Magnifying Glass Art

Magnifying Glass Art

At the IRL’s wood shop, you can cut elaborate designs into wood using a CNC laser cutter. At home, you might not have that kind of equipment but you likely have the tools necessary to make basic designs using the same principles. Believe it or not, a magnifying glass is all you need! Magnifying glasses can imitate the lasers on laser cutters by amplifying the rays of the sun and focusing them on a small area. On a hot enough day, focused sunlight will begin to burn wood within seconds. 

This is a fun summer project, especially for a day where the sun is bright and cloud cover is minimal. Sunglasses are not required, but highly recommended.

I used wood for this project, but bark works too. The thickness of the wood is not really a factor, because you’ll only be burning the surface.

You may want to sketch out your design in pencil before burning the wood, to increase the precision of your work. You can draw freehand, or use a stencil if the design is especially detailed. Even though my design was not very detailed, I still found it very helpful to outline where I would be burning.

Once you have your piece planned out, find a sunny spot and start burning! You can adjust the focus of the sun by tilting your magnifying and moving it up and down. Generally, you want to project a very small, bright spot onto your wood. Concentrating the sunlight is how you produce enough heat to burn.

The finished product

Some artists have used this art form (called solar pyrography) to create incredibly elaborate pieces, such as this one:

(by Jordan Mang-osan)

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Declan Cavanaugh
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