edited chat transcript

"Pyrography, Form and
   Surface Decoration"

a Special Guest Chat with
Decorative Turning Artist, Pyrographer

with host
Ellis Walentine

February 22, 2011
9:30 pm EST

     Here is an edited transcript of this special guest chat with Molly Winton on pyrography on turned objects.
... Ellis Walentine, Host

EllisGood evening everyone. It is my pleasure to welcome our special guest, Molly Winton, to the WoodCentral chat room. As you know, Molly has distinguished herself in recent years by her superb wood-burned vessels, reflecting a mastery of form as well as a superb graphic sensibility and impeccable craftsmanship. We're fortunate to have her join us here tonight to discuss pyrography, form and the tools and techniques she uses to create her signature objects. Welcome, Molly.
Mollythanks Ellis
Mike_Hunterhi to all. this shold be a great chat, welcome Molly
MollyThanks Mike. I've been looking forward to it. Hope to do the night justice. If I dont' Carole will lob a tomato.
LewisMolly is gonna need 2 or 3 keyboards!)))))
Mike_HunterCarole and Cynthia will keep us on track
EllisWe're still a little early, but already the room has almost filled up. Good work, Molly.
LewisWell, here is a ? you use a pen with tips and do you custom maake a lot of your tips if you do?
MollyLewis, the only commercial pen I use is the DetailMaster 10A. I make all my others
Jeff_WMolly, why so on the pens?
MollyI use the 10A form my outlining, but I've not really found a need for other commercial pens, at least for the type of work I do.
LewisHa, perhaps that is why all my "burning" is always headed for further burning in the wood stove!
CaroleVMolly, what sort of power/ watts should one look for in a burner?
EllisOkay, Molly, how about if we start with some basic questions. When did you first become interested in wood burning?
MollyHmmmm, Ellis...I was first interested when I saw Graeme Priddle's work. That was back in 2002.I started turning in 1999.
MollyI started playing around with burning in 2003, I believe. I wanted to find a way to get a basket weave look to primitive designs I was thinking about. that's when I took a class from Graeme. He happened to come to our club.
EllisAh, well you've come a long way in a short time.
MollyThat's for sure. It's been a whirlwind of a ride. I count my blessings daily.
EllisDid you have a background or experience in graphic arts?
MollyI've had no formal artistic training. I did dabble some in pottery though, which gave me an understanding of form and aesthetics.
LewisDo you do a lot of stenciling then burn or free hand or over as pattern of some sort?
MollyLewis, most of my work, 99% I'd say, is free hand. I stencil on occasion, but not for my gallery work.
LewisSimply AMAZING!
Lan_BWhat would you stencil? just an example?
MollyI've also stenciled NW Coastal designs...but these are for gifts too. I don't sell them commercially.
MollyI just made a salad bowl for a gift for a woman who is a fan of western symbols, so I stenciled cowboy boots, and a horseshoe along with other freehand designs around the rim of the bowl.
Cynthia_Gibson I've always wanted to ask.....HOW do you get your basket rows so straight?
MollyMy rows are straight because I have a score line (on my 1/3 2/3 designs) where I start. From there I just line them up row after row.
Cynthia_GibsonThey look perfectly perfect!
Dave_PeeblesSo Molly, do you have a nice comfortable chair when you do your pyography
Mollylol Dave. Yup! It's a recliner I bought at a garage sale.
CaroleVShe's the only person I know who has a LazyBoy in her shop, Dave! LOL
dick_hinesHarry Howell has one but he uses it for naps.
Willyou turn sitting in a lazy boy?
MollyI burn in the chair Will. Turn standing up.
turff49What are "your" favorite woods for pyrography
LewisWhat wood (s) do you avoid "at any cost" if any?
MollyFavorite woods to burn....easy, CHERRY!!
MollyI use mostly domestics, because they're not too oily. I avoid open grain wood too i.e. oak, catalpa, ash, etc.
MollyBlack cherry is my all time fav.
Cynthia_GibsonWe've got plenty here in Georgia!
turff49Is black cherry the same as "wild" cherry?
MollyBlack cherry is what they use for furniture.
turff49Oh, ok. Thanks Molly. Didn't realize that.
LewisHow about my favorite, Mesquite?
MollyLove mesquite!!!
Cynthia_GibsonMolly, which of your patterns is your favorite?
MollyCynthia, my favorite now has to be my horses. They're fun to draw. Although buffalo hunts are fun too, because my hunters get various weapons, and sit differently on their horses. It's fun to imagine how they'll look.
Dave_PeeblesMolly, I know you had a Woodfast lathe... I think. What do you turn on these days?
MollyDave, I have a Robust now for my big work, and do my smaller work on my Oneway 1224.
Dave_PeeblesNice combo, Molly
Wally_DickermanFirst time I met Molly she had only two lathes
EllisDo you make your own burning tips?
MollyI do Ellis, except the 10A. I make one like the 6A using both 20 gauge and 22 gauge, depending upon what I'm working on.
Jim_Evans22 gauge seems awful thin
MollyI mostly use the 22 gauge for my minis
LewisWhat grit do you go to before starting burning? Ten do you sand over the final product?
MollyIf I'm branding or burning an entire surface, I don't sand at all, but if there will be any natural wood visible, I sand to approx 400.
Jeff_WMolly, what size is big and what is smaller?
MollySmall is 8-10 inches. Big is anything larger
CaroleVYou call 8-10" SMALL!?
CaroleVAh, okay
Molly6"-ish is small. 2"-ish is mini
EllisMolly, do you use a hollowing rig for your hollow forms?
MollyI don't use a hollowing rig unless the piece is quite large i.e. 12" +, then I have Don Derry's captured rig, and I have an old Nichols capture rig too. Most of the time I use the Kelton hollowers.
keithzI love the Kelton hollowers.
CaroleVMe too, Keith
MollyYeah, Keltons rock
Lan_BMolly , how do you temper your brands after you bend them?
MollyLan, I used to temper them by heating for 1 min, then allowing them to cool, but I've gotten lazy over the years, and now just use them straight away. Once they've heated and cooled once, they're fine.
Lan_BThanks, do you ever wear out a tip?
MollyI've only broken one tip. I usually lose them or give them away, but never have worn one out.
Cynthia_GibsonMolly,do you use paint or ink over your burning?
MollySometimes Cynthia. Depends upon if I want a jet black look, or if I want some of the wood to shine through the burn.
MollyOn my ascending pieces I always paint with gesso, since the textured area is one shade of black, and the untextured path needs to be black.
LewisEver "burn" through a vessel?))))
MollyLewis....yes! It bummed me out big time
EllisWhat kind of burning equipment do you use?
MollyI have a homemade Priddle burner, a Detail Master, and Burnmaster. The Priddle is great for large brands, and A LOT of heat, but I prefer the Burnmaster for 'normal' temp burning.
Josh_BowmanMolly, have you ever compared the homemade Priddle's charger burner to a commercial one? I'm just getting started.
Cynthia_GibsonHow do you decide what pattern you'll burn on a piece?
MollyRight now I'm kind of a one trick pony (pun intended) on my designs. the most common/popular design are the horses, but I do the buffalo hunts occasionally too.
MollyHorses sell
Cynthia_GibsonI can certainly see why!
jclark58Ever figure out how to draw right facing horses?
MollyOh hush Jason......but yes
Lan_BWhat would you burn, if horses did not sell?
MollyI really like textures Lan. I would probably explore different textures I could achieve.
MollyI'd like to add more designs to my work. Sometimes it's hard to break in a new one though.
CaroleVMolly, what's the key to avoiding the grian drawing the pen off line?
EllisDo you sell through galleries?
MollyI do Ellis.
jclark58Will you be in Del Mano small treasures this year?
MollyYes, They've asked me back for Small Treasures. They're going to do it all online this year. It's a new structure for them. I've got three pieces made for them so far.
jclark58Cool. I get inspired going through small treasures each year.
MollyMe too Jason. The work in that exhibit is mind blowing.
LewisYa got those hands and fingers INSURED?
Cynthia_GibsonMolly, what has been your biggest challenge with the woodburner?
MollyI think my biggest challenge has been making my designs miniature. Scaling way down to fit my work on a 1 1/2" diameter piece.
Cynthia_GibsonNow that's tiny!
Lan_Bthat is a small one!
EllisDo you use tiny woodburning pens for that, Molly?
MollyI use the small (22 gauge) homemade 6A pen tip. I have a mini skew, but keep forgetting to use it. thanks for the reminder!
Dale_MinerMolly, I have one of your 1 1/2" diameter pieces.
MollyThanks Dale. They're fun to turn and burn.
MollyThat and being able to burn inside a turned wall.
CaroleVI have one of's just as nice as the larger ones.
jclark58I have a small one too.
EllisIf you could own only one burner, would it be a Detail Master or a Burnmaster?
MollyI'd own a burnmaster Ellis. Great value, strong power, versitile cords, built in breaker...
MollyMost difference between the Detail Master and burnmaster is cost, about $100. difference. Plus the adapter cords come with the machine with the burnmaster. Detail Master doesn't have them, so you have to buy them, or just use 1/4" phono plug pens.
EllisGood info, Molly. Thanks.
EllisAre you going to Saratoga next month?
MollyNot going to Saratoga. I need to get invited for next year...hint hint, if anyone knows the organizers!
Dale_MinerMolly, I caught most of your demo at OVWG, picked up a lot of good info.
Cynthia_GibsonI want you to come down here soon!
MollyNorth Carolina is on my wish list too Cynthia....know anyone to invite me? Nothin' like a little fishing for work
Lan_BMolly your name will be mentioned to NC symp in the morning!
MollyThanks Lan!
Cynthia_GibsonAsk and you shall receive!
CaroleVGood stuff
LewisWell, I gotta go here in a few minutes, just wanted to say thanks to you and Ellis for sharing with us. You impress me not only with your work but also as a nice lady I would feel fortunate to meet some day
MollyThanks Lewis, that's nice of you to say
EllisWhat finishing techniques do you use, Molly, besides black gesso and waterlox?
MollyI use Krylon Matte Finish, too.
EllisDoes the matte finish flatten the shiny little parts of the burned areas?
MollyThe matte finish gives a very nice consistent matte look, no matter if it's burned or not. I can buff up the smooth parts to get a little sheen if I want, but it looks good on burned/primitive work. Sure don't want gloss on primitive pieces.
CaroleVMatte finish is also good on top of Gesso
MollyYes, Carole. I prefer the matte on gesso too.
EllisGood advice here, Molly. Thanks.
MollyI used to use Watco Danish Oil, but had some very bad experience with it, so stopped.
MacWhat happened with the Watco?
Dale_MinerDanish oil doesn't like to dry on pyro'ed work
MollyIt wouldn't dry Mac. I had it sitting inside my dining room for three months, and it was still tacky. Didn't know how bad until I shipped something to del Mano, and they said when it arrived the tissue paper was stuck to the piece. They had to repair it. I was mortified.
Dave_PeeblesI too gave up on Watco, Molly. Drying was not my issue, just took too darn long to build a finish. Switched to Waterlox and never looked back
MollyYup Dave. I now use wipe-on poly (is that Waterlox?), or the Krylon pretty exclusively.
EllisWhat sheen of the poly do you use?
MollyI believe it's satin Ellis
EllisWipe-on poly is a different resin than Waterlox, but it's still varnish.
MollyHmmmm, now I'm going to have to find the Waterlox.
CaroleVWaterlox looks wonderful on Cherry Molly
EllisSave up. It has really become expensive.
Dave_Peeblesmade right here in Ohio Molly, Cleveland I think
Mollydoes it give a good matte finish?
CaroleVYou can get matte or gloss depending on how you apply it.
Dave_PeeblesDepending on the coats Molly
EllisWaterlox "Original" is a gloss product. They do make a satin version.
MacYou will have to rub it back Molly
MollyOkay, I'll check it out. Thanks!
Jeff_WEllis, Waterlox satin is the gloss with silicates in it. Let it settle and you have Waterlox gloss and stuff... according to the mfr.
CaroleVI use the Original
Dave_PeeblesI also use the Waterlox original..
EllisYou can always adjust the sheen with steel wool.
Mollywith 0000?
EllisThat's what I use, Molly.
EllisOr the non-woven stuff.
CaroleVI use 000000
Dale_MinerCarole, where do you get 000000?
CaroleVSanding Glove
Lan_BIs that a real product Carole?
CaroleVYes it is real. LOL
Lan_BWow, I hever heard of that!
Dave_PeeblesIt's on my pay check Dale:)
darrin_hillA friend of mine was talking to me about using epoxy as a finish... anyone use that?
Josh_BowmanDarrin, a guy in our club uses epoxy. He has a gang of chucks set up to turn slow so he can keep it from dripping. To my taste it looks like plastic, way too thick for me.
turff49Molly, what were some of the problems you may have had when you first did a basket weave pattern.
Mollyturff, probably the most challenging was learning how to adjust the brand as the diameter of the piece decreased.
Lan_BSo you have different six coils to brand with?
Cynthia_GibsonHow do you do that, Molly?
MollyI don't change sizes of brands on the same piece.
MollyAs the diameter decreased my pattern catches up with itself. So two vertical brands will soon be on top of each other. When that happens. I stop, place two horizontal brands under the 2 vertical, and then keep going. Eventually I will work my way back to alternating vertical to horizontal. But then when I go to start the next row, I go back to that lone horizontal and start there for my next row.
CaroleVHuh? Let me read that a third time...
Cynthia_GibsonHa! I thought the same thing, Carole!
turff49I'm glad you explained that. I was lost trying to figure it out.
MollyThis prevents having three vertical or horizontal touches on top of one another. The human eye skips over two of the same orientations, but will stop on three, because there's too much of a diverse pattern. Hard to describe without showing.
MacSo show us
CaroleVMaybe you could post some pics on WC to help explain
Dale_MinerI understand, but I saw the demo.
Cynthia_GibsonYea, show us, Molly!
StuartEvery notice sometimes you understand every word but when they are linked together in a sentence they translate int Greek.
MollyI'll see if I have a close up that I can post.
Mollymaybe I'll post the pic later
EllisWe can air it on the forum at your leisure, Molly.
MollyThanks Ellis
Cynthia_GibsonI guess I won't be doing any basket weave!
Dale_MinerWalking and chewing gum at the same time is challenging for some of us, later will be fine.
Jeff_WMolly when we get through with should be able to burn a piece in 17 seconds.... thanks to the typing speed required.
MollyCynthia, you're skill is so professional, you'd have no problem doing the basket weave. It'd take you a second to figure it out.
Cynthia_GibsonYes, I would! Measurements don't make sense to me.
MollyMeasure?? I never measure
EllisGood for you, Molly.
Cynthia_GibsonIt all looks so perfect, tho!
MollyWhich reminds me Cynthia, I have your trade piece finished and sitting on my sideboy. Need to get that in the mail.
EllisSo, Molly, do you have any dream projects you'd like to do?
MollyMy dream project is to learn to do more relief carving of my horses. The style that Dixie Biggs does. I want to study with her.
Cynthia_GibsonOh goodie!!!!
CaroleVI am trying to learn relief carving of anything!
Cynthia_GibsonNo doubting that!
EllisThat would be carving as opposed to burning?
MollyThat, and make very large pieces 16" tall-ish. I have the wood, and just need to get the courage to get it up on the lathe and get going
JamieDI just tried to join a class of Dixie's at the Folk School, but it's full as I suspected.
Lan_BJamie, she is back in October
MollyCarving, yes Ellis, but there would be elements of burning in them too.
MollyShe's coming to Seattle in May. I have to email her and see if I can arrange some tutoring.
Cynthia_GibsonShe is wonderful, Molly! Such a great teacher!
MollyI was quite envious of your trip to study with her, Cynthia.
JamieDMolly, are you familiar with Ron Fleming?
CaroleVRon's stuff is gorgeous.
MollyYes, Jamie. I spent some time with him this past October when I was down in Tulsa. LOVE his work, and he's a great guy.
MollyHe's someone else I would like to study with.
EllisDoes Ron use rotary tools or reciprocating carvers? Or both?
JamieDI took a class with him years ago, and he doesn't get out often.
MollyI believe both Ellis
Cynthia_GibsonRon's work was the first that turned my head when Mike started turning! I invited you to come, remember?
MollyI remember!
EllisDo you ever make mistakes, Molly? and how do you deal with them?
Cynthia_GibsonThat's a great question, ellis!
MollyNever made a mistake....ha!
MollyWhen I make a mistake with my basket weave, I'm able to cover it up by branding over the top of it. If my pen slips when outlining horses I just curse a lot, and see if I can cover it up with another horse.
MollyCan I plug a class I'm teaching this summer?
EllisIt's your show, Molly. Tell us more.
StuartPlug away, it's probably full anyway.
turff49plug away
MollyI'll be teaching a one week class at Anderson Ranch, July 9-13
Cynthia_GibsonI want to go to Colorado as your valet!
MollyI want you there too Cynthia!!
MollyI'm really looking forward to Anderson. I've taught 2 day classes, but never 5. I've got so much to do, there'll never be a dull moment.
EllisYou can visit Molly's website at:
Dave_PeeblesAlso a plug for Molly's sister
MollyThanks Dave, she'll appreciate it. She's a very skilled potter.
MollyShe taught me pottery, and the importance of form, balance, and general aesthetics of hollow vessels.
Dave_PeeblesI also started out as a potter
Cynthia_GibsonMe too.
Doc_GreenMolly, the photos in your galleries are great. Do you do your own photography?
MollyI do Doc. It's a challenge for me.
Doc_GreenGood Work!
EllisWanna elaborate on the general aesthetics of hollow vessels, Molly?
MollyThere's so many elements to consider when making a vessel...
MollyBalance regarding having 'shoulders' or 'hips'; foot size vs. rim size,
EllisName the most important ones?
MollyHmmmmm, the most important element.....
Doc_GreenID smaller than OD?
Mollylol Doc, yup
MollyI'd say proportion....using the 1/3 2/3 rule.
EllisI've always admired your forms, Molly. The decoration makes them greater than the sum of the parts.
MollyThanks Ellis. I believe strongly that if your vessel doesn't have good form to begin with, no embelishment will improve it.
EllisHear Hear
Dave_PeeblesSo very true Molly
Don_in_Central_IllinoisMolly, I think sometimes people try to cover up a bad form with embelisments and it just doesn't work.
Mollyhe he
MollyI think so too Don, or they are so excited about trying embellishments, they don't first perfect the form.
MollyThat's fine if you're learning and having fun with turning, but it's disastrous if you want to sell your work.
Cynthia_GibsonSometimes I see folks burn a piece to cover a crack or a mistake..oooooo!
Don_in_Central_IllinoisI have a couple of forms that just didn't work so I use them for practice on empleshiments.
MollyThat's a great way to practice Don. That gives you a curved canvas to practice on, and you're not so invested in the piece to prevent you from experimenting.
Cynthia_GibsonYou should come on down here for Cherry! Molly, have you ever tried to burn on Pear?
MollyToo true Ellis. That's usually what prevents me from getting good stuff.
EllisI prefer apple or pear. Cherry is too sweet tasting for me.
MollyPear is wonderful too Cynthia, and turns like a dream
Cynthia_GibsonIt's my favorite!
MollyThanks Paul
CaroleVpear is wonderful!
MollyLike turning butta!
MacPeach is good too
MollyI've never turned peach
Dale_MinerCynthia, you have done pear proud with your burning
Cynthia_GibsonBurns so wonderfully!
MollyDon't you have difficulties with the stability of fruit wood?
EllisPear is the only wood I know that doesn't check when you leave the pith in.
Cynthia_GibsonOh Thanks Dale!
EllisCherry is fruit wood.
MollyI agree Dale. I'm a huge fan of yours Cynthia.
MollyBut not the black cherry. I don't turn fruit cherry
EllisPear is my favorite. A little bland looking, but wonderful to turn.
EllisBlack cherry is still fruit wood in my book.
Dale_MinerWild, black cherry doesn't behave as badly as apple or fruit pear.
JamieDEllis, that may be true for Yankee pear, but not the southern samples.
MollyPear has such a smooth grain, it's wonderful to dye. Similar to holly
EllisAha. Interesting, Jamie.
Cynthia_GibsonWe like Bradford Pear. I think the blander the better for burning.
MollyI've found wild black cherry to be very stable.
Dale_MinerFruit cherry almost always cracks
EllisYes, it definitely is, Molly.
Dave_PeeblesMolly, I have to head out too. Thanks for doing the chat, Please don't be a stranger. We miss you girl.
Don_in_Central_IllinoisThe black cherry in central Illinois is wonderful to turn. I've just got a lot of it lately making some bowl blanks.
MollyGood to see you Dave
JamieDCynthia lives too far south to have ice storms to supply lots of pear.
Paul_SEllis, Thank You for setting up this exchange, and for your work on WC... Goodnite all.
EllisYou're welcome.
EllisWell, I can't find a "personal appearances" page on your website, Molly. Where will you be appearing next?
MollyI'll be in Ottawa in late June at Lee Valley, then Anderson Ranch in July.
Cynthia_GibsonThen Oz and NZ?
EllisWhat about the AAW Symposium?
MollyThen no out of state travel again until October when I'm supposed to be in New Zealand (as long as they don't cancel).
MollyNope, not going to be in San Jose this year.
MollyI'm not working it, so it's not worth the expense. Especially with NZ coming up. I want to take Larry with me.
EllisI hear you. Well, you'll be missed.
EllisWell, this has been a marathon chat. Anyone else have any burning questions? (running and ducking:)
Don_in_Central_Illinois Thanks for the chat. Look forward to reading it all. Night
MollyThanks for the invitation Ellis. I had a good time
Doc_GreenGreat Chat! Thanks Molly and Ellis.
Dale_MinerNIte all
EllisThe pleasure was all ours, Molly. Let's do it again sometime. I'll mail you the chat transcript for your scrapbook.
MollyThanks Ellis. Night all. Think I'll go get some dinner.
EllisSee you all, later, folks. Thanks for coming.