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Burning Star

I've always been intrigued by branding and scarification. I loved the way scars from previous cuts and burns gave my skin character. When the light hit them just the right way it reflected off them. My fascination with scars led to experimentation in my bedroom with a soldering iron on my knuckles when I was about 14. Two days later my mum saw what I had done and I got a massive lecture for it.

Luckily, they ended up fading a few months later, as I had not heated the iron enough. I don't regret them fading as I had not really thought my decision through.

Fast forward 6 years and my curiosity once again got the better of me. I had spent the past several weeks drawing random patterns and objects on my hands and arms due to boredom at work. A five pointed star was a pattern that appeared frequently on my palms. I suppose for aesthetic reasons it was the perfect choice for me. Balanced and symmetrical, it was simplistic in design and looked good in any size. So the design was set, now the placement was yet to be decided.

My hands and forearms were definitely out of the question due to my current job, and nowhere on my torso really appealed to me. I decided on my ankle because it was easy to hide if need be, and also easy for myself to do the actual branding.

So one night when I was home alone, I decided to go through with it. I gathered all the supplies I thought I would need. Alcohol wipes to sterilize the area, a Zippo lighter, non-toxic marker to trace the design and a tool to do the branding with. Ideally, I would've used stainless steel and a butane torch, however neither were available to me at the time. Due to my own stupidity and impatience, I used the first thing I could find; a small, flat wood chisel with a 6mm wide end.

I do NOT recommend you use anything less than stainless steel, instead of some crappy, cheap alloy like I did. Remembering that heating steel with flame is NOT an effective method of sterilization. Do your research before trying this yourself.

I drew the design just below my inner right ankle, making sure it was the right size and angle. Then I tested the heating time for the branding iron (wood chisel). I found that using a lighter for extended periods proved to be difficult, so I found a candle. About 30 seconds hovering in the flame seemed to be just enough before it became red-hot.

I found that heating the iron produced a fine charcoal on the end of it, so I allowed the iron to cool and then used the charcoal to outline the star. The thick, black line resembled a fresh tattoo and I considered getting that done instead, but I had got so far I might as well keep going.

Taking a few deep breaths, I heated the iron and pressed it against the first line. No pain at first, then a sharp, intense sensation engulfed my entire foot. That lasted only a split second and then nothing but a dull ache. Holding the iron on my foot until the pain subsided was more of a mental barrier then an issue of pain. The anticipation of the sting made it increasingly difficult, as I would take my time psyching myself up for the next line, in that time the iron would cool down.

About half way around the star, the initial endorphin rush subsided and I had trouble keeping my hand steady. My foot was sweating and by that time, the first line I'd done had started to blister and swell. This was a reassuring sight as it meant that enough heat had been applied to create a scar.

I finished off the last few lines and blew out the candle. I used the alcohol wipes on my ankle to wipe off the charcoal and marker outlines. Usually, alcohol wipes are not good for fresh wounds, but because there were no nerves exposed there was no stinging.

I took a few photos and cleaned up.

The first night it was just a white outline with a little red-ish surrounding. It didn't hurt at all unless my bed sheets rubbed against it, but generally no discomfort.

The next few days it started to turn from a blistering white to a scabby red/brown. I cleaned it with a salt water solution in the shower daily and scrubbed lightly with a loofer to irritate and promote scarring.

It took about 3 weeks for the scab to disappear, leaving a pale, sharp line on my ankle. It wasn't raised or terribly visible which disappointed me, but I was still pleased with my DIY scar.

Within a few months, the scar started to fade until it was barely visible. I figured I either didn't have enough heat, or I didn't strike for long enough, or both.

Just recently I went over my faded scar the same way, but this time with the iron a lot hotter. It blistered immediately, and now (a few days later) the flesh is looking badly burnt. This looks promising.


submitted by: Anonymous
on: 10 July 2007
in Scarification

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Artist: Myself
Studio: Bedroom
Location: Tasmania

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