The Art of Woodburning – How to Get Started in Pyrography
Photo Courtesy of Laura Airey Le via Deviant Art
It’s an art form that has been around since man first inscribed drawings on cave walls. Now, it is an extremely popular hobby that people all over the world enjoy. Pyrography, otherwise known as woodburning, is the art of using a heating instrument to burn pictures into wood. While it has been around for centuries, it became popular in the 19th century and with improved tools…the hobby took off again in the 20th century.
This article will look at a brief history and also look at some basics to get you started.
Photo Courtesy of Historical Honey
Pyrography is derived from the Greek words pur (meaning fire) and graphos (meaning writing.) Woodburning has been around since man first drew on caves. It’s believed our ancient ancestors used fire sticks to write or draw pictures on walls. Early Egyptian, African and Chinese tribes practiced this as well. Woodburning was also practiced in parts of Eastern Europe and South America.
The hobby gained widespread interest in the 19th century with many in Europe not only burning their artwork onto wood, but painting them as well. In the 20th century, soldering pens were created, which made it easier for people of all ages to engage in the hobby. Today, while many use other materials for their art, most people continue to use a heating pen to burn pictures onto wood.
You will need several basic tools to get started. This includes: a woodburning pen, artwork pattern, sandpaper, carbon paper, tape and a wet paper towel.
Some Quick Tips
The first thing you need to have to get started is a woodburning pen. This allows you to create shapes and burn wood to a specific shade in order to get the right kind of detail that you’re looking for. It’s important to get familiar with your woodburning tool. Easiest way to test your pen is to find some scrap wood, let it heat up for about five minutes and begin drawing on the wood like you would when using a pencil.
Photo Courtesy of Jason Ashimoto
It’s a good way to get to know your pen’s capabilities while enjoying the hobby. Be careful, though. Don’t touch the tips with your bare hands. When you need to change the tip, let it cool first. Or use pliers to pull the tips off. As the wood burns, residue will build up on your pen. Use your wet paper towel to wipe off the residue to keep your pen clean. Also, keep in mind that if you’re getting smoke…the pen is too hot. Turn down the heat for a smoother, smokeless burn.
Choosing and Drawing a Design
The best thing about woodburning is you can choose any image or any design you want. Simply take your idea and put to wood. Maybe you’re a sci-fi fan, or fantasy fan or just want a cool design for your living room. For beginners, it’s probably a good idea to start with an easier design until you get the basics down.
Photos Courtesy of Walnut Hollow Crafts
You can use any wood you want, but keep in mind the harder the wood…the hotter your pen needs to be to burn your image. Before you start, make sure you sand your wood piece really well to make it as smooth as possible. After you smooth it down, print your design (or draw if you have a steady hand) to your carbon paper. Then, use a fine pen to trace the pattern onto the wood. The ink will seep through the carbon paper and end up on the wood.
After that, you simply take your woodburning pen and draw over the design.
Photo Courtesy of EMU
Keep in mind you will make mistakes, but don’t worry. This will take some time to get good at and once you’re comfortable…the only thing stopping you is your imagination! We’ll put a couple of other woodburning tutorials at the bottom of the page. Until then, happy woodburning from everyone here at Toolbarn!
Toolbarn sells woodpens and soldering items here.
Art of Manliness has a great pyrography tutorial here.
Another woodburning tutorial here.
Pyrography Online has a basics tutorial here.