Wood Burning for Beginners: Essential Tools, Ideas and Tips

It’s amazing to learn that many of the artforms we practice today are ancient. Paper cutting, clay sculpting and pyrography are just a few. 

Pyrography is from the Greek language. “Fire writing” is a wood burning art that began around the same time humans tamed fire. Over the centuries, it has been perfected by artisans who used their many techniques to ornately decorate furniture, musical instruments and to create decorative works. Parts of Europe and South America developed pyrography into a traditional folk art

To start, you’ll need a few supplies:

  • Wood: Most types of wood are suitable to work with. Some softer woods may lend themselves better to certain designs. Specialty stores carry an assortment of blank cedar or paulownia wood items. Check with the staff or on the label if the item is appropriate for wood burning. A light color wood like birchwood or poplar are best for pronounced, visible designs. Darker woods are good for a tonal design. 
  • Pyrography Pen: It’s a straightforward tool. It has a handle with a grip and this stays cool while plugged in. The handle also features a flange that divides the handle and the heated “pen” element. This heated part is at the front of the device, about the diameter of a pen. This is where the many different tips will attach. This is also the part that should never be touched with bare hands as it is very hot. We’ll cover more on the tool in just a bit.
  • Sandpaper: To prepare your wooden blank, make sure it is clean, free of dust or particles and it has a smooth surface. Use a fine grit sandpaper as needed. Make sure you clean the surface after sanding.
  • Pencil: This will be used to sketch out the design either on paper or directly on the wood.

      You will also need a designated well-ventilated work area on a fire-resistant surface. The heating element and the tips can reach up to several hundred degrees. Always keep safety in mind. 

      six pyrography pens in a line

      More About the Pyrography Pen

      We covered the handle and the heating element. Wood burning kits usually also include a variety of tips. These are small metal bits that screw into the top of the heating element. As a good habit, these should also never be handled with bare hands. 

      The tips are the key elements in pyrography. Shapes range from points, small circles, stars, lines and even letters. Custom logo tips can also be consigned from independent makers. 

      Get Your Wood Burning Set

      Shapes can be combined into a cluster, creating a new shape. For example, with a line tip, a triangle or square can be outlined or made into an “x” or a cross. With a pointed tip, a small dot is created with a quick press and a larger one is created if the tip is pushed in deeper. When used at an angle, the tip forms a tear shape. 

      The possibilities are numerous! 

      Practice using the pyrography pen to get used to the tool and get a feel for the heat, what each shape looks like and what other motifs can be created using them. The longer the tip remains in one spot, the darker and deeper the mark it will leave, so practicing pressure will be useful for when you’re ready to work on a main project. Experiment and get creative.

      a pyrography pen with several different tips

      If you’re a beginner, plan your design out on paper first. Then, using a pencil, lightly sketch it onto your wooden base. 

      To start, have a piece of scrap wood to test the tip before moving onto your main project. Make sure your tip is heated to the right temperature and you’re happy with the burn mark.

      Work slowly and methodically so that each mark you burn into the wood is the intended one. After all, there are no erasers here and the mark is permanent. That being said, if you do make a mistake in a repeat, use that as an opportunity to modify your design by incorporating it into the motif. 

      Few more things to note:

      • If the pen is smoking, it is too hot. It should be unplugged and allowed to cool.
      • Always rest your pen on the stand and don’t let it touch anything that can easily burn.
      • When researching wood bases for projects, look to specialty shops that carry blanks meant for pyrography. 
      • Let your tips fully cool in a fire-proof dish after use. Make sure to clean them once they have cooled to preserve their longevity. 

      Once you’re finished with the wood burning of your item, you can finish it with a wax or a stain. You can also add color paint to the design. Here’s an example to get you inspired. 

      And, as always, don’t forget to tag us to share your creations. #excelblades

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