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How to Creatively Decorate Wood Using the Art of Pyrography

What Is Pyrography

Photo: Tomomichi Suzuki
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The art of pyrography has been around for centuries. It is an age-old technique where a heated metal pen is used to burn wood, leaving behind a decorative pattern. Also known as wood burning, pyrography is a fantastic technique for skilled sketchers to try their hand at a different medium. The history of the craft dates back to the Egyptians and some African tribes, and in China it was known as fire needle embroidery. Throughout history, artists have been able to express themselves by creatively burning strokes into wood, leather, and even gourds.

Though pyrography can be practiced with any heated metal tool, different tips on modern wood burning equipment allow artists to experiment with a wide variety of brushstrokes to create different effects. Solid tips—similar to a soldering iron—allow for big, bold lines, while looped nibs can provide fine shading. And by applying different pressure, pyrography artists can achieve different tones, from light brown to rich chestnut hues. Lora Irish's website is filled with pyrography tutorials and patterns to help get you started.

Light colored woods are typically used as a canvas for pyrography. Beech, birch, and sycamore are perfect for showing off the artwork due to their coloring and light grain. Maple, pine, walnut, and oak are also popular choices. For safety reasons, it's essential to use untreated wood. Pressure-treated wood, particle board, and MDF all contain chemicals that will release harmful toxins into the air when burned. It's also advised to wear a mask, as fine dust particles and resins released from the wood can cause harm over time.

Once you have your pyrography pen and safety gear, you can let your imagination run wild. You can either draw your design directly onto the wood with pencil, or use graphite paper to trace and transfer any image you desire. Then you're ready to burn! Cutting boards, furniture, spoons, and boxes are just some of the items you can etch designs into. Others prefer disks of wood that can be hung like a canvas on the wall, and once you get going it's not difficult to find all types of innovative projects.

The nice thing about pyrography is that it doesn't take much to begin. Here's the basic equipment you'll need to get started with woodburning.

44-Piece Basic Wood Burning Kit

Wood Burning Pen Kit for Beginners

TRUart | $27.99

TRUart's starter kit includes a pyrography pen with different tips for soldering, carving, and wood embossing as well as a set of stencils. It's a great, affordable kit for those who are beginners to pyrography, but doesn't include any wire tips. “After learning the basics in wood burning, carving, and embossing I set out to find a nice starter kit with an easy to use wood burning pen,” writes one reviewer. “I can’t begin to tell you how many kits I looked at it and compared. At the end of the day just know that this kit is by far the best in terms of both quality and quantity of tips.”


Professional Wood Burning Detailer with 20 Tips

Pyrography Pen

TRUart | $199.95

If you are really looking to get into artistic wood burning, TRUart's professional pyrography pen is a smart investment. It not only comes with 20 different wire tips, but has digital voltage control so you'll always have your pen at the desired temperature. “I have been wood burning and branding for nearly 10 years. In that time I have used the major brands as well as built my own branding pens. This burner is excellent.”


Graphite Transfer Carbon Paper

Graphite Tracing Paper

MyArtscape | $8.97

Blank Walnut Rounds

Walnut Rounds for Crafts

Walnut Hollow | from $9.99

Pyrography Books for Tutorials and Wood Burning Patterns

Pyrography Basics, Techniques and Exercises for Beginners

Basics of Pyrography

Lora Irish | from $5.75

Big Book of Pyrography Projects


Pyrography Workbook: A Complete Guide to the Art of Woodburning

Pyrography Workbook

Sue Walters | $14.25

Woodburning Project & Pattern Treasury: 75 Mix-and-Match Designs

Love the look of pyrography but aren't ready to make your own? Check out these artisans.

Wood Burned Mandala

BurntBirch | $110.00

Related Articles:

Wood-Burned Illustrations of Animals

Beautifully Detailed Drawings Burnt into Pieces of Wood

Artist Uses the Power of the Sun to Etch Pyrography Drawings

Jessica Stewart

Jessica Stewart is a Contributing Writer and Digital Media Specialist for My Modern Met, as well as a curator and art historian. She earned her MA in Renaissance Studies from University College London and now lives in Rome, Italy. She cultivated expertise in street art which led to the purchase of her photographic archive by the Treccani Italian Encyclopedia in 2014. When she’s not spending time with her three dogs, she also manages the studio of a successful street artist. In 2013, she authored the book 'Street Art Stories Roma' and most recently contributed to 'Crossroads: A Glimpse Into the Life of Alice Pasquini'. You can follow her adventures online at @romephotoblog.

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