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Difficulty: Experienced

Burnt Finishes - Tips and Tricks

A good scorched and burnt wood finish is a beautiful mix of artistry and rustic cool!

Blow Torch Method

The most commonly performed burnt finish is made using the ordinary gas blow torch. If you're going to do this method I'd recommend practising on a piece of low-caloric value wood like Basswood or Alder to get your technique down. Low caloric value woods burn quicker than higher ones like Maple, so you quickly get into the habit of not hanging around with the flame! In a pinch and can't find scrap Basswood, then try Poplar or Aspen which have similar properties.


Heat Gun Method

If the body still has its original finish you can achieve a great random billowing pattern by using a heat gun made for removing paint. Just allow the gun to set in one area on high setting longer than is normally necessary and the paint will fly off of the body like kernels of corn popping out of a hot oil skillet, leaving an unusual pattern behind. Be careful not to work in one area too long though or you will be left with pockets of ash in the body which can look scrappy.


The chips of paint that pop off are sticky flying cinders of hot molten paint. They hurt. I know because I've used this method. Wear plenty of protection including and not limited to; gloves, safety glasses and long sleeves. Also work in a large open area where the toxic fumes can escape and the cinders won't hurt or ignite anything where they land!


Heat Gun with Template

If your body is clean, free of all marks and down to the bare wood it is possible to do a controlled burn using a heat gun. This neat trick is to use aluminum foil as a heat shield. Folding it over makes it less prone to flapping or bending. The edges can be cut into masking patterns or shapes. Start at one end of the body and whisk the heat gun along the edge of the foil till the pattern starts to form in the wood. Let the body cool down some and move your foil down a few inches and start all over again, overlapping the burns in the wood as you want.

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