Razertip Pyrography Systems and Pens - Razertip Woodburning Systems and Pyrography Pens
Learn how to care for your Razertip pyrography tools, tip styles & uses, frequently asked questions and more.
Everything you always wanted to know about Razertip pyrography tools, pen uses, care, answers to all your questions & more. If I haven't answered your questions, please contact me.
Most of the information contained in this tutorial can be applied to most brands of detail pens but if you do not have a Razertip (or similar brands with polished tips), please be sure to follow the manufacturers instructions for cleaning the pens.
I have used & sold Razertip since 2002 & they have made many tip styles for me over the years including: the HD5MP Bent spear shader, F99 Ball Stylus, F14D Round-heeled knife, F9Pl Gourd poker & others.
When the economy took a down turn I started carrying other brands to give my customers choices if they could not afford Razertip. Ultimately I ended up discontinuing each one for a variety of reasons such as: too many customer complaints, poor quality control, poor service or combination. This is something I have never had to deal with when it comes to Razertip so I have opted to go back to just selling Razertip exclusively & not even try to find a cheaper alternative. I would rather sell quality products than try to offer my customers products that I don't feel comfortable recommending. I want my customers to be happy & satisfied with what they buy from me.
This page was last updated 10/23/16
Care & feeding of your Razertip brand pyrography tools
If you own a Razertip woodburner you have come to the right place for help.
I use & sell the Razertip pyrography tools & pens so that's what I am going to discuss here but the same information also applies to many other brands of pyrography tools. First, let me start off by saying that the Razertip, Nibsburner & Optima brand of pens have polished tips & do not need annealing before use. It is unnecessary & not recommended. Just open them up & burn away.
The Razertip tips are made from a highly polished nickel/chromium alloy that is designed to flow smoothly over the wood & require less cleaning. These tips need very special care to preserve the finish & ensure its life. Although most brands of tips are made from a nichrome alloy, not all are the exact same proportions of nickel & chromium or processed in the same way. Some pens that are not polished will require cleaning more often than those that are polished. If you are using Razertip or similar pens, you should probably only need to clean the pens once a day if burning at a moderate temperature on wood without resin or pitch. If you are burning at a high temperature on wood such as pine (not safe really) or on gourds & leather, you might need to clean your pens more frequently. When your burning starts looking muddy or the pen is starting to drag, its time to clean!
The photo shows the Razertip fixed-tip pens which is primarily what I carry. The photo on top is the standard (F) handpiece & the bottom is the heavy-duty (HD) handpiece. Although it doesn't show up well in the photo, both styles are vented. Notice that the connection at the end of the pen is different than most burners manufactured in the USA. It can be used on most major brands of burners with a different cord or adaptor although a cord is the recommended option.
Having a clean tip is essential for good burning. A build-up of carbon & other materials will hinder heat transfer & cause the pen to skip on the wood while burning. The ideal method of cleaning the polished tip wood burning pens is to use the cleaning tool made by Razertip or use aluminum oxide & strop it on leather or the hone strop described below.
If you care for the tips properly, they will last for years!
Happy Burning ©!
Proper Care & Use of Razertip Pyrography Tools & Tips:
Razertip polished tips do not need annealing before use. It is unnecessary & NOT recommended to use any annealing process. Just open them up & burn away.
If you can turn the burner down & still do the job do it! Your tips will last longer, you'll have more control, you'll get a cleaner burn, your tip wont build up carbon up as quickly, & its cooler on the fingers. The other advantage to burning at a lower temperature is that you will have more control over your burning!
NEVER use abrasive sand papers, etc. to clean fine detail pens!!!!
If you have a question that I haven't answered here, please contact me.
This page was last updated 8/4/16
Frequently asked questions:
Over the years I have gotten all kinds of questions regarding Razertip pyrography tools. They run the gamut from what to buy, problems customers are having & others are regarding maintenance. In most cases the problems are not really problems, just a question of perhaps new users not knowing how to use the products.
As a means of trying to help people with answers to their questions I started adding some of the most commonly asked questions here & keep adding to it as something new comes up.
I do hope you take the time to read this BEFORE you make a decision on what to buy or start using your tools so you know how to use them properly.
If you are still having problems or questions after you have read through this page that have not been addressed here please feel free to contact me.
Q: I know you sell Razertip but honestly what is the best burner & pyrography tools to buy?
A: There is no short answer to this question but I have sold just about every brand of burner on the market (except for Detailmaster & Everglade) & I have used every one of them. My opinion is a personal one based on the following: my personal experience with the burners, dealing with the companies & most important dealing with customers having problems with the products or dealing with the companies. So, I have experience both as a user & as a dealer.
For many years I tried to offer my customers options based on price & model options but it's hard to do that when you have customers calling with numerous complaints about their tools not working. So while I would like to offer cheaper options than Razertip I have to think of what I would want as a consumer & having been on the other side of the coin when I bought my first burner I sure wish I had a dealer like to buy from instead of one that was just trying to sell burners. I also have to think about my customers & my own reputation as a business owner. My long time customers will tell you that I'm known for my honesty & integrity. Unlike many dealers that are more interested in making money so they carry several brands I want to focus on selling the best products so I can feel confident that my customers are happy. I might not get rich, but then I didn't start this business to get rich.
So with that being said I made a decision several years ago to exclusively sell l Razertip pyrography tools. I have personally used & sold Razertip for over 13 years & the number of complaints over that period of time about tools not working (that were NOT user error) can be counted on both hands. I could not say that about most of the other brands I was selling. I don't want to sell products just to make a buck so if people can't afford Razertip I usually suggest they contact other dealers. Yes, I might lose some sales but I'd rather have happy customers than a few more dollars in the bank.
I know my customers who have bought Razertip have no regrets & have been happy with their tools so I feel good about that. I might not hear from them for years but when they need another pen they do find their way back to my website so that makes me feel good.
While I'm not selling a big variety of pyrography systems I know that what I'm selling is a quality product that comes with the best warranty & the best customer service from a company that really stands behind it's products. They don't give you great service because they have to (perhaps because they have poor quality control or have lots of problems with their products) but because it's just who they are. So, yes I am biased. Personally I expect good quality & good customer service & I expect that my customers should get the same. I know that you can buy from anyone so it's my goal to offer you good quality products at reasonable prices, information to help you make informed decisions, no BS or sales pitches & fast service. And the one thing that always bothered me about many dealers is like used car salesmen...they either don't know enough about what they sell or they try to upsell you. I will NEVER do that & in fact I've been told I'm crazy because I talk people out of buying things they really don't need. My goal is to treat you like I would have liked to be treated when I was clueless about buying pyrography tools & got talked into buying a burner (I never liked it but didn't know any better) a case & LOTS of tips (I later discovered that fixed-tip handpieces & polished tips were better) I would never use. You will never have that problem if you read the information below & then if you still have a question call me!!!
Q: I am so confused about what to buy. Can you recommend what I need to get started?
A: I get asked this question a lot. The easiest way to start is to buy the burner of your choice & then order a starter kit but here are some suggestions.
For General Pyrography:
Here are some recommendations for the quick order option:
If you don't want to buy a starter kit here are the most important components to buy:
For Gourd Work:
The quick way is to order the burner of your chose & then choose from one of the many starter kits. There are a variety of starter kits that I put together just for gourd artists. They contain the most useful tip styles for gourd use. These kits offer several options from basic to the ultimate which contains everything the gourder ever could want.
If you don't want to order a starter kit here are some options:
Q: Can I use other brands of pens on Razertip burners & visa versa?
A: The quick & dirty answer to that question is yes. You can use them but here's some things to consider & suggestions.
Q: What is the warranty on Razertip Pyrography Tools & Razaire Dust Collection System?
A. Razertip is the only manufacturer who gives you an "unconditional" warranty on their products.
To quote them:
"When we say unconditional, we mean it! Here's the deal - if any Razertip or Razaire products fails within the warranty period for any reason whatsoever - simply return the item(s) to us and we will make it right."
"This includes your satisfaction with our products. For example, if you buy a pen and later decide that the tip does not meet your needs, send it back and we will re-tip it with the tip of your choice at no charge."
"If you need service after the warranty has expired be sure to contact us. Razertip products are designed to last many years and we can re-tip or otherwise repair most products in a very cost-effective manner. Please, don't throw it out without checking with us first."
This is what Razertip says about their warranties:
Here is what is covered:
This warranty provides for repair or replacement, at the manufacturers option, of any defective components. This warranty is limited to the actual cost of repairs & will not cover shipping costs or any consequential damages resulting from failure of the unit or its components to perform as stated. All warranty work must be done by the manufacturer. The manufacturer will not cover the costs of repairs done elsewhere.
Warranty will be voided if unit has been tampered with, altered or repaired by unauthorized persons or companies. In the event that your burner or handpiece should need service, our average repair turn around time is only one day in shop. To receive in or out-of-warranty servicing, return the complete unit including any cord(s), pen(s) &/or tip(s) directly (prepaid) to Razertip Industries at the address below.
Razertip Industries Inc.
Q: What do I do if I have a broken, damaged or defective burner, cords or fixed-tip Pens?
A: If you have any problem with your pen or burner please contact us first so I can walk you through some steps first. If I cannot resolve your problem, I will have you contact Razertip before shipping it back to them. Their contact information is above.
Q: How Do I Ship a Broken Razertip Pen to Razertip?
A: If a fixed tip ever breaks. Razertip tips are
the most durable hot-wire tips for pyrography you can
buy. In spite of that, it is possible for them to break
or wear out. They do replace broken or worn out tips.
Simply slide off the foam grip & mail the
pen to us in a small padded envelope or between 2 pieces
of thin cardboard. Mail costs should be about
a dollar (Canada and US) if you take the grip off. If
the pen is less than a year old, tell Razertip so &
we will replace the tip at no charge. If it is over
a year old, the tip replacement charge for most Razertip
pens is only $6.00,
When returning pens for re-tipping: Please return only the pen. Don't send any grips, storage tubes, or anything else. If it can be removed from the pen, remove it before mailing. Canada Post charges only 98 cents for a package under 2cm thick, but they want a fortune (often over $8.25) for packages over 2cm thick, so we may not return clear storage tubes or bulkier items unless you are willing to pay the additional shipping charges.
To avoid delays going through us please send all broken burners, pens, cords, etc. directly to Razertip at the above address. DO NOT send them to us!
Q: Can I get other brands of burning pens re-tipped?
A: Many companies' will tell you they can't re-tip broken tips so you have to buy a new one. Well that's not true, they can but some would rather you buy a new pen.
Razertip can & will re-tip any brand of pen or tip. With laser-welding Razertip has the ability to re-tip any brand or make of hot-wire pyrography tool made. They offer this service on all brands of pens including Detail Master, Colwood, Nibs, Optima, and any others.
Colwood, Nibs, Optima and many others:
Razertip stands behind the new tip with a full, unconditional 6 month warranty covering everything including your satisfaction. The best part is that you will get two day in-shop turnaround and a warranty that's better than the new pen had.
Please follow the instructions above about how to ship pens for re-tipping
For more information retipping other brands of pens go to Razertip's website: Tip Replacement
Q. What is the main difference between the SK Single Output burner & the SSD-10 Dual Output burner?
A: This is an excellent question. The power unit is basically the same except for two major differences & one that is something a lot of people don't even think about.
Q: Can I burn with 2 pens at one time with the SSD10 Dual Output Burner?
A: Unfortunately there isn't a burner on the market that will allow you to burn with 2 pens at the same time. All dual output burners just offer the option of flipping a switch from one pen to the other, not have 2 pens burning at the same time.
Q: My tips are not getting hot but the light on the burner is on or flickering what can the problem be?
A: Most often the problem is the cord. Here are some trouble-shooting things to try:
Q: If most of the wood burning pens are made from a nichrome alloy why & how is there a difference?
A: There are a lot of different 'Nichrome' alloys made, & different annealing/hardness options for each one, so each company may use a slightly different material. The difference is also in how they make their tips. Every company uses a different process for finishing their tips so the finish will vary from company to company. Some companies only offer polished tips & some offer unpolished & polished. The polishing process also varies with each company. The more highly polished involves a lot more work.
I started out using a Colwood woodburner & the original unpolished tips many years ago & found that they grabbed the wood & required more frequent cleaning. I also struggled with trying to improve my burning techniques but became very frustrated at being "stuck" in a rut & not being able to get past it. It was not until someone recommended Razertip & Optima pens that I saw the wonders of how great polished tips were & how much I could improve my techniques just by changing from an unpolished tip to a polished tip.
Polished tips burn smoother without grabbing the wood, remain clean longer & are easier to clean. This is not just my hype to sell the pens I sell, it's a proven fact. Just ask anyone who has tried two similar style pens, one unpolished & one polished & they will probably tell you the same thing.
The other issues regarding tip wire is the composition or basically the percentage of nickel vs. chrome. Each tip manufacturer uses a slightly different nichrome wire so one may produce a better polish than others.
The other differences in nichrome wire is the gauge of the wire. Heavier duty wires work best on 3 volt systems but you loose some of the fine detail you can get with standard gauge wire like the wire used in Razertip burners. It's one of the reasons I like Razertip so much because I'm a detail freak. Read the information in the next question for a better explanation about wire gauge & how it relates to the voltage in a burner. The bottom line is that whether it's a 3 volt or 2 volt the performance will be the same except for the differences in the gauge of the tip wire.
Q: I keep hearing that some burners have more wattage so they will have more power. Does it make a difference?
That is a great question & here's my experience:
I have used just about every brand (except Everglades) of burner manufactured in North America. What I have found is that the tips made with 18 & 20 gauge wire (such as Razertip & Optima) heat as well as the brands that are 3 volt systems that use heavier gauge wire. If you attempted to use a 16 gauge wire on a Razertip or Optima you would definitely notice it taking longer to heat & it would not get as hot.
The 18 & 20 gauge wire produces quick heat recovery & more than sufficient heat for most burning needs when used on a 2 volt system. The heavier gauge wires will not give you the fine (Razer tip) tips or detail you can achieve with the 18 & 20 gauge wire.
So that you understand a little better I will explain using Razertip as an example. Their HD tips are 18 gauge wire & their Standard tips are made with 20 gauge wire. The 20 gauge wire can produce the smallest, finest tips available (such as the 5S & 5XS spears) which is needed for the very small detail work. What I discovered is when I had Nibsburner attempt to make some of these same tips was that they did not come out as well because Nibsburner's lightweight tip wire is 20 gauge (Razertip's HD wire) & when trying to reproduce these tips they came out thicker thus loosing the ability to do the very fine detail work that can be accomplished with Razertip's version of the same tip.
If you attempted to use a 16 gauge wire (as an example
of Nibsburner's HD tips) on a Razertip or Optima burner
you would find that the tip does not heat up as much
as it would on a 3 volt system.
You might also want to read the information regarding the Wattage Controversy issue as told by Colwood Electronics & Cam Merkle of Razertip Industries. They provided me with this information which I think might help explain how pyrography tools work & why the wattage claims are pretty unimportant when making a decision regarding which tools to buy.
NOTE: All the wattages listed in my Pyrography Tools Review Chart are based on the manufacturer's claims. If you have not already read the information provided on my website regarding the Wattage Controversy I highly recommend that you read it. The information was provided to me by Colwood Electronics & Cam Merkle of Razertip Industries. Colwood explains how Pyrography tools work & Cam has provided some very good information regarding wattage, voltage & the tip wire & how that impacts on quick heat recovery & ability to heat the tips hotter.
Q: There are so many pens to choose from how do I know what to buy to get started for general pyrography?
A: Over the years I have always recommended for general
pyrography, people start with just 3
My bottom line with all my pens is versatility. Instead of having a pen that is good for one or two things I'd rather have one that can do many things. This is what I also try to convey to my customers, buy pens that you can use for many things rather than a lot of pens that are not very versatile. Just because a tip style is called a shader does not mean that is all it can do. What tips can do are only limited by your imagination so experiment!
While every artist has their favorites here are the pen styles I usually recommend for general pyrography with my 3 favorites (because of their versatility) in italics:
Shaders: HD5MP or HD5MSP Bent Spear Shaders. These are the most versatile shaders I have found. Because of their shape they can get into the tightest spots. I use the HD5MP for 95% of what I do, including fine detail work, fur, feathers, hair, undercutting, etc. I'm for versatility rather than buying a "single-use" tip style.
Writers: F9P, F9S, F99.008, F99.015 Ball Stylus. These were designed based on my specifications & I have found to be the most versatile & the best overall performance. The ball stylus will glide more smoothly over the wood than the #9 writing tips but both styles are very useful. It is like skating on ice!
Round-heeled knives: F14M, F14D, HD14SM Round heeled-knife. Again, I like these for their versatility. Unlike flat skews, the round-heel makes them more maneuverable for doing curved lines but they also do a great job on straight lines. My favorite & the most versatile is the HD14SM.
My feeling is that more is not necessarily better. If you can do everything you need to with three pens, why buy more? I'm not in this business to sell you things you don't need, it's my goal to help you make sound decisions based on your personal needs & budget. If you have any questions that I have not answered here please feel free to contact me.
Q: Are your 3 favorite pens available in a set?
A: Yes, I have been asked so many times if they were available as a set so they are now available in a set. They are available in a standard version (the Ball stylus is standard & the other 2 are HD versions) & an HD version (they are all HD versions). You can find them on the general purpose pen page.
Q: Do you have a set of pens available for gourd artists?
A: Yes, I now have a set of the 5 most versatile & popular pens for work on gourds. I have found that HD versions perform better on gourds so this set is only available in an HD version. You can it them on the general purpose pen page.
Q: I am going to be doing pyrography on gourds, what do you recommend?
A: Well, a lot depends on how far you want to go with your burning. Here are the ones I typically recommend for general gourd burning & then I will add the other options if you intend to do some carving or cutting. My answer here is also very similar to the one for general pyrography....don't buy a pen for a singular purpose, try to find one that can do many things & experiment with it.
Q: Do you actually use Razertip wood burning tools?
A: Yes, I have been using the Razertip dual output burner since 2002...about as long as I have been selling them & I have used & tested every pen I sell & even some that I don't sell. Several of the tip styles Razertip now makes were developed for & by me based on my specifications & needs. Such pens as: HD5MP & HD5MSP, #9P, #99 ball stylus tips, #14D & the #9PL gourd poker which I use to "drill" holes in the gourds especially when I'm making my masks.
Q: The tips seem to be loosing heat while I'm burning. What am I doing wrong?
A: The answer is "you are not doing anything wrong". It is normal for the tips to loose heat as you are working unless you allow the tip to reheat as you see the "color" of the burning lighten. You just need to lift the tip briefly from the wood allowing the tip to reheat then start again. If you are trying to burn a line, just make sure you put the pen down just behind where you left off so you don't end up with a small gap from where you stopped & where you start. These variable temperature burners only take a couple of seconds to reheat.
Q: It seem like the tips lose heat when I burn across the grain vs. going with the grain. What am I doing wrong?
A: Good question. You aren't doing anything wrong. This is normal. You need to adjust your technique when you burn across the grain. In my classes I used to tell students to go slower across the grain & faster when going with the grain. You don't need to adjust the temperature, just adjust the speed as you go across the wood.
Q: It takes so long to burn can I just crank up the temperature to get it done faster?
A: Well my response is that pyrography is not an art form that is "speedy" & as I told my students for years that it's not a race & the one who finishes first is the winner. Like all art you really need to take your time & you will find that the quality of your work will improve accordingly. I always say, it's a journey & you have to learn to stop & smell the "wood burning" along the way & not try to rush through it to get it done faster. This really is a journey & if you can learn to relax & enjoy the journey you will be surprised at the results. So, turn the temperature down, learn to layer & most of all learn to relax & enjoy the journey. If you just can't slow down & relax perhaps you might want to take up drawing.
Q: There are some pens I want that you don't carry can you get them for me?
A: Absolutely! I will have them drop shipped directly from Razertip & at my discounted prices. Just contact me with your order.
Q: How do I know when it's time to clean my tips?
While it is not set in stone, a good rule of thumb is when your shading/burning starts to look muddy or you start dragging black carbon, it's time to clean!
Some things to consider:
Q: How do I clean my pen tips?
A: Great question! I will address the proper procedure for cleaning pyrography tips that are polished. For pen tips that are not polished please be sure to check with the manufacturer for their recommended methods of cleaning the tips.
There are a variety of methods for cleaning your tips but I will list the ones I recommend here.
Typically I recommend you first clean the tips with a single edge razor or the Razertip tip cleaner/scraper if your tips are caked with carbon or gourd gunk & then use a strop & aluminum oxide to polish the tips.
NOTE: Keeping your tips clean & well maintained will preserve the life of the tips!
How to use the Razertip Tip Cleaner/ Scraper or a Single edged razor
If your tips are heavily caked with carbon I recommend you start with a single-edged razor or the Razertip tip cleaner/scraper. You can do this while the pen is hot or after it has cooled. Then follow up with the strop & aluminum oxide powder.
To use the tip cleaner/scraper follow these steps:
If you prefer to use a single edged razor simply use the edge of the razor to GENTLY scrape the excess carbon off the tip. Do not worry about the black stain, that is normal.
I tend to burn mostly on clean woods that are free of oil & at moderate temperatures so regular cleaning with the strop & aluminum oxide is all I need to keep my tips clean & carbon free. When burning on gourds or leather I start with a single-edged razor & do that several times & then when I'm finished burning for the day I polish the tip with a strop & aluminum oxide.
How to use the strop & aluminum oxide:
Polished tips stay cleaner than unpolished so if you are burning at a moderate temperature on wood that is free of sap you can probably burn longer between cleanings. If you are burning on gourds or leather you will need to clean more frequently.
When burning on gourds, leather & certain woods you will probably have to clean the tips more frequently.
Remember that proper cleaning maintains the life of the tips, makes burning easier, will make your finished burning cleaner & keeps them in factory-new condition. If you clean the tips regularly you will not have much difficulty maintaining them.
Q: How often should I sharpen my tips, & what should I use to do it with?
A: Usually, only once or twice a year depending on usage. An overnight soak in oven cleaner can sometimes take off heavy carbon deposits, but be careful that you do not soak the brass or silver solder (read the directions for your oven cleaner to see what metals it will safely clean). To determine if your tip needs to be sharpened or "re-honed", examine your tips under a magnifying glass. If the edge of the tip looks rounded or there is not a well defined angle, you could probably re-sharpen the tip. BTW, over buffing (using a "leather power strop" wheel for example) will prematurely lead to the metal "rolling over" the edge, causing your tip to get kind of a rounded edge. To sharpen your pen, use a fine stone, (or if need be, 800 or higher grit wet & dry sand paper). Sharpen your pen tips at a 30 to 35 degree angle. Do NOT sharpen them at a sharper angle, as you will then carve too deep, & have problems in the painting stage of your carvings. After sharpening, polish with the aluminum oxide polishing compound on a strop.
Q: Do I need to anneal my pens?
A: Some brands do recommend it but you should NEVER turn your power supply on high to "anneal" pens with polished tips. This will just lead to premature oxidation, & may damage some of the smaller standard style tips. My pens are ready to use right out of the plastic tube.
Q: My tip is a bit too sharp & needs to be bent a bit more. Can I do it myself?
A: Yes, you can. If you want to "modify" a pen, such as the Bent Spear shader, you would need to buff the lower edge of each tip so that it is rounder using a felt buffing wheel & buffing compound. You can then re-bend the tip angle using a smooth-jaw pliers. It is best to bend it cold - just be gentle & don't bend too quickly. Despite what some people say, you should NOT bend the tips when they are "poker hot".
Q: How can I make the tips last longer?
A: To make your tips last longer: NEVER use sandpaper of any grit to remove carbon. I have seen these tips last well over 10 years even with constant use, when properly cared for!
Some tips (pun intended) to preserve the life of the tips:
Q: What is the difference between the Standard & Heavy-Duty pens, & which style should I get?
A: This is a great question & one I am asked frequently.
NOTE: Any burnishing type tip that would be "sinking" a lot of heat to the wood benefits from the heavy-duty cord, even in the standard type of pens.
One important thing to remember is that when you switch from using a heavy-duty pen to a standard pen you will need to turn your heat setting down.
Q. What is the difference between a fixed-tip pen (Handpiece) & interchangeable tip
A: The primary differences are:
Q: Should I get interchangeable tips or fixed-tip handpiece?
A: This is one of the most commonly asked questions. I recommend & sell the Razertip fixed-tip pens (with few exceptions). For the most part my advise is to use fixed-tip pens for the tip styles you will use a lot. Fixed-tip pens allow you to work with your fingers closer to the work surface giving you better control. If you are going to use Razertip's interchangeable tips you must use them with Razertip's BPH pen. The BPH pens are generally the coolest-operating pens available. If you have sensitive fingers or work at high heat settings you may find theBPH pens to be your best choice.
If you plan on using this pen & will be changing tips it's a good idea to have at least 2 pens because changing tips on a hot pen is no fun. If you have 2 pens you won't need to change tips as often.
Here's some important things to consider when making a decision between interchangeable tips vs fixed-tip handpieces:
Q: I prefer Interchangeable tips, what can I do with them until they cool down?
A: If you have a craft style burner you need to leave it in the burner until it is cool otherwise you will risk stripping the threads of the tip. This is especially important because the newer brass tips made in China are thinner & not as sturdy as the ones made in the USA. Regardless of where they were made Brass is a soft metal & you risk damaging the threads if you attempt to remove the tip while it is still hot.
If you are using a variable temperature burner such as Razertip, Colwood, Nibsburner, etc. here are some suggestions where to put the tips until they are completely cool:
Q. The tips on some of my pens keep breaking, what am I doing wrong?
A: This is one of the most common problems I hear about is this! It is a very common problem with people who are heavy handed, new to burning or use too much pressure on the pens & for people who have been using a single temperature (craft) burner & upgrade to a detail burner. Keep in mind that you do not need a death grip on the pen & you do not need to use pressure. Lighten up on the grip & let the pen do the work. But even if you haven't done any of this & your tip breaks remember Razertip pens comes with a 1 year warranty & even after the warranty runs out you can still have your tip fixed or replaced for only $5.00.
The other common problem is that many people just burn with the tip rather than the entire edge. Be sure to use the entire edge & do not use a lot of pressure. Let the pen do the work.
If you are heavy handed I strongly recommend you practice burning using a "light touch". Think of the pen as a feather & let the pen do the work, not you! Your hand will thank you & your pen will thank you!
Q: Some of my pens get very hot & burn my fingers?
A: Because our art form involves using heat to make images & detail, our challenge is always to get as much heat to the tip as possible (good heat) without that same heat building up in the pen & affecting the fingers (bad heat). Every user has different needs & will therefore have a different experience. Posting problems & possible solutions on forums like this are great ways to share information & I am always interested to see the many creative ways people go about overcoming challenges. Razertip has been making burners for over 20 years & are seriously committed to making the best tool possible. Many of the makers of other burners share a similar commitment. Cam & the other people at Razertip know a lot about pens & heat & the physical limitations they encounter in designing their products. As they say at Razertip, they always have more to learn, & that is one reason why they like to hear from customers directly. Hand piece heating is a much more complex issue than most people realize, & there are many factors that go into how hot your pen gets.
These are a few suggestions I have to help ease the pain!
Here are a few factors concerning the "hot fingers" issue from Cam Merkle, President of Razertip Industries:
1. Power & current. Hot-wire tools are designed to operate with a primary voltage of around 115-117 volts. If your wall voltage is higher (say 120-125 volts), you'll get more heat at the tip. More heat at the tip usually means a hotter pen body. All hot wire burners convert the wall voltage to a lower output voltage. Razertip power supplies drop the voltage to 2 volts or less. Razertip pens are designed to operate at 2 volts or less. Some burners (i.e.: Detail Master & Burn Master etc.) operates at around 3 volts. This gives them more power, but can be problematic for Pen & cord heat. Razertip & other pens designed to work on 2 volt systems pens tend to get quite a bit hotter on the fingers when used on a 3 volt power supply. They perform best on a Razertip power supply. It is generally true that most pens will perform best on their own power supply.
2. Operator technique. Razertip (& I agree) always recommend using the lowest heat setting that will get the job done - in other words, if you can turn the heat down & still do the job, SO DO IT. In addition, hold your pen at an angle so the heat from the tip can rise into the air, not into the pen body & your fingers. Moving your fingers back a bit from the tip can help sometimes, too. If you must use high heat settings for long periods, I recommend getting a second pen & switching back-&-forth when one gets uncomfortable. This will be easier on your fingers & on the pen & tip. In the long run it will be less costly as your pens & tips will last longer. Also if you ever damage a tip & need replacement you have a spare to use while the damaged one is being repaired.
3. Operator sensitivity. Some people have very sensitive fingers. The original standard pens some people would complain after a short period of time that the pen was uncomfortable yet other people had no problems. When Razertip was designing the new vented pens Cam knew he had a winner when his wife (who previously complained about it getting too hot after 12 minutes) was able to burn at higher temperatures than she normally would & was still able to use the pen comfortably after over 40 minutes. Yes, the vented pens can still get hot on the fingers, but they take much longer to heat & they cool very quickly. It is interesting to note that some users, like me, use Razertip pens for long periods without hot pen concerns while others experience discomfort. Another possibility is that I use a lighter touch with my pens & as I tell my students, "you don't need a death grip on the pens". Let the pen do the work, not your hands.
4. Pen/tip design & construction. Razertip has very deliberately chosen the design & material for their pens & tips to give us the best performance possible, taking into account the primary intended use for the tools. Their tools are primarily for finesse & delicate work. The solid-tip burners, such as the Wall Lenk & Walnut Hollow are intended for the heavy work & compliment a hot-wire tool or as refer to them as detail burners. Different tip types heat differently. Tip length is also a factor in pen heat. The longer the tip, the cooler the pen. Razertip makes their tips the length they are because that's what the customers have wanted. They like working close to the burning surface. They can make tips longer & have done so on request. The thicker grip can help, too (see below for information on removing & replacing the grips). Testing has shown us that cork & closed-cell foam have similar insulative properties, with uncompressed foam performing better than cork. However, some users grip their pen tighter than others, & in compressing the foam grip, reduce its insulating abilities. If you can loosen your grasp on the grip it may help. Also when grips get old or have been used a lot they flatten out & should be replaced. Most of my customers have indicated that they prefer the foam grips, but if cork works better for you then go for it. One word of caution, whether you use a glove, or cover the pen with something to insulate it: don't let the pen get too hot or you may damage it internally. Give it a regular chance to cool.
5. The pen cord can also make a big difference. Razertip makes a standard (super-flexible) 18 gauge cord for fine work, & a HD 16 gauge cord for heavier work. The HD cord is always your best choice for hotter burning & here's why - When burning, you have to consider two heat factors: Ambient tip temperature is the temperature of the tip when it's not in contact with the work surface. Working temperature is the temperature of the tip when it is in contact with the work surface (i.e.: wood). When you use a heavier 16 gauge cord it is possible for more electrical current to flow to the tip, resulting in not only more tip heat, but in faster tip heat recovery. In order to burn at, say, 700 degrees operating temperature, you would require an ambient temperature of perhaps 900-1000o with an 18 gauge cord, but only around 750-800o with a 16 gauge cord. The 16 gauge cord will not only perform better, but will result in the pen staying cooler for a longer period. However, it's a bit heavier to hold, & there are times when a slow tip heat recovery is actually desirable (certain shading techniques for example) & an 18 gauge cord is preferred.
6. Ambient air temperature, humidity, & air movement can all affect pen heat. Working in a hot, stuffy room with high humidity, your pen will get hot faster than if you're working in a cool, dry room with a bit of air movement. You might also use a small fan to "pull" air away. Finally, there is always the possibility that there is something wrong with a pen or tip. Contact Razertip directly if in doubt.
Q: I use a Burnmaster (or Detailmaster) burner & my pens get too hot what can I do?
A: The Burnmaster (& Detailmaster) woodburner operates at 3 volts instead of the 2 volts that many other burners operate at. This means they have more power (not necessarily good or necessary) & because of that many brands of pens (such as Optima & Razertip, etc.) will get hotter when used with either of these burners. You can do a number of things to help keep the pens cooler.
You might also want to read the information on wattage, how pyrography tools work which talks about tip wire performance & 2v vs 3 vs systems. This can all be found on the page that discusses the Wattage Controversy & much more.
Q: How can I remove my old foam grip & replace it?
AA: Often you will have to cut the old grip off a heavy-duty pen, The new one is installed by wetting the front of the pen with a bit of soapy water, stretching the hole in the new grip over a pair of needle-nose pliers that have been dipped in soapy water, & then carefully sliding the grip over the pen body. Watch out for the sharp tip! If you're unsure of this operation, Razertip would be glad to install the grip for you if you want to mail the pen back to them. Thick grips on standard pens are much easier to install because the pen body is much smaller.
Q: I wish the handpiece cords were more flexible. Why doesn't Razertip use coiled cords?
A: While coiled cords may seem like a good idea at first, they are not an option for a hotwire tool. They simply will not work. Coiled cords develop a magnetic field inside the coil. Because hot wire tools use such low voltage, the coil would "suck up" all the power, leaving little to nothing for the pen. Even if we could get a coil to work, the wire would still have to contain a large amount of copper, so the wire would still be as heavy. Coiling it up would actually give more weight at the back of the pen.
Q: Why do I hear that an HD cord performs better?
A: The simple answer is that tips heat up quicker and run cooler on the fingers with a HD cord.
Q: What is the difference between a Standard & HD cord?
A: Standard "FL" cords (black plugs) use an 18-gauge cord for maximum flexibility. Heavy-duty cords (red plugs) use a 16-gauge cord for maximum current flow, but it's not quite as flexible. For fastest tip heat recovery the heavy-duty cord is recommended. While any of our pens will work on either "FL" or "HD" cords, heavy-duty pens work best with heavy-duty cords.
Q: Can I use a standard cord on an HD pen, or vice-versa?
A: Yes & No. You can use any Razertip pen on an HD cord but I do not recommend using an HD pen on a standard cord. Best results are obtained with HD pens on HD cords. In fact, any pen will perform better on an HD cord, but some users find the HD cords a bit stiff.
Personally I still prefer using my HD pens on the HD cord & the Standard pens on the standard cord. I have found most people find it easier to remember red is HD & black is standard & then they don't have to remember to adjust settings when they switch from an HD pen to a standard pen. If you change pens from an HD to a standard while using an HD cord you will have to remember to adjust the temperature to a lower setting for the standard pen. So, to simplify things I pack all dual burners with 1 of each cord so you don't have to remember to change the settings when changing from an HD pen to a standard pen or visa versa.
Q: Why do you pack a standard cord & HD cord in your Dual Output burners?
A: That is a great question. When you use an HD pen you typically have the heat setting higher than if you were using a standard pen. When you switch from an HD pen to a standard pen you need to turn the heat down a bit. What I have found over the years is that people tend to forget to do that & when they switch pens they find the tip becomes poker hot. By having a standard cord for your standard pens & an HD cord for your Heavy-Duty pens you don't need to remember to turn your heat down. It just makes it easier for you to switch pens without worrying that you might burn out the tip.
Q: My burner won't make a dark mark on wood until its set at "5" or higher? Why?
A. Razertip burners are designed to give a very broad range of heat. The lower half of the dial is used for waxes, or for detailing wood without leaving a brown mark. The top half of the dial provides enough heat to scorch wood. On the SS-D10, you can change the low-end temperature range using a small screwdriver in the low-end adjustment port. If this doesn't solve the problem it could be the transformer or a problem with the cord. If you have another cord try connecting the pen to the other cord & see if that doesn't solve the problem or you can flip the cord to see if it works better. Sometimes it's just a loose connection & flipping the cord using the other side to connect might solve the problem. If it still doesn't work it's best to contact Razertip.
Q: Sometimes my burner works great at a certain heat setting, & the next day I have to use a different setting to get the same burn. Why is this?
When the voltage from a wall plug changes, the temperature of the tip will change with it. Razertip burners are set to perform optimally at their rated voltage. I have seen wall outlet voltages vary by over 20 volts. Wall outlet voltage can change depending on time of day & demand on the system especially in some geographic areas where there is a problem with low voltage.
Q. How can I make a scale tip using nichrome wire for my Razertip BPH Pen?
I found a great resource for making scale tips. Making Fish Scale Tips
Choosing the right tip style
I hope that the guide below helps you choose the right Razertip pens for your needs. This guide will show you some of the things you can do with these pens. It's not always easy for people to visualize in their minds what can be done with each pen just by looking at the photo & description of possible uses. The description of uses is also just a guide & not necessarily all that you can do with each one. The bottom line here is EXPERIMENT & have fun!!!!
The pens shown with an asterisk are the most popular & the most versatile. Many of Razertip's pens are available in a variety of sizes & heavy-duty or standard versions. The heavy-duty version is built for maximum durability. It requires a higher heat setting than most standard pens & they can get warmer than the standard pens. They are ideal for applications where the flat side of the tip is used (quill-making, shading, etc.). Some tip styles, like the ball stylus, are only available in a standard version.
Keep in mind that everyone burns differently & that's fine because if I were all the same it would be a very boring world. They have different styles of burning, prefer different pens & this is just a guide, not the final word on what's good for you. I was taught in art school not to outline my work because there are no lines in nature & I don't outline but many people do. I prefer using the bent spear shader but others prefer the spoon or round shader. It all boils down to what you prefer & what works for you, not me or the next guy! Don't take my word for it or someone else, try it yourself, experiment & make your own decisions.
I might also add here that I recommend fixed-tip pens rather than interchangeable tips. There are several reasons which are listed above. Since I cater to woodburners who use burners on a more regular basis I primarily sell the fixed-tip pens.
You can see all the pens on my website. Click here to go directly to my Razertip pen store.
Disclaimer: Some of the information contained on this page is based on public domain information that is believed to be reliable & information used in my classes. The information in these tutorials is furnished free of charge. The information is to be used at an individual's own risk. Nedra Denison and Sawdust Connection makes no warranty as to the completeness or accuracy thereof.
No portion of the printed book "Pyrography 101©" or the web pages containing "Pyrography 101©" or any of the "Gourd Crafting 101©" Tutorials may be copied, reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means without prior permission of the publisher and copyright owner, Nedra Denison.
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Tip Styles & Their Uses
The tips shown with an * are the most popular & most versatile tips. These are the basic ones I typically recommend for general pyrography.
*HD5MP Bent Spear Shader
This is my all-time favorite pen & it is the pen I use for just about everything I do. Razertip started making this for me back in 2002 when I first started using their burner & it has been their best selling shader ever since. It is pretty versatile & because of its unique shape you can get into tight corners & every nook & cranny & do all kinds of things with this pen.
Other than working with miniatures, this pen can be used for all your shading needs & so much more. I prefer this to the round, square & other shape shaders because of its shape. Also, because I use a smooth shading technique, this does a beautiful job of accomplishing the gradient tones. As with most pens, the trick is going to be in the technique & the landing. Be sure that when you land on the wood your pen is in motion, much like an airplane coming in for a landing. If the pen lands on the wood then moves you will get what I call, "the dreaded blob". This is one of the most important techniques to learn.
You can also see from the photo on the top right that I have created an "edge" with my shading. This gives the shading a natural look & I do not have to (& should not) outline my work. Another important technique to remember is to blend the shading so it doesn't look like a bunch of brown lines. Notice how smooth the shading looks in the photo.
The middle photo shows how you can draw lines using the edge of the pen & vary the thickness depending on the angle you hold the pen.
The bottom right photo was done using the tip of the pen. Just be sure you do not dig into the wood when you do calligraphy with the tip. The block letter on the right of the sample was outlined using the tip & then shaded inside using it as a shader.
This is NOT just a shader. Here is just some ideas what you can do with it: Curved & straight lines (with the edge); pointillism/stippling (with the inverted tip); calligraphy (with the tip); undercutting & of course shading. Experiment & see all the things you can do with it.
# 9 Writing Tip
This pen actually comes in a variety of sizes (small, medium, large, small/medium) & is available in Heavy-Duty & Standard pens. The photo on the left is the #F9S. I have found the 9S to be the most versatile & this is the one I use the most. You can see the difference in the lines from the largest, F9 to the smallest F9XS tip. The smallest size has a sharp tip so it tends to catch on the wood making it difficult to print.
You can see in the photos on the right that I have done lines on top & then experimented with shading. The 2nd row is pointillism done with each size of the writing tip. The third row is shading done with lines & the last line shows printing done with the writing tip.
F9 ~ F9S ~F9XS
# 1 Skew Flat
This is available in both standard & heavy-duty pens. These are used for pyrography, cutting & detail work depending on the size. The edge is flat & sharp.
The top & middle photos show two styles of shading done with the skew, hatching & cross-hatching. Varying the lines will give you deeper or lighter shading. The closer together the lines are the darker the shading will be.
You can see the lines on the bottom are clean & crisp but it's not as easy to do curved lines with this skew as it is with the #7 or the #14
# 1 vs # 7 Skews
The #1 (Fig 1) is similar to the #7 (Fig 2). The #1 Skew has a sharper tip & edge. The #7 Skew is heavier duty. They are great for doing curved or straight lines, hatching & cross hatching, hair & feathers & undercutting burnings to create more depth. You will get crisper lines than using the side of the bent spear shader. Short lines can be achieved by using the nose & longer lines use the flat edge. These tips are heavier-duty than the #1 tips but the # 1 & the # 14 are by far the best sellers. The only # 7 that I stock is the HD7S because the # 1 & # 14's are far more popular.
# HD2 Round Shader
The #2MC (Fig 1) & #2LC (Fig 2)shaders are only available in heavy-duty. These are used for shading. The shading on the right was done with the large round. It shades a larger area than the Medium. It is not as versatile as the 5MP, but it does cover a larger area a bit faster than the Bent Spear Shader.
These are good for burning larger areas but does not get into tight spots like the #HD5MP Bent Spear Shader & is not as versatile.
# 17 Hair/Fur Detailer
This pen is available in standard & heavy-duty pens & sizes from small to large. A popular pen for hair, coarse feather texture, grass but if you are like me you might prefer a multipurpose tip such as side of the bent spear shader which will do the same thing & more.
I have found that using the side of the #HD5MP bent spear shader can accomplish a similar effect. Using one of the round-heeled knives will also do a good job although you will not achieve the thickness that you can get from the # 17.
I usually use the side of my bent spear shader for this type of work & it does a fine job.
I also experimented & tried doing calligraphy using the tip & it did a really nice job. So my feeling is you can do most of the same things using a round-heeled knife, the spears &/or bent spear shader which are more versatile.
*# HD30M Spoon Shader
The spoon shaders are only available in heavy-duty-style pens & are available in small & medium. The medium is the most popular of the two spoon shaders. They are very versatile & fun to use. These are most popular with gourd artists.
The spoon shaders are shaped somewhat like a bowl & will work on a variety of surfaces including flat, concave & convex which makes it ideal for shading on gourds. They can be used in forward, backward & side to side strokes.
The photos on the right were done with the medium. The burning is done on Italian poplar which produces softer burns rather than crisp burns that you can achieve on harder woods.
#F71.04 - Wide-Groove Detail Tip 4mm
The steel blade holds heat beautifully & gives a wide "V" groove texture.
These tips have a steel blade welded onto the end. They can burn a groove up to 3/32” wide.
It's great for doing broader lines & for undercutting to create depth.
They take a bit longer to heat up, but once heated they hold their heat better than a wire tip & you will get better heat distribution. They are also much stronger than a plain wire tip.
The 4mm heats up better than the 6 mm & will perform better on gourd & flat burning & is more nimble than the 6 mm.
Heavy duty cord is recommended.
*# 99 Ball Stylus
The ball stylus can be used for so many things such as cursive writing, drawing lines, stippling, shading, etc. As the size of the ball increases in it is more difficult to print or write with it. But the nice thing about the ball stylus is that it glides over the wood so smoothly. Fig 1 shows the 1.5mm & Fig 2 shows the 2.3 mm ball. For photos of more sizes go to the Razertip specialty pen page.
Another important thing to remember when using these is that as the size increases the longer it takes to heat & cool. The larger sizes also requires a higher temperature.
The photo on top right shows all the sizes of ball stylus pens that are available & compares how they perform doing cursive writing.
The bottom photo shows how four different sizes perform cursive writing, printing & block letters. The ball stylus does not loose heat like most shaders do so you get more consistent shading.
|Samples of all 9 ball stylus pens done on Italian poplar. Done on a harder wood will give you clearer, crisper detail.|
*# 14 Round-Heeled Knife
This pen actually comes in a variety of sizes (small, medium, large, small/medium) & is available in Heavy-Duty & Standard pens. I prefer the HD14SM (show on the left) because it is the most versatile so I don't need to have more than one round-heeled knife. My philosophy has always been more is not necessarily better, just more money! This pen is great for a lot of things. It does beautiful curved lines, calligraphy & can even be used on the side for shading. Experiment & have fun!
The photo on the top right shows me doing curved lines rolling the pen in my fingers to achieve the curve; The middle photo shows a sampling of calligraphy & shading (using the side of the knife); the bottom photo shows cross hatching, a feather & pointillism (don't with the tip of the knife)
#RTHD5MH - Medium Blunt Tip Spear
People have been asking me for something to create a heavier line & now, here it is. This is good for general pyrography, feathers & hair detailing, undercutting, embellishing or decorating.
Designed by renowned wood turner Michael Hosaluk. Mike uses this tip to burn defining lines on his wood turnings. It's unique design gives a heavier line & gives the tip more strength than thinner tips.
For an even broader line check out the Wide-Groove Detail tip (aka "V" tip) on the specialty pen page. Sample burnings using this tip is shown above.
# 5XS, 5S & 5L Spear
The spear is a very versatile tip. It is good for General pyrography, feathers & hair detailing, embellishing or decorating.
The Extra 5XS small spear (Fig 1) is ideal for miniatures or very tight spots. The 5XS is best suited for VERY fine detail work. In the photos I had the heat set a bit too hot so the yellowing was visible on each side of the burned lines on the samples on the left. That is a good indicator to turn the heat down a bit & not to linger too much while drawing the line.
The Small Spear (Fig 2) The 5S is a favorite for gourders for detail work but is a real winner for doing fine detail work on most surfaces.
Like the extra small version, It is great for getting into tight spots.
The Large Spear (Fig 3) is great for general pyrography, feathers & hair detailing, embellishing or decorating.
It is also good for miniatures & very fine detail.
This is great for cutting through gourds. Unlike the #1SL this has a rounded heel to make sawing through a gourd shell's easier. Use this with a gentle sawing action.