Sunday, February 14, 2010

Pyrography - an interesting form of art

I would like to share a guest written blog by, Meagen. She has a blog at:

The best way to begin talking about what exactly pyrography is would be to define it. According to pyrography is the process of burning designs on wood, leather, etc., with a heated tool. Its more common name is simply wood burning, but I think pyrography sounds flashier, which is probably why the word was invented in the first place. I first learned about pyrography when I kid and it had always been a “forbidden” creative outlet since my parents really didn’t want me burning myself on the tool! Now that I’m older (but certainly not more mature) I decided to take up this art form as a new hobby and in the process I learned a bit about the history of it as well.

Pyrography itself has been around for a while. In Lima, Peru’s Museum of Archaeology, Anthropology and History, there is a cup from the Nazca culture that dates back to pre-700 AD. While this is the earliest piece found, there has been some speculation that cave men would use their own form of pyrography on cave walls. Unfortunately charcoal does not withstand the weather and passing of time overly well so this has remained only a speculation without tangible proof. Pyrography does not show up again in recorded history until about 1910 where the art was referred to as “pokerwork” or “fire etching” and often was used to decorate picture frames, spines of books or pieces of furniture. From my understanding of it the name “pokerwork” was used for pyrography as people would the poker from their fireplace to etch designs on different objects.

So now that you have a brief history and definition of pyrography I bet you’re keen on learning more about how it’s done and where to get all the supplies. I think the best way to do this is a quick “how to” guide.

The two main things you need in order to do pyrography are wood and the heated tool. Now the wood is easy enough to come by you can either go chop up your own tree, or if you’re a city slicker (like myself) you can go to your nearest craft store and purchase it. The wood itself comes in any shape and size you can think of so you should have plenty to choose from. For the purposes of this project I’m choosing to burn the lid of a wooden box.

(side view of box)
(top view of box)

Now comes the more complicated decision, which type of tool to purchase. There are in fact two types of tools to choose from, and there are pros and cons for both.
Tool A

Tool B

Tool A you as you can see is a far more simple design and as such is far cheaper than Tool B. You can usually find Tool A for around $30 including 4 or more interchangeable tips whereas Tool B I recently purchased for $150 and only includes one tip. As for purchasing these tools I suggest going to your local craft store or purchase them online. If you do purchase the cheaper tool, be aware there is no temperature gauge so it heats up to its maximum temperature (which varies by device) and stays there, and it also takes longer for the tip to heat up. Tool A takes approximately 1 minute to heat whereas Tool B heats in about 8 seconds. Each tool burns a little different as well. The piece in the how to guide is an example of how Tool B, and below is a couple examples of how Tool A burns.
Whichever tool you choose just remember to stay within your means.

i. (the “gone fishing” piece)
ii. (Lo Shu Turtle Box)
iii. (Celtic cross and doves)
As you can see in these examples Tool A usually causes your piece to come out dark which can be good depending on the design you are creating.

So now you have your new toy, your piece of wood and the design or image you plan on burning into the wood. The design can be as simple or as complicated as you want. If it is your first time playing around with pyrography I suggest purchasing a couple cheap scrap pieces to practice on before you begin your actual piece, just so you can get the feel and limitations of the process itself.

I find the process of creating a piece of artwork from wood to be an all encompassing Zen like experience. In a stressful world where we are always running around and moving too fast, taking the time to sit and only think about the task at hand is a rewarding and rejuvenating experience in itself. Hopefully this article helped shed a little light on the subject of pyrography and maybe it even convinced you to give it a try, who knows you may even like it.

“Principles for the Development of a Complete Mind: Study the science of art. Study the art of science. Develop your senses - especially learn how to see. Realise that everything connects to everything else. “
-Leonardo DaVinci

For more tips and advice from Meagen on Pyrography, visit her blog at, or shoot her an email at


SarahMay said...

I've tried doing Pyrography a couple of times with my mom's cheap heat tool she owns. I really enjoyed it too. Although I haven't done anything as cool or as detailed as your Buffalo, Meagan! Looks like that must've taken quite some time.

This post makes me want to try & see if I can improve my Pyrography skills. :)

Megs said...

Thank you! :)

You should try again its really easy to do and its so easy to improve!

As for how long this piece took it was only about 1-2 hours with random breaks to take some photos inbetween lol

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