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Craft a Wood-Burned Tablita

Lisa Chavez-Thomas shows how to pyro-engrave her Sun Father wall hanging.

Lisa Chavez Thomas of Palmdale, Calif., is an architect by trade. She began using her drafting tools to design fine line paintings, and as her artistic horizons expanded, she began exploring her Native American roots for inspiration. Soon she was wood burning and painting gourds, frames and her signature "tablitas" which combine many of her favorite materials and techniques.

Materials and Tools:

pine board
small gourd
acrylic paints
leather dyes
polyurethane spray
instant glue
accelerant setting spray
nail-in type frame hanger
band saw
belt sander
drill press (with flexible drive shaft and assorted wire wheel brushes and grinders)
various drafting tools
high temperature pyro-engraving machine
low temp wood burning pen
soldering gun


1. The tablita headdress is made from pine board that is not twisted or warped and has few knots. Place the board under a straightedge and begin penciling in the outline of the tablita with various drafting tools.

2. After the tablita outline has been created, cut out the design on the band saw. Sand the tablita on both sides and all edges with a belt sander.

3. Select a gourd the appropriate size and thickness for the Sun Father tablita's face. Run the gourd through the band saw to create a half-round face that will later be adhered to the tablita. Place the gourd opening side down on the belt sander and sand until it has a flat and even opening.

4. Scrape and clean the interior of the gourd with brushes and/or grinders powered by the drill press.

5. Drill a 1/4-inch hole into the gourd and insert a 1- to 2-inch dowel into the hole. Glue it in place.

6. Draw the design on the surface of the wood piece with a variety of drafting tools. Draw the design on the gourd as well.

7. The line work is then pyro-engraved onto the gourd and tablita with the use of a high temperature wood burning or a pyro-engraving machine that burns at approximately 2000 degrees. When all of the line work has been completed, sand and clean the two tablita pieces with alcohol to remove any carbon and pencil marks.

8. Paint the Sun Father pyro-engraved tablita and its face with high quality acrylic paints and leather dyes. Let dry. Certain areas of the line work must again be pyro-engraved, and burn the edges with the soldering gun.

9. Create texture and dark brown or black colors on the surfaces with the pyro-engraving machine.

10. When all of the painting and pyro-engraving has been completed, secure a nail-in type wall hanger onto the back surface of the tablita and glue it to secure it.

11. Run a bead of instant glue along the bottom or flat side of the gourd face and place it on the tablita headdress. Spray it with an accelerant solution.

12. Spray the Sun Father pyro-engraved tablita outdoors with multiple coats of polyurethane and display.

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