience using gentle graceful burns at first with very light pressure.  Let the tool do the work.  With a heat regulator burner like my new Razertip, you can adjust with every type of wood and even with the same type of woods, since each piece and burn is different.  If you have a pattern with straight up and down lines, place the design with the grain lines to go with the burn in case the tip dips in or you hit a bump in the grain.  You can do straight lines across the grain with a cooler tip and less pressure with a light burn or else the line will “polka-dot-up”.

“You also need to have a small fan to keep the air fresh, and you should not breathe the vapors from the burned wood.  If you can follow a traced line on the wood, you can burn the pattern on it.  Shading is very important as you need the dark areas to really show the light highlights to make your subject look “real.”  Overall, it is a very rewarding pastime or hobby, and you will be amazed when you hold your piece away from you a bit and look at it.  Don’t over critique your work, but stand back, look at it, and you will not see the things you first thought were mistakes as the picture burns to life.”


The Results.

Sam likes to surprise people with her hobby gift, and all are “enormously pleased” often stating,“You did this?”  In some designs, Sam uses watercolor pencils, applying different pencils together by dry rubbing by hand or adding water with a rag or paper towel for different shades.  Once everything is dry, seal with an acrylic or polyurethane topcoat spray sealer.  Do not use a brush or rag when applying the sealer to color applications as it will distort or smear the colors outside the burned lines.

Additionally, Sam has turned a few pens and plans on setting up a lathe turning station in her basement and expanding her woodworking capabilities.  Going forward, she wants to pass on her talents to her 8-year young grandson, who is showing some woodworking interest in pinewood derby cars and “Mama Sam’s woodburning”.  It seems he has inherited the artistic gift of being able to draw just like Sam.


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