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First Attempts at Wood Burning


When I made my first attempts at wood burning, it was just a hobby—a way to pass the time. The year was 1999, and we had just moved from our 20-acres in Central Oregon’s High Desert. We had lived an off-grid lifestyle there for about 6-months. But over the winter, the snow made traveling in and out of our land almost impossible. So, we relocated to an abandoned 160-acre property known to locals as “the compound.” The homestead consisted of a small, white, ranch-style house with several other outbuildings and a 2-story red barn. All of that was situated in the middle of what used to be a working alfalfa farm.

Stories of our experiences during that time could fill a book, but that’s not my intention with this post. This story is about how I started my adventure into wood burning, or as the art form is known professionally, pyrography.

At “the compound,” we had no land-line phone, and there were no cell towers in the area at the time. So, we had no phone service, much less internet access. It was a 35-mile drive, one way, into the closest small town to gain access to those luxuries.


We had LOTS of time on our hands to explore our creativity!

Resources were limited, so I had to use what was available to me. I noticed tons of loose pine boards strewn around the property, both inside the big red barn and laying around in the yard area. And I remembered purchasing a cheap wood-burning tool from a craft store before moving away from Portland that was stashed away in a box somewhere. I dug through my things, found it, and decided to play around a bit! Before this time, I had only tested out burning a handful of crude shapes and patterns on little wooden plaques I purchased with it at the craft store. I hadn’t ever attempted to create a piece of true art or develop any kind of skill with the tool. So, this time was different. For some reason, I felt inspired to see what I could make.


I don’t remember when I acquired the packet of carbon transfer paper I used for my pyrography projects. But I think I had it on hand from the office supplies I brought for doing administrative work for Jeff’s software business. I might have purchased it specifically for doing this art transfer. We had reams and reams of printer paper because of his business, so between all the wood scraps lying around the property, the printer paper, and the carbon paper, I had loads of supplies to keep me busily creating art as my heart desired!

I already had lots of photos saved on my computer from before our move, so I just found some that inspired me and got to work!

I set up a small studio space inside the house where I could burn. I’d pop a cd into my “boom box” (do you even know what that is?), crank the volume up, and happily burn for hours on end!

These were some of my first attempts at wood burning in that environment.



It wouldn’t be until several years later, after moving back to the Portland Metro area, that my experience with these first attempts at wood burning would result in my first paying client. But all those years of practicing just for fun really ended up paying off in the end!



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