Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Woodburned Boxes

I've had this project sitting around for about 18 months and I finally got to it and it turned out so pretty and was so much easier than I thought it would be that I'm not sure why I didn't get it done before. Who knows why my mood swings function as they do.

I was inspired by one of my favorite Etsy stores--Sixth and Elm--that takes woodburning to new heights. Any wooden box will work and I got mine at a local craft store for $4.99.

The idea of burning all that script freehand was terrifying but once I figured out the cheating techniques it wasn't hard at all.  Here's how I did it:

Step One
Print whatever script you'd like to use from your computer.  I didn't go fancy but used Monotype Corsiva in 16 point font, double spaced, with wide enough margins so that the text would fit over the entire top of the box, side to side and top to bottom.  At Sixth and Elm Chantelle uses the French text of the love letters of Abelard and Eloise but I chose my favorite poem, "A Valediction Forbidding Mourning" by John Donne instead. Though the French thing gets bonus points for being extra romantic.

Step Two
Once you have a sheet of paper with the text exactly in the size and manner that you'd like it to appear on your box you take a charcoal pencil (the softer and thicker and blacker the better) and rub charcoal on the back of the sheet on the back side of each line of text.

In the picture to the left you see what I mean about rubbing charcoal on the back.

Step Three
Lay the charcoal-backed paper in place where you'd like the text to appear.  This is easy for the top of the box, you just lay it over the top and tape it lightly in place on the sides, but around the sides of the box it's a bit more difficult. 

I did the whole top of the box first but when it was time for the sides I printed off my text then cut and taped together the lines so that they ran continuously around the perimeter of the box for three lines, starting at the back (I used a different poem for the sides--"On Weeping" by Donne.  Then I put charcoal on the back and I taped the three lines together and taped them around the sides of the box--you can kind of see what I mean by the photos above.

Step Four
With a thin ballpoint pen go over each word of text, tracing the letters and figures of the printed words.  Once you've traced everything, take off the sheet of paper and you'll find that the charcoal has acted as a perfect carbon copy of the text and now your lines are written right on the box in charcoal.

The charcoal will get all over your hands and will smudge on the wood but don't worry, once you've done your woodburning you can easily remove all those smudges.

Step Five
Once you've traced everything and have your words transferred to the wood you just need to take your woodburning tool and go over everything slowly and carefully. This is time-consuming and tedious and your hand will cramp up but it's not hard to make the words look pretty because all that has already been taken care of by the charcoal transfer.

See how pretty it looks?  And all you need to do once you've burned the words is go over the whole box with a large pink eraser to erase all the charcoal smudges.  Don't use sandpaper because that tends to just smear things more, an eraser works better, but if you have a stubborn smudge you can finish it with a bit of sandpaper as a final resort. This photo is taken after the burning and erasing and as the box was ready for the final step.

Step Six
Give it that nice, antique look by applying a light stain to the wood, inside and out.  Using a rag with a bit of stain on it, I applied a MinWax Golden Oak stain in one thin coat to the box and let it dry overnight.

Once dry, sand the box with a fine grit sandpaper, particularly around the edge, to give it that rustic, antiqued look.  I also cut a square of felt to fit perfectly inside the box so it can be used as a jewelry box.  You could also glue a little round or square mirror on the inside of the lid for an extra touch.

And if this is all just too much for your holiday schedule you might contact Chantelle at Sixth and Elm and see if she'll whip you up an order.  Her Harry Potter boxes are so fun for that wizarding fan in your life.


Enzie Shahmiri * Portrait Artist said...

Michelle, I love this idea! Great demo, now I know what to do with the wood burning pen that's somewhere in my arts and crafts tool box collecting dust!

Tammy said...

That's beautiful!! You did such a great job, I'm so impressed with the quality!

Michemily said...

Will you never cease to amaze me?

Annette Lyon said...

You've taken the scary out this one. This might end up on a gift list some day. Thanks!

jacjewelry said...

What a great project - love how your box turned out!

Edward Family said...

What tool did you use? I have to do this project and will get a wood burning kit for Christmas.

Scribbit said...

I used just a plain woodburner that I got several years ago at Michaels with the thinnest tip I had. Nothing fancy like a calligraphy tip, just a plain round skinny one.

Jen Rouse said...

Wow! That is amazing. I am so impressed. But your post makes it seem like maybe it's not that hard after all.

Sarah said...

This is awesome. Such a good christmas idea.

sixthandelm said...

I'm just returning to online life after Noah was born so I am just seeing this now, but I am SO impressed! Well done! I'm sorry I never did get those instructions on how to heat transfer your designs onto the wood to you - a bed-rest pregnancy put life on hold for a bit. But you got it done perfectly - I traced my first few too before I got the hang of the heat transfer thing and it works just as well. Just technique preference, really. I'm going to go catch up on the rest of your posts, but let me know if you are still looking for that heat transfer tutorial...

Keep burning!
Sixth & Elm