Wood burning - pyrography for beginners

Wood burning – pyrography for beginners

Burning, or pyrography, is the application of patterns with a red–hot tool on a wooden plate. This interesting hobby for children and adults has a rich history. Archaeological excavations in Peru confirm that people decorated objects with burnt drawings as early as the 8th century BC. Ancient Russian masters have been engaged in burning since the 9th century.

Pyrography was most widespread in those countries where there was an abundance of wood. In antiquity and the Middle Ages, the pattern was applied with a red-hot nail or an iron rod. In the 19th century, pyrographs appeared that worked on alcohol, steam or gas. At the beginning of the 20th century, craftsmen used a tool resembling a soldering iron. A modern electric incinerator with a pen appeared only in the 1950s.


Pyrography is an exciting and very useful activity, especially for children. It promotes the development of fine motor skills, imagination, attentiveness, trains perseverance and purposefulness. The child acquires very useful skills in handling serious tools. For adults, pyrography is a kind of anti–stress, a way to relax and switch from problems to positive thoughts. In addition, you will be able to create many beautiful unique things for your home.​

​Tools and materials

For pyrography, a special device will be required – an electric burner with a pen (sting) made of nichrome or brass or a soldering iron burner. How do they differ?

Loop pyrographs

Loop pyrographs

Loop pyrographs are a box with a transformer and a handle with a wire loop.

They quickly heat up to the desired temperature, but also cool down soon.
The heating level is adjustable.
The set includes replaceable hinges of different shapes and sizes.
Convenient to work with.
The burning process is relatively fast.​

The disadvantages of this type of burners include the fact that the nozzles quickly become unusable, they are difficult to change, and due to the rapid cooling of the loop, you have to take frequent breaks. The drawing turns out to be dotted, consisting of small strokes, since it is quite difficult to draw a continuous line.

Soldering iron burners

Soldering iron burners

Soldering iron burners look and work like the device of the same name. The device is a thick “handle” with a stinger at the end.

They heat up slowly, but they keep the operating temperature for a very long time.
A large selection of replaceable nozzles, reliable and long-lasting.
The nozzles can be easily changed even during operation.
Allows you to make drawings with solid fill, shadow, transitions, draw solid lines of any thickness.

Cons: if the soldering iron pyrograph is broken, you will have to buy a new one. In addition, the temperature and power of the device is fixed, so the process is slow. With desire and diligence, regardless of the type of pyrograph, you can learn how to create real masterpieces.

As for the material, it is best to choose plywood, MDF board or plates from an array of poplar, aspen, alder, linden, chestnut, cedar, cherry. It is important that the tree is completely dry, light, smooth, without knots and “eyes”.

Never take foundations that are covered with something, such as varnish or paint. You may be poisoned by toxic fumes or suffer from the resulting fire.

Wood burning - pyrography

To work, you will also need:

fine-grained sandpaper;
black carbon paper (this particular option will not cause trouble);
sharp hard pencil;
pyrograph stand;
masking tape;
paints and varnishes, brushes for finishing;
a dry clean rag, an old terry towel.

It is best to start acquaintance with pyrography with ready-made sets for creativity. There is everything you need, except the device itself, and most importantly: an excellent result is guaranteed.

Techniques and methods of burning

Contour technique.

Contour technique

If you are just taking the first steps in pyrography, it is better to choose this method. The drawing is burned only along the main lines, so it is very easy to do this. Inscriptions and hatching are performed in the same way.

Silhouette technique.

Silhouette technique

The desired image is created by burning out the background around it. The drawing remains clean, and the background is completely obscured.

Artistic technique

Artistic technique

Artistic technique involves the combined use of both methods. The drawing turns out to be very complex, the perspective is perfectly conveyed in it, all the details are worked out. It requires the ability to create high-quality paintings in pencil, without this skill nothing will work. It is better to start with the basic geometric shapes, trying to work as carefully as possible on chiaroscuro, volume, depth.

In addition to burning with an electric pyrograph, there are several other interesting ways:

With acid. A thin layer of wax is applied to the tree, the contours are scratched, and then the image is etched with a chemical composition.

Pyrotype. The drawing is applied to the wood with a red-hot finished stamp. The harder the pressure, the brighter and clearer the print turns out.

With an electric discharge. The image is “painted” with electrolytes, and then passed through the “lines” of electric current.

With a laser. In this way, you can create a large-scale, very complex and clear image, since the laser beam is controlled by a computer program.

The sun. This is the oldest, but very time-consuming method. The sun’s rays “collect” a magnifying glass into a beam and direct it to the surface of the plywood. The quality of the drawing is quite low.

Where to start?

First of all, prepare the workplace. There should be not only a pyrograph at hand, but also a stand for it, a set of replaceable nozzles, pliers. The room should be well ventilated, in extreme cases, be sure to turn on the fan, put on a respirator. Place a towel rolled into a roller under the elbow of the working hand. Take care of good lighting.

Wood burning - pyrography

Surface preparation

First of all, prepare the workplace. There should be not only a pyrograph at hand, but also a stand for it, a set of replaceable nozzles, pliers. The room should be well ventilated, in extreme cases, be sure to turn on the fan, put on a respirator. Place a towel rolled into a roller under the elbow of the working hand. Take care of good lighting.

Drawing a picture

Use a sharp, hard pencil to outline the contours of the future image. Remove excess lines with a soft white eraser. The drawing can be transferred using black copy paper.
Put a carbon paper on the blank.
Place the desired image on top. Secure it with masking tape.
Circle it with a pencil, trying to press hard, without missing a single detail.
Now remove the tape and carbon paper. Ready!

Burning out

First, burn out the edges of the drawing, its main lines, and only then proceed to the internal details and hatching. Move your hand towards yourself, and then you will be less tired.
If you have taken a complex image where there is a fill, a gradient, then first of all make contours. If something goes wrong, the erroneous lines can be sanded with sandpaper. Mistakes are inevitable, but you should not be afraid of them.

Finishing treatment

The finished image is carefully sanded with fine-grained sandpaper. Be sure to remove all the embers. If you want to get a color drawing, you can paint it with paints or pencils. At the end, the work is covered with a colorless wood varnish and allowed to dry completely.​

Safety precautions

Wood burning - pyrography

While working with the pyrograph, the following rules must be strictly observed:

The included tool is very hot, and you can only take it by the handle.

Don’t play with the pyrograph. If you accidentally touch the tip of the skin, then a serious burn remains.

The heated tool can only be placed on a special fireproof stand. Remember that even after switching off, the sting remains hot for a while.

The nozzles can only be changed with pliers. You can’t touch them with your bare hands, even if it seems that they are not very hot.

If the burner overheats, it will quickly break, this applies to both loop and soldering iron models. Therefore, turn off the appliance from the outlet from time to time.

Never leave the included pyrograph unattended, even when you leave for a couple of minutes.

If the wires are exposed or there is other damage to the device, then you should not use it. This may cause a fire.

If a child burns out, watch him carefully while working and always check whether he remembers the rules for handling the tool. Ready-made sets for burning

Wood burning - pyrography

Tips for beginners

When making the first point, blow lightly on the sting, and then the beginning of the line will be smooth and will not stand out.

Try to follow the contours with one line. Drive the tip slowly so as not to scratch the wood. Help yourself by moving the material itself.

Pouring is best done with a sting heated to an average temperature. The movements should be soft, circular. If you heat the pyrograph too much, then deep black furrows will remain on the tree.

Periodically clean the tip from carbon deposits during operation. This can be done with an ordinary metal sponge for washing dishes.

Remember that the scorched line cannot be erased, so try to keep it very carefully.

If you need thick lines, drive the sting slowly. Thin lines are drawn quickly.

The more heated the pyrograph is, the darker the lines will turn out.

To get smooth tone transitions within a single line, use a desktop fan. He will periodically cool the sting, and the color will turn darker, then lighter. Be careful!

What else can you burn on

What else can you burn on

In addition, as on a tree, with the help of a pyrograph, beautiful drawings are also obtained on fabric. This kind of creativity is called guilloche. Usually, acetate silk, satin, nylon, pan-velvet and other synthetic fabrics are taken for this, since they are melted evenly, applied to natural fabric and burned with an electric pyrograph.

In this technique, various panels, collars, napkins, imitation lace borders, covers for diaries and books, decor for scrapbooking are made.