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 and other materials, leaving behind a decorative pattern. Also known as woodburning, 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 woodburning 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.
Best Wood for Pyrography
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.
Creating Woodburning Art
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.
54-Piece Basic Woodburning Kit
Uolor'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 woodburning, carving, and embossing I set out to find a nice starter kit with an easy to use woodburning 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 Woodburning Detailer with 20 Tips
If you are really looking to get into artistic woodburning, 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 woodburning 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
Blank Walnut Rounds
Online Woodburning Classes
Want to get started with pyrography but need help learning how to create woodburning art? These online woodburning classes are a great place to start.
- Super Woodburning and Pyrography Techniques
- Intro to Woodburning
- Pyrography for Beginners
- Handlettering + Woodburning: Create a Custom Cheeseboard
- Desert Sunset Woodburning Project
Pyrography Books for Tutorials and Woodburning Patterns
Pyrography Basics, Techniques and Exercises for Beginners
Big Book of Pyrography Projects
Pyrography Workbook: A Complete Guide to the Art of Woodburning
Woodburning Project & Pattern Treasury: 75 Mix-and-Match Designs