Soleil Art – Mother Earth News



To start, draw a pencil sketch on a piece of light-colored wood.



With the addition of a little polish and maybe enamel paint, your solar art will be complete.



Using a hand-held magnifying glass, focus the sun’s rays on your outline.



Move the lens until you have burnt your masterpiece in the sun.



Sunburned buttons made by Dick Van Hoosen.


As more and more people realize that our planet’s safest source of energy is, in fact, its nearest star, people are starting to use direct solar energy to heat homes, to distill fuel. , etc. In fact, we recently learned that Jim Harless of Oak Ridge, Tennessee, has developed an ingenious method of putting clean “heavenly” energy into work. Jim’s clever idea has provided him with hundreds of hours of soothing creative hobbies. Yet we here at MOTHER EARTH NEWS can’t help but think (without wishing to criticize JH’s hobby habit in any way) that the Tennessean brainstorming could also be extended to a home-based business. non-tiring and profitable!

And what exactly is this potential “hot fire” pocket jam? Why, it’s the art of the sun!

Jim has been sculpting art with solar energy for over a year now, and his “natural” engraving has proven to be the most relaxing and expressive craft he has ever tried. Mr. Harless has found that solar wood heating is such an enjoyable activity in itself that he is only now beginning to realize that he can make a good profit by selling his work of art! (Some of his sunburnt scenes – which only took an hour – were purchased for $ 8.00 each at various craft shows.)

Best of all, anyone can afford to try their hand at this solar age art idea (for fun and / or for money!) Jim’s ‘gear’ set consists of light-colored wooden odds and ends, a pot of varnish, a soft lead pencil, a pair of polarized sunglasses and an inexpensive hand-held magnifier!

How the art of wood burning works

As Jim describes, the sunburning process is simplicity itself. Just find a sunny spot, perhaps a spot where you can copy an attractive natural subject. Then draw the outlines of your work of art in pencil on a block of wood (the “canvas” should be one of the paler woods, such as pine or fir so that your dark engraving lines stand out in contrast. ), put on your sunglasses eye protection, and hold a three to four inch diameter magnifying lens over your piece of wood so that all of the sun’s rays that pass through the glass disc are focused on part of it. your sketch. Before long, a slight trail of smoke will begin to rise as the concentrated beams burn a smoking “bump” in your block of wood. When that localized point has been “sculpted” as deep as you want, simply move the lens slightly to further “groove” your sketched line.

And that’s all. You will soon be engraving your design with a full pencil and have a beautiful “natural looking” piece of art. The eye-catching design will combine the rough, rustic quality of a wide, sunburnt line (close detail work is next to impossible) with the interesting shape you’ve chosen to portray. Then you can apply a few coats of varnish to your project, to help the finished part last and to prevent carbon smudging. (You may also want to accentuate an area or two of your graphic art with colorful enamel paint.) By the time you have completed your first scene, you will undoubtedly have come up with a new idea for sun sculpture. mind and you will be eager to start your next track!

Good knot

A very interesting feature of solar art is that the material you need – wood – is easy to obtain because a lot of people throw away coins that you will be happy to use. Mr. Harless often obtained permission to pick up scrap planks at construction sites, or purchased damaged timber sections inexpensively from construction suppliers. And, quite conveniently, some of that scrap wood can be turned into the most interesting sun-etched art of all. For example, Jim always incorporates all the “troublesome” wood knots he finds in his animal and plant creations.

Whenever the sun shines

Certainly, solar wood burning is not a rainy day pastime. However, the pleasant business is certainly not limited to the scorching summer. Every sunny day, even in the heart of winter, is full of songs of wood. Just bundle up in warm clothes when the weather is cool. Or better yet, if you have a southern window that catches the rays in your home, just sit inside and work in your shirt sleeves. Heck, Jim even burned wood in his car! (He did, however, have to keep a window open for adequate ventilation.)

You also don’t have to “burn” – along with your engraving – during the “dog day” months. There’s no reason you can’t wear a wide hat, set up an umbrella, or even sit in the shade yourself as long as you keep your job in the sun.

Mother throws down the glove

Well that sums up the simple yet creative art of sunburning. Jim Harless produces some very beautiful objects, yet (since solar wood stoves can ‘sketch’ as ​​quickly as people who use store-bought combustion tools), each piece takes him no more than an hour’s worth. block varnish. Yes, Jim has developed a beautiful, inexpensive hobby that gives him a lot of artistic challenges. And his calm and calming hobby has all the potential to become an unusual and lucrative source of income as well.

So… we are going to present a revolutionary challenge to all MOTHER EARTH NEWS readers. What about, friend? Is anyone ready to develop a part time or full time money generator from solar wood burning?

Tell us everything if you do!

Solar slogan button

While Jim Harless certainly advanced the art of solar wood burning, we have to admit that the Oak Ridger wasn’t the first person to come up with the idea. Dick Van Hoosen wrote to MOTHER about his own experiences with sunburn in 1974! (There might even be other star-fueled wood stoves in nature… you know what it’s like with a “whose time is right” idea. Sumpin ‘Els, ”or“ The Sunburn Kid ”. “, or” I Got Sol “.

Dick made his debut on an afternoon of inactivity during the Watergate days, when he found a cut edge of an old door and – over a six hour period – painfully etched: “When in the course of human events, it becomes necessary… IMPEACH! “

“This first attempt at wood-burning was a great experience,” Dick wrote to us. “Engraving with solar energy required calmer nerves and finer physical control than anything I had ever done. I soon found myself eager to try it again. And by the time Van Hoosen began an 18,000 mile hitchhiking trip a few months later, he had been solar sculpting again… and again and again. In fact, Dick made such attractive slogan buttons that he was able to swap the 3 1/2 inch diameter discs to help keep his travel costs down to under $ 300!

Dick only “opened a shop” once during the trip to sell his products for cash. And on this occasion, he made and peddled five $ 2.00 buttons in front of an admiring crowd on the sidewalks of Hudson Bay, Canada, in less than an hour!

Mr Van Hoosen told us in his letter that he planned to expand the lucrative possibilities of solar wood burning, but that was in 1975. We have not heard from him since. So, readers, the field of “sun etch” seems pretty wide open.

Any takers?

Posted on Jul 1, 1979

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