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Walnut Hollow Versa-Tool

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  • Walnut Hollow Versa-Tool

    Walnut Hollow has a new tool ... well, its the same classic tool handle and the same traditional interchangeable pen tips. But now it has a variable temperature control built right into the cord. The Versa-Tool!

    Please see "Standard Disclaimer" at the end of this posting ....

    As so many of us, I started my pyrography nearly thirty years ago with a Walnut Hollow. About five or six years ago I purchased another one - not because there was anything wrong with the old, used one but because I wanted to have two tools going at one time each with a different tip. So I was really surprised to see that this standard one-temperature tool has now come into the variable temperature age!

    I thought that I might put their new tool through the "test" just as we did t he Colwood Detailer in the Acorn tutorial. I hope that you will join me.

    As a rule of thumb I begin any project with a practice board. It lets me warm up my hand, test out a few textures and pattern strokes and gives me a little time to think through the pattern that I am about to work.

    For this practice board I am using a 12" x 12" x 1/8" piece of birch plywood, my favorite burning wood. The board has been divided into 1" squares with seven columns and five rows. Each row is for one of the burning tips and I have walked that tip through the different temperature settings using a curved cross hatch pattern.


    This posting is made with prior permission from out Fearless Leader, BobD.
    Attached Files
    Last edited by Irish; 01-07-2018, 05:26 AM.

  • #2
    re: Walnut Hollow Versa-Tool

    I want to test how controllable the thermostat is and if it can create a sepia or tonal value scale as compared to one of my variable temperature units - I have a RazorTip and a Colwood that I use on a regular bases.

    Tonal value scale = shades of gray (brown for pyro) worked from very pale coffee with cream up to dark chocolate

    There are five variables that determine the tonal value of your burning - pen tip, texture stroke, wood or burning surface, the speed of the stroke, and the temperature setting.

    Pen tip - fine point pens burn a darker line than wide tipped pens as all of the heat is focused on a smaller area. So a universal tip will burned darker at a low heat setting than the shading tip.

    Texture strokes - an open, lacey texture holds lots of unburned area and therefore will be paler than a tightly packed texture.

    Burning surface - each surface we use has its own specific pyro tendencies. Birch burns paler at a medium temperature setting because of its tightly packed grain. Basswood burns darker at the same temperature setting as birch because it has a softer, more open grain pattern.

    Speed of stroke - slow steady pulls of the pen tip create even dark lines where faster movement at the same temp setting and same pen tip will create paler lines.

    So for my test practice board, to see if the new Walnut Hollow Versa-Tool can really do a variable temperature tools job I am using the same texture stroke, burning surface, and speed. My variables are the tool tip and the temp setting.

    Row 1 - universal tip
    Row 2 - flow tip
    Row 3 - tapered tip
    Row 4 - calligraphy tip
    Row 5 - shading tip

    Above my columns you can see the temp settings. Versa-Tool does not use a numbered temp setting system, instead they have a graduated coloring scale from pale yellow through deep red. As you progress from the yellow to the red the tool tip becomes hotter.

    Attached Files
    Last edited by Irish; 01-07-2018, 05:27 AM.


    • #3
      re: Walnut Hollow Versa-Tool

      Here's my finished practice board. And ... Walnut Hollow did it! ... I have a strong, clear tonal value scale with each pen tip by just using the temperature setting on the cord. Very nice!

      Two out of five of the pen tips created a clear pale tonal value in the low to low-medium temperature range, the universal and flow tips. By the low-medium temperature setting I have clearly visible burns for all five tips. Only one tip did not develop clear, strong lines on my practice board and that was the tapered tip. However, the tapered tip has an extremely fine point that is nearly as thin as the grain lines for my birch plywood. It may give very different results on a wider grained wood as basswood or butternut.

      So ... let's put this puppy to work. I have posted a free pattern, the one that I used for my first Versa-Tool project that you can save to your desktop, print, and use as you follow along.

      toucan pattern.jpg
      Attached Files
      Last edited by Irish; 01-07-2018, 05:28 AM.


      • #4
        re: Walnut Hollow Versa-Tool

        I chose an end cut round of basswood for this project. It measures 16" x 9" x 1".

        End grain can cause some problems for pyrographers. Burned lines and textures tend to 'dance' a small amount because of the fast changing grain lines. This particular plaque has a large, heavy knot in the lower one third of the plaque. As I work towards that knot the grain will become more dense and therefore resist the burning just a little bit more than the more open grain at the top of the plaque. So when I use an end grain round I don't expect perfectly straight lines and do expect some dot patterning with any burned texture.

        End grain does have a delightful benefit and that is the beautiful background design that the grain and knots will add to the burning. When this is complete I will have the tree's growth rings, small knots, large knot, and some speckling instead of a dull, uninteresting, plain wood background.

        I have printed the pattern and am using graphite paper to transfer the design to my board. Normally I would rub the back of the pattern paper with a soft pencil then use the pencil graphite as my tracing media. After the burn is complete the pencil lines can easily be erased using a white artist's eraser. But since I want you to see the pattern line the graphite tracing paper gives a stronger, dark trace.

        My practice board is on the table for reference and I am starting with the flow tip pen set at a very low setting of medium yellow. I have started the work in the leaves at a low setting and a simple random curl patterned stroke to completely fill each leaf with a coffee with cream tonal value. After each leaf was filled I worked along the vein lines of the leaves to strength this area using a slow pulled straight line stroke.

        Attached Files
        Last edited by Irish; 01-07-2018, 05:28 AM.


        • #5
          re: Walnut Hollow Versa-Tool

          Its time to turn up the heat on the flow tip to add a second layer of shading to the leaves.

          The shading tip, set at a medium temperature works a pale sienna tone to the bodies of my toucans. The second layer of work with this tip darkens the shading at the base or bottom of each body and for the adult toucan a layer of darkness under his head and beak.

          I have moved back to the flow tip at a medium-hot setting to pull a dark shaded line along each of the wings, under the adult's feet, base of the tails, and at the base of the beaks.

          Working with the universal tip I have begun shading the beaks, and added fine line work to the wing and tail feathers.

          Attached Files
          Last edited by Irish; 01-07-2018, 05:29 AM.


          • #6
            re: Walnut Hollow Versa-Tool

            Finally I am at a hot setting with the shading tip for the ruffle line in the beaks, the larger eye ring, the center eye, the outer edges of the tail feathers, and the top of the wings.

            A general re-shading over several areas to strengthen the tonal value has been done while I had the universal tip in place and a few accent outline strokes crisps the design. My burning is complete. In the final scan of the burning you can see that the Versa-Tool gives clean, clear sepia values from very pale to very dark. Plus you can see that wonderful knotted, speckled background of the end grain round.

            During this project I had no carbonized lines - those over scorched back haloed burns. I had total control over the temperature setting. In fact when I added my watercolors to the work I had to paint the eyes black as I hadn't set the temp up hot enough to have a really black tone.

            I finished this project with several layers of watercolors and then two light coats of glossy polyurethane spray sealer. Now ... I used hobby quality pan watercolors for my paints. I wish I had taken the time to dig out my artist quality tube watercolors as they are much more translucent than what I used and therefore would have show more of those wonderful pale tonal values.

            Attached Files
            Last edited by Irish; 01-07-2018, 05:30 AM.


            • #7
              re: Walnut Hollow Versa-Tool

              My conclusions and impressions of the Versa-Tool.

              1. Since this tool is the same classic design with the same traditional pen tips that I have been using for nearly thirty years it took no time to get adjusted to the tool in my hand. A Walnut Hollow pen is thicker and heavier than my variable temperature burning unit pens, but that has been true since I began wood burning. The differences in the tool's size and shape than other units is neither bad nor good ... it just simple is ...

              2. The thermostat seemed heavy on the cord compared to my variable units but after about five minutes I had adjusted to that weight and did not notice it again during the entire work of the project. I think you may notice it at first if you have been used to a variable unit but if you are just starting your pyro hobby it will be a non-issue!

              3. The thermostat has a wide range of temp settings, more than I need for most pyro projects. I changed my temp setting in one half changes. So I worked from the start line of pale yellow to the center point of the pale yellow to the start line of the medium yellow to the mid-point of the medium yellow and so forth throughout the practice board and the project. There are lots of potential temperature setting that I never even used. So I believe that there is as much potential for tonal value work with the Versa-Tool as there is with my Colwood and my RazorTip.

              4. I was happily surprised that the thermostat, because of its location, did not get changed by accident as I worked. The thermostat has a definite "click" to turn it to the on position. The zone wheel, which changes the temp through the color guide, moves easily. But not once did I find that this setting had changed because of my hand movements or my working position.

              5. Since Walnut Hollow has stayed with their traditional tool tips I was very comfortable to their use, I've used the universal, flow, and shading tip for years. Just these three tips will do everything that I could want for any pyro project.

              6. Would I like to see them come out with a set of more standard variable temp tips - a standard writing loop style, a small ball point shader, a spoon type shader ... well, yes But do I "need" them ... well, no!

              7. If you are ready to start tonal value pyrography but not ready to invest the heavy financial cost into a thermostat unit with interchangeable pens the Versa-Tool will be a perfect tool for you. It has everything you need, and will do everything that the other variable temp units will do - a good variety of pen tips and a very wide range of tonal values.

              Standard Disclaimer

              I am not an employee or associated with Walnut Hollow. I am a pyrography book author for Fox Chapel and an avid enthusiast of our hobby. As such I love pyrography tools, love using different burning tools, I love collecting burning tools and one day hope to own one of each. So when I saw a chance to add a new tool to my collection I did it.

              As we, here on the forum, have already worked through one full tutorial as a guide to another manufacturer's unit I believed that it would be fun to look at another and so freely chose to take the Versa-Tool through it's paces.

              I did not receive any financial compensation for this and whosits any way, as this tool costs less than a trip to MacDonalds for my family it wouldn't have been much of a Pay Check ...

              When you get your Toucan "Whadja Bringme" pattern done, no matter which burning tool you used, please post and share it here.



              • #8
                Re: Walnut Hollow Versa-Tool

                Thanks for the information! I replaced my old single temp with a Colwood (based on your excellent review) and it would be difficult for me to go back, unless it was something really large. But I am glad to see that this has been updated. It is a really affordable way to get started, but I suspect you could make something beautiful with a coat hanger and a butane lighter! What caught my eye was the really large round tip, about the size of a half-dollar.....I have seen a tool for transferring patterns printed on a laser printer and I wondered if this might work for that? I keep procrastinating on chip carving because of the complex designs and the task of tracing them.
                'If it wasn't for caffeine, I wouldn't have any personality at all!"



                • #9
                  Re: Walnut Hollow Versa-Tool

                  Hey Mike, double checking the instructions that come with the Versa-Tool there is a heat transfer tip and instructions on how to do it!

                  I doubt that this tool will totally replace either of my others. Its much more like I will be working between the four - RazorTip, Colwood, one temp Walnut Hollow, and the new Versa-Tool - depending on the task at hand.



                  • #10
                    Re: Walnut Hollow Versa-Tool

                    Thanks for taking the time to do this Lora!
                    I've been kicking around the idea of getting a woodburner, but this one falls into my price range better. I was hoping you might be able to answer a few questions though:
                    I wanted to try to use it to crisp up some of my intersections like you did on the Eastern Dragon (which is a beautiful piece), would any of these tips work well for that?
                    It seems like your fingers are much further back then on the more expensive burners. Do you think the end could be corked (or something similar) so I could be closer to the tip for added control?



                    • #11
                      Re: Walnut Hollow Versa-Tool

                      I would really hesitate to suggest that you add cork over the pen hold of any burning pen. All pen, including this one, get extremely hot as that is their one and only purpose. And if your pen is working properly I believe you are destined for an instant fire .....

                      The pen area, the brass barrel and pen tip, is longer than the more expensive burning pens and as I have small hands I do sometimes find myself reaching or stretching to burn a line. But at those times I find that by simply adjusting how I am holding the work can really change the reach.

                      For my grip on any pen I hold the pen as if it were an ink pen then I extend my little finger on the holding hand to place that finger tip onto the wood. That little finger tip is where I am securing my working hand. Stretching or bending that little finger moves my pen either farther away or closer to the work.

                      For this pyro scene I had the board in my lap and the pen hand then was supported by my wrist and small finger over my thigh. It would be about the same position for one of my carvings.

                      OK ... Go up to Burning your Carvings and then go to Lynn's reply for the link to his video on burning. It's a great video and you will see that Lynn is in a position to move and adjust BOTH his carving and his burning pen. Lynn's video shows some great hand positions ... Thank you Lynn!

                      Now oddly I answered a question similar to this on Pyrography Online, our sister forum for wood burning, and stated that where I would be using my new Versa-Tool that I was sure it was destined to end up in my wood carving kit for cleaning up joint lines, adding textures, and doing small depth changes.

                      I guess how I want to answer here is that it depends on what tool you learned to handle as what tool you are comfortable in using. I learned on a Walnut Hollow, way back then that was all there was unless you used a sodering pen. So for me its was like coming home to something I have done for eons.


                      OK ... from the tip of my middle finger to the base of my palm measures 7" ... so it fits a 7" hand.


                      • #12
                        Re: Walnut Hollow Versa-Tool

                        Susan, I want to thank you for a solid evaluation of those Walnut Hollow burners. Those and similar "hobby pens" have been getting a bad rap since the fancy burners have come into existance and it was nice to see a good review of the old standbys.

                        I've seen numerous inquiries by hopeful pyrographers asking about the simple pens and whenever I suggest they try the hobby pens before going full tilt into an expensive set, I quite often are pulled up short by otheres saying not to waste money on the hobby pens. My position is that for 15 bucks or so a beginner can get a feel for the hobby and if they then want to go further into the craft, fine, go ahead then and look for a high end unit.

                        And I have to wonder how many beginners are simply turned off by the initail expense of a high end burner and just give up on the hobby altogether. I still have and use one of my first Walnut Hollow pens and two others of the same type. I also have a pair of professional brand mentioned and I love them, but still on occasion fall back on the old hobby burners for some specific uses.

                        Think I'll go out and get one of those new WH units.



                        • #13
                          Re: Walnut Hollow Versa-Tool

                          Really a fantastic review! Thanks so much for posting it! I have looked for this tool online but can't find it. Walnut Hollow has a versa tool listed but it does not have the variable temperature control and they did not have it listed under their new products. Is this available yet?


                          • #14
                            Re: Walnut Hollow Versa-Tool

                            Terry, the Versa-tool shown on their home page is the one that I just showed you here. The photo is a bit hard to see as the thermostat is folded over on the cord ... but that's the one ... and today they have a 20% off the Versa-Tool note on their home page.

                            Al .. I so Very Much agree with you! I also believe that a newbie, whether a carver or a burner, should invest in a nice but inexpensive tool or tool set first. That way they can really give the hobby a try before they become discouraged because of the high initial costs. If they love it as we do then adding new, higher quality or specialty tools can be done as they truly need them.

                            Besides, even with two high end burners I still use my one temperature setting Walnut Hollow on a regular bases.



                            • #15
                              Re: Walnut Hollow Versa-Tool

                              Originally posted by Irish View Post
                              Terry, the Versa-tool shown on their home page is the one that I just showed you here. The photo is a bit hard to see as the thermostat is folded over on the cord ... but that's the one ... and today they have a 20% off the Versa-Tool note on their home page.

                              Alrighty. Thanks! What confuses me is that when you look at the product description, it says it has an on/off switch but nothing about the thermostat.