What Is Pyrography?

Pyrography is essentially burning designs into certain materials like wood, using some kind of heated instrument. In other words, you are creating decorative burn marks. Today, this is done mostly by using specialized burning or pyrography tools. However, there are other methods some people still use.

The simplest method is a metal implement that is heated in the fire or concentrating the sun using a magnifying glass. Some other methods of creating the same effect can also include the following.

  • Chemicals to burn the wood
  • Gunpowder
  • High voltage electricity
  • Torches

Some like to explore the various avenues available, but for beginners, we think a simple pyrography set would be best. Pyrography is more of a general term and there are some differences between pyrography art and wood burning art. The art of wood-burning is merely one form of pyrography and is only done on specific types of wood, however, there are a few other surfaces you can use.

  • Leather
  • Cork
  • Gourds
  • Paper
  • Bone
  • Cotton fabric
  • Ivory
  • Clay

Lighter color leathers are also better options as the contrast created from burning into the leather is better.

Types of Pyrography Equipment

Besides using a simple heated implement, today there are specialized pyrography tools you can use to work with. You can either get a simple pyrography pen or an entire wood burning set that is all you need to begin pyrography art. Some of the basic options include the following.

Solid Wood Burning Tips

These can also be known as solid tips and are almost the same as your soldering iron and are made from a solid brass nib. This can then be heated; however, you can only get one heat setting. These heat up slower but tend to hold their heat well and are not as finicky as some other options. They also take longer to cool down, which might be a problem for those who want to work faster.

They are perfect for beginners who want to learn a few basic techniques but are not the best option for applying finer details.

Wire-Nib Pyrography Tools

Wire nibs are quite popular, as they do have a variable heat setting so you can change the temperature. The wire-nib is heated by an electric current, which you can then use as a wood burner tool. Many of the options available also provide different types of nibs, which create various effects. This option is more for the advanced user who wished to apply finer details. These types of pyrography tools also heat up and cool down faster and are also lighter in weight.

Laser Cutter Machines

This is a more expensive method and uses lasers to burn the material and will not go all the way through. This is a more modern way of doing things as you can import pictures and set the machine to do the work for you. So, there is no real skill needed when using a laser cutter.

However, if you are running a business and want to produce lots of products, this is the way to go.

The History of Pyrography

Where did pyrography begin? Well, it can be traced back to ancient times in places like Egypt and certain places in Africa, where designs were created by using the charred remains of fires or burning sticks. Even in China as far back as the Han Dynasty, the process was used and known as “Fire Needle Embroidery.” Later, in the Victorian are it became known as “pokerwork”, which was then later renamed as pyrography.

During this time, various sizes, or shapes of metal “poker sticks” were placed in charcoal stoves. The metal was then heated and used for wood-burning. This method was difficult to control as you needed to let it cool a little before using it. In many European countries like Poland and Romania as well as countries like Argentina, pyrography has been a traditional folk art.

During the early 20th century, an Architect from Melbourne created the first “pyrography pen” that used benzoline flames, which then applied hot paint to the wood surface. This meant that various tints and shades could be used on an art piece. A little later, the creation of burners similar to soldering irons was developed.

Then, electricity was introduced, and the wood burner tools being produced started to have built-in heat controls.

Today, the wire nib wood burning tool is the most common burner used, which can control the heat produced and often comes with different types of nibs for various effects. The modern wood-burning pen has made it so much easier and more fun to create some incredible forms of detailed art. Some well-known pyrography artworks and artists include:

  • Brunhilde Asleep (1902) by Margaret Fernie Eaton
  • Turkish Bath (1997) by Selahattin Ölçeroğlu
  • Madonnas of the Rose (1998) by Robert McGehee
  • Last Supper, central detail (1999) by Dumitru “Dino” Muradian

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