Beginners guide to pyrography
Learn all about the wonderful world of pyrography with our beginner's guide! We cover everything from basic techniques to all the tools you'll need to get started.
I’m Sarah Jackman Read and I am a freelance craft designer. I am lucky enough to work with various UK craft companies and magazines, making projects, filming videos, and creating online content. It’s a very varied job which means I get to try out lots of different crafts and techniques. One craft I’ve been really enjoying having a go at recently is pyrography.
Pyrography seems to be having somewhat of a resurgence at the moment. It used to have a reputation for being a bit of an old-fashioned craft but that’s certainly changing. If you look online there are some truly wonderful and ultra-modern designs being created from just one clever little tool. In this article, I will be explaining what exactly pyrography is and where it came from. I will also go through the basic tools and materials you will need to get you started on your pyrography journey. I will then explain how you actually use a pyrography tool in simple, easy-to-follow steps and offer some tips and advice on how to get the most from your pyrography tool and how to prep your chosen materials.
Finally, as I am certain you are really going to want to give pyrography a go, I will show you some of the best beginners kits available online. These will be basic, good-value pyrography kits that will have everything you need to get you starting this unusual, creative and fun craft.
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What is Pyrography?
So, some of you might be asking what exactly is pyrography? The term comes from the Greek words pur and graphos and means “writing with fire” so basically, pyrography is the art of decorating wood or other materials with burn marks from a heated object, usually a heated metal tool, usually pen-like.
It is thought that pyrography has been around since prehistoric times when humans created designs using the remains of their fires. It can be officially dated to the Han Dynasty when it was known as “fire needle embroidery” and it has been practiced by many cultures including the Egyptians and African tribes. Pyrography became very popular in Victorian times when pyrography machines and kits started to become available, aimed at Victorian housewives to beautify their homes. At the turn of the 20th century Melbourne architect, Alfred Smart found a way to pump benzene fumes through a hollow, heated pencil, meaning the tool could remain hot throughout the pyrography process. This revolutionary process allowed artists to create different shading on wood and would eventually lead to the invention of electrified pyrography tools.
So why try pyrography? It is an extremely versatile craft that can be used to create numerous individual and unique decorative objects. You can start with something simple and build up to something very intricate and delicate. Pyrography allows you to personalise objects and once you get confident using the tool the possibilities are endless. Pyrography is so unique and so different from so many crafts and the real beauty of it is you don’t need a huge stash of products to get you started.
What tools do you need for pyrography?
Here are a few basic tools that you will need to try out pyrography.
Eliteotec Wood Burning Pen Set
This 30W Wood Burning Pyrography Pen Set is fitted with a standard UK pin plug and is British CE approved. It has a comfort grip and comes with 5 interchangeable brass tips. The brass tips included are a chisel point, a short point, a hot knife point, a hot knife collet and a solder tip. It also comes with a pen stand.
Geenber Professional Pyrography Pen Set
This pyrography pen is 60w and has an adjustable temperature switch. It has inner-heated ceramic technology which makes it heat up within 15 seconds and can be adjusted from 200 degrees C to 450 degrees C. It’s lightweight and the ergonomic designed handle allows the pen to be used at different angles. It comes complete with 5 different tips, a pen stand and a copper wire cleaning brush.
Meetory Unfinished Blank Wood Squares
These unfinished blank square wood plaques come in three sizes and there are 42 in total. There are 12 pieces measuring 10x10cm, 10 pieces measuring 8x8cm and 20 pieces measuring 5x5cm. They are 2mm in thickness and have smooth rounded corners. They have no varnish on them and are sanded completely smooth so they can be used without having to prepare them.
Ticiosh Natural Wood Slices
These round natural pine wood slices are between 6-7cm and have bark around the edge. The thickness of each piece is approximately 5mm and there are 50 pieces in a pack. There’s a small hole drilled in the top of each one so they are ideal to make into Christmas decorations. They also come with 10 metres of jute twine and 10 metres of baker’s twine.
Pyrography Basics: Techniques and Exercises For Beginners
Beginners guide to pyrography book
This paperback book by Lora S Irish covers all the basics of pyrography including tools, materials, and techniques. It includes step-by-step instructions to get you started plus 6 skill-building projects to help you master essential techniques. There are patterns to use and tips on how to master shading, writing, and detailing. You will also learn how to use a practice board to help build confidence and there’s plenty of tips and advice on creating texture and layering.
Assorted Sandpaper Sheets
This pack of sandpaper sheets is ideal for prepping any wood before you start decorating it. There are 1 coarse grit, 2 medium grit and 1 fine grit sheet for effective material removal, smoothing, and polishing. Each sheet measures approximately 32 x 25cm.
How to do pyrography
There are numerous techniques used and unlimited designs that can be achieved with a pyrography pen. In the following steps, I will go completely back to basics and show you how to set up your tool and how to create a simple design using just the thin tip of the pen. Let’s get started!
Use the instructions provided with your pyrography pen to place and secure the thin tip in the end. Place the stand on a flat surface, place the pen in it then plugin and switch on. Never try and change nibs when the pen is hot.
While the pen is heating up, check the wood shape you wish to use and smooth off any small lumps and bumps with a piece of sandpaper. Remove any dust from the surface.
Lay your wood shape on a flat surface then lightly draw a simple design in pencil on the front.
Hold the pen in one hand then hold the wooden shape in place with the other. Place the end of the pen at the start of one line then steadily and slowly move along the line to burn into the wood. To avoid a lumpy line, don’t push too hard and keep the pen moving. Make sure the area you are working in is well ventilated.
Hold the pen upright and burn in small dots by pressing just the very end of the pen in the wood for a couple of seconds. Always use natural wood for pyrography as MDF can release chemicals when burnt.
Burn in some small, delicate lines into the wooden shape to finish the design. The pen may feel a little harder to push along the wood when it goes against the grain of the wood but it will get easier with practice.
Once the design is complete, place the pen back in the stand, switch it off and leave it to cool down completely before touching the tip.
Five of the Best Pyrography Kits
If you wish to explore pyrography further there are lots of comprehensive kits available online. All these kits have plenty of extra nibs and materials to take your pyrography skills to another level and allow you to create unique designs for many years to come.
1. Aozoy Pyrography Pen Kit
This amazing pyrography kit is real value for money. It contains 113 pieces in total, including a temperature adjustable 60W pyrography pen. There are over fifty different tips, including various shapes. It includes twelve stencils, protective gloves, a pen stand and a selection of wood shapes. It also contains a set of coloured pencils for you to add a touch of colour to your makes. Plus it comes in a useful box to keep your tips in and a handy storage bag to keep everything safe.
2. Enjohos Pyrography Wood Burning Kit
This kit is quite similar to the first kit but contains a pyrography pen with a digital display so you know what temperature the pen is working at. There are 33 different tips including some cute shapes. There are fourteen stencils and copy paper sheets included as well. The kit also has coloured pencils, a stand, and a tip cleaning cloth. Should you wish to solder anything, there’s even a tube of solder wire included, plus a storage bag.
3. Achort Wood Burning Kit
This kit is still comprehensive but doesn’t contain some of the extra accessories. There’s a temperature adjustable pyrography pen in this kit and some really gorgeous Christmas stencils should you wish to create some festive designs. There are plenty of tips, including some shapes, plus a stand and storage bag.
4. 30V 240W Wood Burning Pen Kit
Should you wish to support a small UK business rather than a large company then this sweet pyrography starter kit is ideal. It would make an ideal present too. The has a 30W pyrography pen with a stand, 11 drawing tips plus nine tips to create patterns. Everything fits neatly in the included storage box.
5. Large Pyrography Selection of Craft Blanks
You can’t have a go at pyrography without some wood to decorate! This vast selection of wood shapes is made from a mixture of sycamore and birch. The sycamore has been obtained from sustainable forests and is first air-dried then kiln dried to achieve a light coloured wood with a very close grain, perfect for pyrography. The birch is also from sustainable resources and each piece has been hand-made and finely sanded all over.
We hope you've enjoyed our beginner's guide to pyrography. If you're looking for your next project head over to our free craft patterns. We have everything from the best craft subscription boxes to the top paint by number kits here on Gathered.
Sarah is a freelance craft designer specialising in paper craft, quilling and sewing. She regularly creates a variety of projects for several uk craft companies and magazines. She also designs and makes her own resin jewellery: https://kraftikeepsakes.co.uk/