I’m not sure who thought wood-burning would make a good class in middle school but I sure jumped at the chance. It beat sitting through another one of those other classes, like math.


Besides, what preteen boy would pass up essentially turning wood into charcoal?

What to Create?

Before the teacher allowed us to proceed to the burning part of the class, we had to prepare a piece of wood. It was a serious ordeal.

We were all given a brand new piece of crisp white pine. This plank smelled like one of those tree-shaped, car air fresheners that you dangle from your rear-view mirror. Or was it the other way around?

As the creative juices began to flow, I contemplated what to put on mine.

Maybe a beautiful unicorn or Pegasus?

That might prove to be a little challenging, and I wouldn’t want to upstage anyone with my newly, untested wood-burning skills.

(Click here to see the possibilities)

Or, how about just MOM?

Prepping the Project

The teacher has a pretty high standard of what the wood should look like. Especially the corners. He didn’t want us to have any sharp edges at all. Taking some sandpaper we attempted to file down all the inconsistencies in the wood. We shaped all of the corners into smooth beveled edges.

When I thought that mine was perfect I brought it up for his inspection. He turned the board, flipped it around, stared at it, smelled it and he possibly even licked it. One thing for sure is, he returned it back to me saying, “Not good enough.”


Did he not see the superior craftsmanship? 

The smooth surface gleaming under the classroom light bulbs?

Even though everyone else was still sanding away, I was sure mine was flawless.

Did he think he was some sort of wood expert or something?

He pointed out some irregularities on the edges that looked like I needed to spend some more time sanding.

Fine, I’ll go back and work on it some more. I thought to myself.

The Burning

Eventually, we completed the board shaping and passed the teacher’s high-level inspection.

It was time to begin the burning.

We each received a utensil that looked like a pen with a metal tip. An electrical cord was attached at the other end. The teacher informed us that the metal tip could cause severe injury if we touched it.

“So don’t touch it!”

As I got into a safe position, I plugged my burner in, grabbed my smooth, perfectly beveled piece of wood and placed the metal tip to the board. While the bright coloring of the wood began to turn brown creating a permanent mark, a small stream of smoke began to waft up towards my face.

The smell of burning wood was intoxicating.

I continued to drag the burner across the wood, shaping my masterpiece. After completing the first letter, I stepped back to view my work. The M that I burned in looked pretty good. Jumping back in I started to work on the O when a distraction occurred.


The classroom door opened slowly. The one girl, every guy wanted to date, sauntered in. Every head turned in her direction, as she caused a ripple in the time-space continuum. All students froze except the girl who moved in slow motion.

With every step, her long flowing hair whisked gently across her shoulders. With eyes transfixed, every guy was transported to another place in the universe, in which he was the destination that she was trying to reach. As her eyes closed to blink, every boy imagined that she was leaning in for a kiss…

What was that smell?


All of a sudden my senses were assaulted by a strange smell similar to burnt chicken skin. A few seconds after that, I felt a searing pain. As I looked down, I noticed that during my dream phase, the burner left the art project and rested itself on my thumb.

Realizing what happened, I jerked the burner off my thumb. However, it sat there long enough to create a deep divot, making my thumb look like the space between the double humps of a camel’s back.

After exclaiming that I burned myself, everyone started shouting out remedies;

“Run it under cold water.”

“Someone get some ice.”

“Put some butter on it.”

I’ve never understood that last one…

I had to inform the teacher because he would know what to do. So, I grasped sizzled and throbbing finger and showed him my injury.

He replied, “I told you not to touch it. Head to the school nurse.”

Once I received medical attention, I was released back to my class. Carefully and without distraction, I finished the project.

I just hope my mom appreciated what I went through to make it for her.

Subsequently, I never touched a wood-burner again.

Have you ever been burned by a distraction?

Tell us about it in the comments.


Visit David at DilemmaMike.com. 

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