What is the Definition of Pyrography

So, what exactly is the definition of pyrography? The word ‘pyrography’ itself can be broken up into two parts: ‘pyro’ and ‘graphos’, meaning ‘fire’ and ‘writing’ in Greek. So the word ‘pyrography’ literally means ‘writing with fire’, as pyrography is the art of decorating wood or other suitable materials by burning words or images into them.

What is the definition of pyrography

Pyrography Definition

Pyrography is an art-form. The materials it’s done on, like wood or leather, is often carefully chosen to ensure the image complements the beauty of the material but will also stand out well.

With modern tools, the images created can have very detailed effects, like shading and precise lines, and when pieces of pyrography are finished they’re sometimes colored with paint or varnish to enhance the design.

Pyrography is usually done on wood or leather, but other materials used are clay and even hard-shell gourds, which when dried make for interesting and unusual canvasses.

Paper is also sometimes used, and there are laser cutters designed for pyrography that have settings specifically for burning thin and delicate materials like paper.

Other Word-Related Stuff

Pyrography is also known as wood-burning and pokerwork. The name ‘pyrography’ is derived from Greek, and the name wood-burning is relatively obvious, coming from the act of burning wood.

Pokerwork was a name developed in the Victorian era when metal pokers were heated in fire and used to do pyrography.

How It Works

When a metal object is heated to a high enough temperature it can burn and scorch wood. A pyrography tool is usually heated to 600° to 900°F (316° to 482°C), so caution must be exercised when practicing the craft to avoid burns.

It doesn’t require a great amount of force in order to burn the wood; moving the heated metal nib of your tool across your material slowly and steadily does the job without you forcing down on it.

By using different shaped and sized nibs and adjusting the temperature, you can achieve many different shades and thicknesses of lines, so the pictures you draw can be very detailed.

The most dramatic works of pyrography are on light-colored materials, so a wider range of shading can be achieved.

Care must be taken when selecting wood and leather, as both are often are treated with chemicals that can be toxic when burned, so untreated materials need to be used for pyrography.

A Little History

Pyrography has a long history, dating back thousands of years.

Old methods include heating a metal poker in fire until it’s hot enough to burn wood, or even concentrating sunlight through a magnifying lens.

As with today, it was used as a means to decorate and inscribe words or names into tools and instruments, as well as household items.

It wasn’t until Victorian times that pyrography was more officially recognized as an art-form, with the invention of pyrography tools, and it was then known as pokerwork. Courses and tutorials were given and it became more widespread.

Back even further into the past, Peru is considered to be one of the main birthplaces of pyrography, with it being speculated that it’s been practiced there for 3000 years.

During the medieval and renaissance periods is when it’s thought to have surfaced in Europe, and in the Han Dynasty in China (about 2000 years ago) it was known as ‘fire needle embroidery’.

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Pyrography Burners (Woodburners) What They are and Their Uses

A woodburner is a valuable and in many cases vital piece of technology for a pyrography artist. They are by far one of the most easy and cheap methods for doing pyrography, and they achieve great results.

What woodburners are and their uses

What is a Burner?

Put into very simple terms, a burner is a machine designed to heat a tool for pyrography. They’re mostly quite small and come in different types depending on the kind of work you want to do.

A transformer in the burner provides the power and directs it through the cord to the pen, which heats up the tip you use to burn with.

Burners generally have a temperature control and will always have either one or two plugs into which you connect your pyrography pen. These are, respectively, called single- and dual-burners.

In fact, a lot of serious artists tend to have multiple different burners for doing different projects. Some will be single-burners, and some dual, and some will have a low range of settings and some a very high range of settings.

One or Two

Single- and dual-burners are designed specifically with the pyrography artist in mind. They have everything an artist could want, and there are lots of different models to choose from.

A lot of burners with settings will have a temperature control of 1-10, each number representing a temperature. A higher number means a higher temperature, and wood burns a little differently depending on how hot the pen is, so for detailed work this is incredibly useful.

Some burners might also have a small extra dial, for temperatures lower than 1, when 1 is just too hot still for the project they’re working on.

Single burners have only got one plug for a pen, so to change between pens requires unplugging the previous hand piece and plugging in the new one. Dual-burners however have 2 plugs, and so can have 2 pens running from it at once. These pens can be interchanged with the flick of a switch on the burner.

The Confusing Business with Wattage

Generally speaking, more watts is better when it comes to electrical appliances. In the case of woodburning however, it doesn’t really matter.

The wattage makes no huge difference when it comes to the quality of the burner, and you should always base your decision off the features you want.

Burners with a solid-point pen that only have one set temperature are a slightly different story. These burners tend to heat up more depending on their wattage, and so care should be taken when selecting tips to use because some tips may not suit the kind of heat put out by one of these burners.

The Burning Question: What do you Buy?

Your decision on what burner to buy when trying to find a burner should never be made off the wattage or any individual feature. Think carefully about what you’ll require any burner you buy to achieve.

If it’s your first burner it can be especially tricky to know what you want. Take your time, look at your options, and consider what it is that you want to do. For a beginner a versatile but simple burner is probably your best option.

If you’re a more experienced pyrography artist will probably have a good idea of what you want, whether a single- or dual-burner or a burner for solid-point pens.

The effects you want to achieve will be determined by the type of burner and tips you have, so always keep in mind what features you want when selecting a burner to buy. With so many options available, you’re sure to find one that’s just right for you.

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Best Woodburning Kits For Rookies and Professionals

Looking for the best woodburning kits? When it comes to choosing a kit, it will depend entirely on your skill level and your goals.

Someone who is completely new to pyrography will need a kit that includes all the basics. You’ll need a burner, some tips, a book to learn from and something to work on.

The greatest wood burning tools explained

Beginning with the Basics

The most highly recommended burner is one with temperature control and dual-pen plugs, so you can have two different types of nibs ready to go at once. This allows for a wide range of effects without a lot of tools.

Tips you choose will be simple ones: you’ll want to be able to do the basics, so having a shading tip and sharp tip will be your best assets straight off the bat.

Sharp tips can be both fine and wide, so you could consider getting one of each to make lines of varying thicknesses.

There are a huge number of books available you can learn pyrography from. Ideally, you want one that wasn’t published all that long ago so that the information it has in it is up to date.

For the Experienced Hands

People who have been doing pyrography for a while will find any beginner kit completely irrelevant to them. They won’t need to learn basic techniques, or get a simple burner with common tips.

However, that doesn’t mean that there are no kits for anyone who is experienced. There are always new things to learn in any craft, and a huge range of tools and tips are out there just waiting to be used.

A pyrography artist who has been using a burner for a long time could consider branching out and choosing a type of burner they haven’t used before. There are also some quite unusual nibs designed for doing interesting effects, like feather or scale nibs.

As well as tools, there’s heaps of books for experienced pyrographers as well. Learning new techniques and experimenting is a huge part of the enjoyment in something as versatile as pyrography.

The Necessities and the Extras

No matter what skill level you are at there are a few things every pyrographer needs.

For one, a burner. And because it can get smoky when burning wood, having a mask or a fan to blow the smoke away while you’re burning will be required, as the smoke can be toxic.

A few nibs if you’re using a pen with interchangeable tips. Consider getting the nibs in a pack, and try to get tips that are the same brand as your burner so you know they’ll be compatible.

You’ll also, of course, need some kind of material to do your pyrography on. Wood, leather, gourds, bone, bark and more can be used. Whether you’re new or have been doing pyrography for years you’re sure to find something that strikes your fancy.

There are kits out there for everyone and every level. Looking online is a great place to start, you’ll have the whole range of pyrography tools at your fingertips to choose from.

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WoodBurning, Woodcraft, Hot Poker work and Writing with Fire

Woodburning is the art of burning words or images into the surface of wood. It’s also known as pyrography, although the word ‘pyrography’ covers a lot more than burning wood.

What is wood burning?

While pyrography can be done on not only wood, but also leather, bone, gourds and more, woodburning specifically refers to pyrography done on wood.

A wide range of tools is available, all designed for pyrography, and these can achieve lots of different effects. The pictures created with woodburning can be very detailed and in-depth.

So How Does It Actually Work?

It’s very simple: using a hot woodburning pen, you can scorch lines into wood. With different types of wood and tools, and varying temperatures, you can create all sorts of shades and designs.

When starting a project you should choose a type of wood that will complement your intended design.

Different Types of Wood

All wood can be placed into one of two categories: hardwood and softwood.

Hardwood burns slower and requires a higher temperature to burn than softwood. What type of wood you choose will depend on what your desired outcome is.

Woodburning enhances the natural grain of the wood and so what design you want to do may be affected by what wood you have available.

Take care to use untreated wood, as some treatments done to wood can be very toxic when burned. Your wood should also be sanded smooth before you start burning it.

Different Tools

Pyrography tools are generally divided into three categories:

  • Solid-point burners
  • Wire-nib burners
  • Laser cutters

Solid-point burners and wire-nib burners are both woodburning pens. Solid-point burners are heated to a fixed temperature, and wire-nib burners can have multiple set temperatures and interchangeable nibs.

Laser cutters are very technical but can achieve a high standard of work if you have the right machine capable of doing pyrography.

Where Does It Come From?

During the Victorian era woodburning was known as poker work. Metal pokers were heated in a fire until they were hot enough to scorch wood.

But pyrography is much older than that. The oldest surviving object decorated with pyrography is (according to Kathleen Menendez of the E-Museum of Pyrographic Art) a container found in Peru decorated with flowers and hummingbirds dated from before 700 AD.

However, it’s believed that woodburning has been practiced in Peru for over 3000 years. Peru is thought to be one of the main birthplaces of pyrography.

Woodburning Today

Learning to do woodburning is easier than ever, with instructional videos and tutorials available online, and books and magazines at libraries and bookstores.

People do woodburning as a hobby for enjoyment. Some artists also make a career out of it selling their work or designing signs and logos made on wood.

Most woodburning is done for decoration, but it’s also a great way to make a sign or inscribe a name or word onto something. Sometimes, once a design is finished, artists varnish or color their wood in a way that will make it stand out.

The wide range of tools and different types of wood available means it can be a relatively simple craft to get into but you can get hours of enjoyment from it.

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Pyrography Pen VS Soldering Iron, Which is Best?

A question we see a lot is, as the title of this post suggests, Which is best? Pyrography Pens or a Soldering Iron? Before we answer that question we need to look at the significance each tool had on the industry. The invention and first mass production of the soldering iron in 1921 was a huge breakthrough for pyrography. Before that, artists had to manually heat a tool in a fire and reheat it frequently during work, so creating art was a lengthy and slow process. For a definitive guide please read our post here.

Which is best? Pyrography pens or Soldering Irons?

Pyrography Pen VS Soldering Iron

So naturally, when the first mechanical tools were created, it made doing pyrography a lot more enjoyable for artists and gave new life to the art. Since the invention of the soldering iron, a huge number of machines have been created for pyrography and continue to be refined and upgraded today.

The Humble Soldering Iron

By oomlout via Wikimedia Commons

A soldering iron itself is not designed for doing pyrography; they’re made for melting solder and connecting different things together. Soldering irons tend to have iron or copper tips and they aren’t pointed like proper woodburning pens are.

When it comes to doing pyrography with a soldering iron, it is possible, but not as simple as using a proper pyrography pen. Solid-point burners and craft-style pens are the woodburning relatives of the soldering iron.

They have brass tips and, like the soldering iron, they have a set temperature and can take a little while to heat up and a bit longer to cool down again.

For doing detailed and intricate work, they aren’t suitable. Their set temperature and nibs mean it’s very difficult to get a range of effects from them, and so for the most part craft-style pens are limited to doing outlines and writing words.

Wire-nib Burners and their Ability to Achieve

Pyrography pens nowadays are made with nichrome wire tips; while there is a whole lot of science-y words and explanations why, basically it’s because nichrome doesn’t deteriorate from the heat like many other conductive metals, meaning your tips will last alot longer.

The wire-nib burner is an incredibly versatile piece of equipment. They’re designed so you can switch between tips as you go with ease, and the machines have a range of temperatures you can adjust for whatever it is you’re working with.

With a wire-nib burner, a pyrographer can get all manners of lines and detailed shading. The machines only take seconds to heat up and cool down and the pens are much more comfortable to hold than soldering iron-style pens in general.

Because pyrography is so open to individual styles and a huge range of materials it can be done on, having a versatile tool like a wire-nib burner can be a huge advantage.

You, as the Consumer

In the end, which you decide to use is entirely up to you. Depending on what you want to do with pyrography, you might choose either tool.

Generally speaking it’s not a bad idea to invest in a wire-nib burner even if you don’t intend to be doing a lot of intricate work, since they’re more comfortable to use and heat up and cool down a lot faster.

But if you’re wanting a solid and simple tool you can use to create bold and long-lasting lines with, then you may find you prefer the idea of a solid-point pen.  


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Pyrography 101: Everything You Need to Know About Wood Burning

Pyrography 101: You may know as wood-burning or pokerwork – is the art of using a heated tool, like a metal poker, to burn images or words into the surface of wood or other materials.

It has a range of uses, such as sign-making and decoration, and by using different tools many varied effects can be created. Pyrography has been around for thousands of years, used as a means to decorate and inscribe names into wooden objects like instruments.

Pyrography 101: All about Wood burning

Pyrography 101: What Pyrography Actually Is

It’s also a fun and creative way to up-scale old wooden objects or furnishings around the home. Since the invention of the soldering iron in the early 20th century, lots of different types of pyrography tools have been invented and it’s relatively cheap even for a beginner to jump in and give the craft a go.

The Tools, the Materials, and the Know-How

There are lots of tools used for practicing pyrography: from new, modern wood-burning tools, to older methods including metal pokers heated in a fire or even sunlight concentrated through a lens.

Pyrography designs are most commonly burnt into wood and leather, and incredibly in-depth pieces of art can be created. Some artists even use clay or gourds to do pyrography on.

The Tools

Simple and traditional pyrography can be done using almost any heated instrument and wood. However, there are lots of modern tools designed specifically for wood-burning that make the process a lot easier and allow for a greater range of affects.

These can all mostly be divided into three categories:

  • Wire-nib burners
  • Solid-point burners
  • Laser cutters

Wire-nib burners are like metal pens, and have a variable temperature for working on different materials and getting different shades.

Solid-point burners have a brass tip that is heated to a fixed temperature and are very simple to learn to use.

Laser cutters can be expensive but they’re accurate, and while they’re usually set to cutting wood completely through, the settings can be adjusted to make them just burn the wood.

The Materials

image credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/ntxpeach68/15297062787
image credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/ntxpeach68/15297062787

Most pyrography is worked on either wood or leather, and a skilled wood-burner with good equipment can make vivid art, with clear lines and delicate shading.

All types of wood can be categorized into either hardwood or softwood. Softwood burns faster than hardwood and also doesn’t require the tool to be as hot, meaning softwood is generally better for beginners.

Care must be taken when selecting the right wood or leather. Both are sometimes treated with chemicals that can be toxic when burned, so it’s important to know what you’re using.

But What Actually Is It Useful For?

With a little practice, a pyrographer can create something beautiful from almost any plain wooden item they find, be it an old table, a picture frame, or even salt and pepper shakers. Up-scaling is something any pyrographer could turn their hand to.

Pyrography is also perfect for making signs for shops or around the home – no one likes mixing up the container of salt with the container of sugar.

Along with that, like many so many crafts, pyrography is simply enjoyable in itself, and doesn’t require a lot to begin. A bit of caution, some practice, and a steady hand, and you could be turning out beautifully scorched creations in no time.

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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.

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