What Is Pyrography? (aka wood burning)

A very common question often asked, what is pyrography?. It generally results in a “ummmm” or “errrrr” response, followed by a vague answer. But here at PyrographyPros.com we will give you the answer you’re looking for.

What Is Pyrography

So What Is Pyrography?

If we look at the definition of the word according to wikipedia:

Pyrography or pyrogravure is the art of decorating wood or other materials with burn marks resulting from the controlled application of a heated object such as a poker. It is also known as pokerwork or wood burning.”

Read the full article here

The term means “writing with fire” and actually dates back to the 17th century.

A Glimpse at the History

Virgin Mary Greek Orthodox Pyrography 05
image credit: commons.wikimedia.org

It has been practiced by different cultures throughout the times including Egypt and Africa. In China, during the Han Dynasty, it was known as “fire needle embroidery“.

It wasnt until the Victorian era, where the invention of pyrography machines came about, that the term ‘pyrography” was coined. Prior to that it was known as “Pokerwork”.

During the 19th century, a Melbourne architect known as Alfred Smart (clever fellow!), found that he could achieve a greater range of color and tints if he applied hot, water-based paint to the wood. This was a huge break-through for woodcrafters!

It wasn’t until the 20th century that electric pyrographic equipment started to be developed which helped towards making the entire process more user friendly and somewhat automated.

Pyrography is considered a traditional form of art with some fine examples coming from Europe

The Tools Of The Master

Traditional woodcraft would just consist of heating a pointed metal object in a fire. With modern knowledge and the invention of electric pyrography tools, the process has become quite sophisticated. Ultimately the range of tools can be broken down into three main types:

61GCtPJcSIL._SL1500_Solid Point Burners

When we refer to solid tip burners we mean tools similar to soldering irons. I remember learning woodburning at school and using a solid tip burner.

This kind of tool requires heat from a heat pad or element that is electrically powered. The heat generated is generally static.

This category of tool doesnt really lend itself to delicate, detailed work like its other companions.

81ieJ9NwjdL._SL1500_Laser Cutters

This tool creates its affect by scorching the material opposed to cutting through it like a solid-point burner.

This tool is probably the most sophisticated of all three categories. Modern advancement enables machines like this to import pictures and transfer them wood.

Given the delicate accuracy of this kind of tool, it can also be used on paper and card!

31N9nL-L4+LWire-Nib Burners

This tool is able to perform great detailing because of the finer point. It also has temperature control and the heat source is attached directly by an electrical current.

These tools also have interchangeble tips / nibs to add more diversity to a hobbiest’s technique.

The Artists Canvas

When we look at woodburning its pretty fair to make the assumption that the medium is… well wood! Fair call I say!

But we are not just limited to wood at all. Due to the modern advancements in pyrographic tools, we can now create art on more delicate materials (as long as its not toxic of course).

4392563394_a102b6914c_mThese include but not limited to:

  • Leather
  • Canvas
  • Natural Fibers (paper, bamboo, cloth)
  • Natures Ivory (Tagua nuts)
  • Gourds

There are some precautions when using any materials and it all comes down to toxic reactions caused by the heating process. This is especially important if you have allergies. Thorough research is advised prior to using any new materials.

Different Types of Wood Stock

Wood, wood, beautiful wood! We have a lot of choices here. Some materials are better suited to beginners, and others more relevant to experienced pyrographers.

This post wont be a definitive guide on pyrography wood stock, but we will touch briefly on the different types recommended.

Oak-Stump-9832Note: Even though some of the woods listed below are known to be “safe” to burn, you still need to be considerate of your own sensitivities and the sensitivity of others around you.

These include but not limited to:

  • Maple
  • Basswood
  • Birch
  • Poplar

When ever you are looking at using different materials, it is always advisable to consult a professional. This means someone who is educated in toxicity levels (of the specific material) and production. Your school art teacher is not a professional. Neither is wheezy Bob down the road.

Safety First

Due to the nature of this hobby, there are some safety measures that you MUST take. These are a minimum requirement and non-negotiable!

Here are some measures to protect yourself

Make sure your work area is well ventilated
Use a dust collector like an industrial vacuum
Change out of any clothing you have been woodcrafting in
Always use protective equipment like:

  • Safety Approved Googles
  • Protective cream on your exposed skin
  • Respirator
  • Dust Mask

Pyrography Tips & Tricks

We have a huge range of resources here to teach you everything you need to know about woodcraft. Whether you are inexperienced or a veteran woodburner, you will find something here for you.

The post What Is Pyrography? (aka wood burning) appeared first on Pyrography Pros.


Author: pyrographypros

PyrographyPros is your woodcraft authority. For all things woodburning and more visit our website. We have so many resources that will be valuable to both newcomers and veterans. Make sure you keep an eye out for our social media updates and shares.

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