How do I torch a large logo into wood?

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Forum topic by JohnMcClure posted 02-09-2018 06:28 PM 13243 views 0 times favorited 16 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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1498 posts in 2099 days

02-09-2018 06:28 PM

Topic tags/keywords: question burning torch

Here’s my plan: make a tabletop from roughsawn lumber, apply a “mask” in the shape of three bold letters (a company logo), then use a torch to darken the tabletop.
Remove the mask, the company logo stands out as not blackened.
Then, sand the tabletop – since it was roughsawn, the high points sand down but the low points are still black – and the logo will be somewhat subtle as there are no defined edges.
I think it will look really good.

My Question: How do I “mask off” the area that I don’t want to torch? or, am I on the wrong track entirely?

If I wanted to go a different route, and torch the logo letters and NOT the rest of the surface, is there a different masking or burning technique I should use?
Thanks all!

-- I'd rather be a hammer than a nail

16 replies so far

View Loren's profile


11505 posts in 5106 days

#1 posted 02-09-2018 06:36 PM

Metal foil tape perhaps?

View LesB's profile


3471 posts in 4901 days

#2 posted 02-09-2018 06:41 PM

I have never done this but I recall my uncle was a neon sign maker and he used asbestos sheets to protect the tops of his work benches. So if you can find some asbestos sheeting and cut the logo out of it and place it on the table it would protect that spot. Yep, I know asbestos is a great evil so you probably can’t find any today. I have a little left from a project about 40 years ago that I use whenever I need a heat shield, like soldering a copper pipe inside a wall.

Another thought, my wood stove has a baffle in it to deflect the hot gasses for a secondary burn. The baffle is made of “space age” ceramic foam about 3/8” thick. That could be used in a similar manner to the asbestos. A wood stove store might be able to tell you where to find it. Or try the Enviro wood stove web site. I think they sell it.

What ever you use it needs to not only protect from exposure to the flame but also the heat so metal would probably not work too well as it would transmit the heat and possibly leave a branded mark.

-- Les B, Oregon

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Jack Lewis

576 posts in 2536 days

#3 posted 02-09-2018 06:44 PM

Air conditioning duct tape.

-- "PLUMBER'S BUTT! Get over it, everybody has one"

View Xboa721's profile


3 posts in 1565 days

#4 posted 02-09-2018 06:54 PM

Les had a good idea.. I use modern fibre cement sheet as a hot work surface for welding, soldering, etc. (My pyrography rarely gets that or of control i need a blast sheet…)

What do you call cement sheet in the states? Gyprock? Fibre board? Well I’d be surprised if you can’t buy at a your local hardware.

It’s easy to shape and cut with basic tools and will easily deflect the flame from a butane torch while you scorch that rough sawn. (Hammer and wide blade chisel would work. I often use an angle grinder with a ceramic/ masonry cutting wheel.)

View John Smith's profile

John Smith

3044 posts in 1621 days

#5 posted 02-09-2018 07:21 PM

since you didn’t say “how large” your logo is,
I would purchase a 10ft roll of aluminum flashing at the Big Box Store
and cut the logo out with tin snips or kitchen shears.
for a one-time use, even the brown hardboard (I forget the name)
with the logo cut out with a jig saw will work – so will 1/8” plywood.
afterall, you are not burning deep, just misting the flame to get a noticeable color contrast.
tack the metal into place with carpet tacks and burn with a standard propane torch.
PRACTICE on a similar material before actually moving to your table.
burn at a slight angle away from the edge of the metal so the flame does not burn under the template.
for a really large area, I would grab my propane weed burner.
again – it depends on how “large” the logo is.
I am a thinking that if you use any kind of tape, the heat will really cause a mess
when the adhesive melts into the wood. (and it probably will).
and personally – I would burn the letters and not the whole table.
afterall, you said you wanted to have just a subtle design. so the actual burning
will be short and even strokes – not burn 1/4” deep into the wood.
if you burn the whole table, eventually, the top finish will wear off and whoever is sitting at the table
may have darkened skin where they rest their arms on the table edge while eating fried chicken.
[unless you are going to coat the table with “table top epoxy”]

the easiest and most economical way to do it would be to sand the table top down to the desired finish
and vacuum up all the dust …. do whatever you are comfortable with to draw your logo
on a roll of builders paper, spray a light mist of spray adhesive on the paper and let it dry to tacky.
put paper on the table top – - – cut the logo out with an X-Acto knife and gently mist some black spray paint
over it to achieve the desired effect….. again——practice on something similar first.


-- I am a painter: that's what I do, I like to paint things. --

View Steve's profile


2752 posts in 2041 days

#6 posted 02-09-2018 09:11 PM

Could you cut the letters out of hardwood and lay them on the table and then burn the whole thing? Then just remove the letters.

or would the heat transfer through the letters as well?

View John Smith's profile

John Smith

3044 posts in 1621 days

#7 posted 02-09-2018 09:33 PM

you are not applying more than a minute of burn time to the wood to be darkened.
you can get some pretty dark burn patterns with the torch too close for just 5-10 seconds.
the brown “hardboard” at the Big Box Stores is relatively cheap and has a high
burn resistance compared to dimensional lumber. that would be my choice.

even though it is a bit messy cutting with a saw, it will provide the required
protection for a quick burn pattern with a torch. no matter what material the O/P decides to go with,
he should have a couple of sticks handy to hold down any parts of the template that
decides to warp and raise up which could create an uneven burn pattern along the edges
and also a spray water bottle to quickly extinguish any unwanted flames and charcoal burning effects.

-- I am a painter: that's what I do, I like to paint things. --

View torus's profile


562 posts in 1871 days

#8 posted 02-09-2018 09:56 PM

letters wood burning

and wood burner

-- "It's getting better..." - put this on my RIP stone!

View Ripper70's profile


1379 posts in 2367 days

#9 posted 02-09-2018 10:28 PM

Make a stencil of the logo and paint the stencil area with petroleum jelly or some other fire retardant gel.

-- "You know, I'm such a great driver, it's incomprehensible that they took my license away." --Vince Ricardo

View clin's profile


1128 posts in 2454 days

#10 posted 02-09-2018 10:32 PM

I agree with John’s idea to use hardboard, or any other board for that matter. You need a heat shield. Thin metal won’t burn. But so what, it will still conduct heat really well. Obviously it will provide some protection, but your goal is to not burn the underlying surface, it doesn’t matter if you burn the pattern.

The only reason NOT to use something really thick, like 3/4” plywood, would be that being so thick, you’d have the potential to create “heat shadow” where the heat won’t get into the corner formed by the thick material.

Of course a similarly thick (1/8”) or so metal would absorb enough heat, in the short time, that it won’t get hot enough to char the underlying wood. This is what I would do if this were a production and you needed to reuse this pattern over and over. But if this is a one-off, I think John’s hardboard idea would be close to ideal.

-- Clin

View patcollins's profile


1687 posts in 4323 days

#11 posted 02-09-2018 11:38 PM

I agree with John s idea to use hardboard, or any other board for that matter. You need a heat shield. Thin metal won t burn. But so what, it will still conduct heat really well.

Metal will reflect most of the radiant heat and that is what burns the wood.

When I sweat pipes I use a simple throw away tin pie pan to protect the wood behind and it works like a charm.

View John Smith's profile

John Smith

3044 posts in 1621 days

#12 posted 02-10-2018 12:43 AM

okay – just for demonstration purposes,
here is a quick sample of using just cheap Wal-Mart aluminum foil
and a propane torch. and yes, you CAN melt aluminum foil with a torch !!!
BUT – if you are careful and stay back a few inches and don’t let the flame
stay in one place for too long, aluminum foil can be used for a quick template.
so – the results would be – any material thicker than aluminum foil food wrap
and thinner than a 2×4 will work just fine for a “One-Off” design.

and, just for grins and giggles, you could cut a design out of just plain old cardboard,
soak it in water, lay it on wood, and burn a design in the wood without burning the cardboard.

has anyone ever boiled water in a brown paper bag on a campfire ???


-- I am a painter: that's what I do, I like to paint things. --

View runswithscissors's profile


3134 posts in 3483 days

#13 posted 02-10-2018 05:27 AM

Another possibility for a heat shielding material is sheetrock. 1/4” thickness should do it, if you can find it that thin. It has the advantage that it is very heat resistant. You may scorch the paper face, but it will not sustain a flame. Its fragility could be a problem, though.

-- I admit to being an adrenaline junky; fortunately, I'm very easily frightened

View Loren's profile


11505 posts in 5106 days

#14 posted 02-10-2018 05:49 AM

has anyone ever boiled water in a brown paper bag on a campfire ???


- John Smith

I saw a show years ago where they cooked an
egg in one… I think it was over an inverted tin
can with candle underneath. Blew my mind.

Good idea on the wet cardboard, btw. Easy to
cut well and easy to get.

View John Smith's profile

John Smith

3044 posts in 1621 days

#15 posted 02-10-2018 01:55 PM

Loren – my dad showed me that trick back when I was maybe 12 years old.
and a candle and tin can is not used. it is an actual (wet) brown paper lunch bag that holds
maybe 2 cups of water placed in the hot coals (or charcoal in a grill) and it will boil an egg.
back in my backpacking and camping days, I made a lot of money (well, pocket change really),
from my fellow campers with that trick. I made sure to carry the right size paper bag.
makes a great conversation piece around the campfire.
the glue in todays products may prevent this from performing correctly compared to the glues
used “back in the day”.

as for the template; it does not matter if you use drywall, cement board, hardboard, 1×6 pine,
vaseline, pressure treated alder, cement tile backer board, asbestos floor tile or wet cardboard . .
the “artist” only spends 10-15 seconds on the initial outlining.
the rest of the work is on the infield where the template is no longer needed.
still waiting on John McClure to come back with more info about how big the table is and what size logo,
will he be alternating the growth rings in his alder, etc etc etc.


-- I am a painter: that's what I do, I like to paint things. --

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