Part of the fun of getting into arts and crafts is learning how different tools and mark-making techniques produce a range of images. We may start out with pencil and paper, or paint and canvas, but there is a whole array of mark-making styles and materials out there. One option that often catches the eye of experimental creative types is pyrography. The idea of using heat and tools rather than pigments and traditional artists’ materials is both intriguing and daunting. So, what is pyrography, what are pyrography pens, and how does it all work?
In this guide, I will tell you all about pyrography, from its potential uses to some considerations for new users. This includes a quick beginner’s guide on how to get started with pyrography and an introduction to some of the different tools and materials available. There are links to pyrography pens and more high-end sets if you decide this is something you would like to pursue further.
What is Pyrography?
In case you haven’t heard of pyrography before and this is all completely new to you, look go back to basics. The literal translation of the word pyrography means fire writing. This is perhaps a better description of some ancient styles over modern work. The idea is that you use heated tools to burn images into materials. You could focus on writing by creating messages, but it is also possible to burn tonal images with enough practice and the right tools.
What Materials Can You Use in Pyrography?
There is the assumption that pyrography is a wood burning art because the two terms are interchangeable. A lot of people do use wooden panels and scrap wood because of the effect. You can take almost any type of wood and get some form of image with the right tips, pressure, and temperature. Paler woods tend to give the most dramatic effect. A lot of pyrography artists also like to work with bamboo because of its softness and tone. You could even use plywood for tester pieces.
The kits and products below focus on this wood burning style too. However, the term pyrography still applies to other materials that can take the charring effect without burning or disintegrating. Some artists like to work with strong paper structures, leather, tree bark, and even gourds. Gourds can look particularly special as fall decorations. Leatherwork is an interesting alternative for creating gifts.
What Can You Make With Pyrography?
You can make any sort of decorative item you like when you have the right tools and materials. Many people like to work with wooden tiles and plaques for decorative items for the home. Some could also become coasters or table mats with the right protection. Items can be as decorative or practical as you want. Don’t be afraid to get imaginative or take on commissions from friends and family once you become more proficient with your pyrography tools.
Is Pyrography Difficult?
Pyrography is a difficult artistic hobby because there is so much to consider and learn. It requires a different thought process than mark-making with pencils, ink, or paint because you are controlling heat rather than a physical substance. It is easy to work with tools that are too hot or to make mistakes, and there is no way of erasing your work. But, that also adds to the fun of the challenge. With practice and some great design ideas, you can develop the skills needed to create some beautiful and interesting work.
Is Pyrography Dangerous?
There are dangers involved with pyrography work, but nothing too extreme as long as you are careful. The danger comes from the heat of the pen. This tool can get very hot on the highest settings so you need to hold it correctly on the insulated grip and make sure to leave it in a safe place to avoid damage. Some of the best pyrography sets contain holders that are similar to those you get with soldering irons. There is also a risk that the charred wood will produce smoke if mishandled.
This is a grown-up craft that you should enjoy away from children and pets in a secure garage or workshop. There are also additional safety precautions you can take. A mask may be a good idea when burning wood in case of any smoke or any sawdust in the studio. It is also a good idea for anyone with long hair to tie it back. You don’t want it getting singed on the pen. Finally, keep a first aid kit on hand just in case of burns.
How to Get Started with Pyrography Art
Now you have a better idea of what pyrography is, it is time to learn more about how it is created. With the right tools, fun designs, and some patience, you can create some interesting pieces.
1) Get the right tools
First of all, you need to make sure that you have everything you need to burn the wood or other material. It all starts with a pen with an adjustable temperature and a range of metal tips. There are some recommended models and sets below. It also helps to have a pen holder, some carbon paper for tracing images, and other safety tools.
2) Get the right material
Next, you need something to burn. I recommend starting with wood slices. They are accessible in large packs, as seen below, and perfect for this sort of art. A good piece of “real” pale wood works best. But, you can play with plywood scraps if they are around.
3) Play with different tips for mark-making
The best pyrography pens and sets should have a range of tips or nibs to play with. Take your time to find out what they all do. They should all have different purposes and you can take what you learn and apply that to your designs later on.
4) Play with different temperatures for tones
These pens are also adjustable with different temperature settings. You need to learn how each mode affects the surface of the wood and also how to apply the right amount of pressure. You may want to keep a notebook of discoveries to help you in the future. It also helps to keep hold of all of the test pieces somewhere. You will be amazed when you go back over them in a year’s time and see how far you have progressed as a pyrography artist.
5) Choose a design and trace it onto your wood
This is where the drawing tools and carbon paper in the best pyrography kits are so helpful. Find an image you like or some script for a poignant message. It is good to start with basic monochrome images and outlines as you get used to the tools and workings of the pen. Then you can move on to other designs that are more complex with clever shading.
6) Finish the wood with oil or wax when finished
Finally, it is a good idea to finish any design with some oil or wax. This not only protects the wood in the future but helps the grain and the burned image stand out. It makes a difference if you are making a door plaque for someone or trying to make practical coasters for your home.
Practice Makes Perfect with Pyrography Art
This all sounds like a lot to learn and get to grips with, and that’s fine. This is a difficult skill that you can’t master overnight. The more open you are to playing around with scrap wood, the more you will discover. With time, you will gain the confidence to put what you learn into bigger projects, such as step-by-step tutorials. From there, you can design your own pieces. But, don’t run before you can walk. Enjoy the learning curve. Also, make sure to embrace any mistakes you make. These imperfections will add character to a piece and ensure it is a unique handmade item. Friends and family receiving the item as a gift will love it just the same.
Pyrography Pens to Get You Started
The first place to start when considering pyrography as a hobby is a pyrography pen. These pens transfer the heat from a control box through a metal tip and onto the wood. You can control the temperature and pressure and swap out the tips for different marks. Some pens are affordable and simple in style while others are more expensive and high-end.
1) Walnut Hollow Creative Versa Tool
This first model is on the cheaper end of the scale if you are just looking to try out woodburning and see if it is for you. There isn’t the same complex set-up as the product below. It plugs straight into the wall with a control between the plug and the device. This provides access to the temperature dial. The pen also has a comfort grip for safety and comes with 11 points. These different shapes mean you can experiment with mark-making pretty easily.
2) Huanyu 100W Dual Pen Pyrography Machine
This option is a bigger machine that you plug your pens into. It is a substantial device with dials and controls for easy adjustments. It may seem intimidating at first, but you will get the hang of it. The set has two pyrography pens, a safety holder, 23 tips, and some extra features like the cleaning sponge and screwdriver. You may pay a lot more for this device but the quality and reliability make it worthwhile.
Pyrography Kits with More Features and Tools
A good alternative here is to get a larger set of items for beginners. You can find sets with helpful extra features that are cheaper than a high-end dual pen. Or, you can splash out on something expensive and comprehensive. Look out for the number of tips, any images to work from, and any safety features like gloves, stands, and cases.
1) Petuol 110 Pieces Wood Burning Tool with Adjustable Temperature
This is the more affordable option and this may mean that you don’t get the same high-end pen or quality pieces. But, you do get a surprising amount for your money. The pen itself is great with 60W heated ceramic technology and an adjustable temperature from 200 to 420C. You also get 12 molds, 12 colored pencils, 10 carbon papers, a set of wood chips, safety gloves, and a case for storing the pen.
2) YIHUA 939D-II Pyrography Pen Wood Burning Kit Station 2-in-1 Solid-Point
This is a more advanced set with a better quality pen and some nice features. As a result, the cost is closer to $100. One of the big selling points is the safety stand which is tough, secure and has room for both of the pens in the set. These pens also have a higher temperature range of between 200 and 480C. You can see the level on the display on the device quite easily. You also get 20 nibs and some scrap wood, but none of the carbon papers or other drawing tools as seen above.
Wood Plaques and Boards for Pyrography
You can’t get to work on your first piece of pyrography art unless you have something to work on. I recommend starting out with wood as it is perfect for practicing your technique and for decorative items. There are plenty of companies supplying wood for pyrography. Here are two great options.
1) Meetory 42 Piece Unfinished Blank Wood Square
This first option is about as basic as they come, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. If all you want to do is practice mark-making with different pen tips, you want quantity over quality. there are 42 pieces in this set so you can play around and make as many mistakes as you need to. The wood is unfinished for a blank canvas and also comes in three different sizes. This set should keep you busy for a while.
2) eZAKKA Unfinished Hanging Wood Sign Blank Wooden Slices
This alternative option is a bit more interesting. Here there are various wooden slices with prettier shapes. There are four styles and three of each option. This isn’t close to as much as you get in the set above. But, this set is more for creating finished designs and gifts for other people. You can create beautiful pyrography art onto the plaques and then make use of the pre-drilled holes and ropes for hanging. Each piece is roughly 8.8 by 5.7 inches and 0.1 inches thick, so not too big, nor too small.
Resources for Pyrography Project Ideas
Finally, it helps to get some ideas together for images and designs. Eventually, you will build the confidence to transfer your own ideas onto the wood. For now, you are better off working from pre-existing designs and project ideas. This gives you a clear goal to aim for and there are great beginner-friendly ideas out there.
1) Pyrography: 18 Step-by-Step Projects to Make
One approach to finding projects to work on is to get a book on the subject. There are some great affordable guides out there written by enthusiasts sharing their ideas. The step-by-step approach to the guides is great for those that want instructions at their own pace. You can dip in and out of this book as you please while testing out designs like door numbers, letter racks, jewelry boxes, and more. There are 18 in total, so something is sure to inspire you.
If you don’t want to spend money on a physical book, you can always turn to the internet for free resources. Pinterest is always a treasure trove for creative design idea so is guaranteed to have interesting Pyrography art ideas. You may also find bloggers that you can follow for helpful tips and guide, or you could subscribe to YouTube channels with cool tutorials.
Getting Started with Pyrography Art
To summarize, there are some great products and tools around that can help you get into pyrography as a hobby. I recommend getting a more extensive kit of tools and materials as you should get everything you need in one box. If you are going to jump into this hobby with an open mind and see what you can achieve, you may as well go all in. You could then upgrade to one of the more high-end pens with time and make use of those bulk-buy packs of wood as you get more commissions.
Pyrography may look scary, to begin with, but you could soon find that it is great fun and a rewarding challenge. As you build confidence and skills you will also find it is a unique way to create items for home decor and gifts for loved ones. Find the pyrography kit that works for you, create a safe space at home in which to work, and have fun with it. In a year, you can go over your creations and maybe even start thinking of turning your new skill into a profitable side venture.