Pyrography is an ancient art form in which people use incandescent metal tips to make carvings in wood to give an artistic touch to their work.
Although the definition of pyrography is relatively recent, the art of carving wood with fire has existed for quite some time and has been refined over the centuries to be used by some well-known artists in the field.
The development and design of special tools for decorative wood carving have been influenced by the evolution of this style. The pyrograph, which is used today by both professionals and amateurs, is a tool that allows intricate engraving and decorations to be made with a red-hot metal tip.
Features of the Pyrograph for wood
As we’ve already mentioned, the pyrograph is a pen-shaped electric tool with a metal tip that, once heated, can be used to create different strokes and shading based on tilt and pressure, just as you would with a pencil.
Since pyrograph marks are permanent and unalterable over time, it is essential to pay close attention while working because mistakes cannot be corrected. This tool can also be used to decorate leather and cork.
Pyrosculpting is an interesting art that can be done with little or no effort. Of course, it requires a talent for freehand drawing.
However, it is not difficult to become familiar with the tool if you already have a good foundation in drawing.
The process of pyrography, if done correctly, can create beautiful, unique and one-of-a-kind decorative objects.
What are the best woods to pyrograph?
Wood can be pyrographed in a wide range of styles but its characteristics will affect both the stroke and the technique you intend to use. Because the heat of the point tends to spread throughout the fibres, marks made with soft woods appear more blurred, while those made with hard woods appear sharper and more precise.
If you’re not sure which wood is best for your project, here are all the wood characteristics:
- Spruce: has both soft and hard parts which makes it ideal for irregular designs.
- Maple: is quite hard and allows for extremely precise work.
- Chestnut: not particularly durable or porous but easy to work with.
- Cherry: easy to work with but often bends.
- Ash: has a very irregular grain and therefore does not allow precision work.
- Mahogany: has a dark shade of colour and for this reason it is a difficult wood to burn.
- Walnut: it is soft and does not curve easily, which makes it excellent for low contrast pyrography.
Before starting work remember to carefully sand the surface on which you will practice the design with very fine sandpaper and, if you are a beginner, practice on plywood first.
Avoid exerting too much pressure on the wood to avoid unwanted burns and incisions too deep.
How the Pyrograph Works
The operation of the pyrograph is quite simple. It is a tool with replaceable metal tips of various diameters and shapes.
When connected to electricity, the metal tip overheats until it becomes incandescent allowing you to carve into the surface of the wood and burn it slightly.
The mark produced with the pyrograph is actually a thin groove that can change in depth and intensity depending on the pressure you apply to the tool, the diameter of the tip and the temperature used.
Whether you’re a beginner or an expert, the market offers a wide selection of wood pyrographs with different features and functions.
How to Choose a Wood Pyrograph
The size of the pyrograph, the most temperature it can reach, the number of tips included in the tool, the possibility to use it to decorate other materials, the ergonomics and ease of use, the quality of the materials are essential features to consider before buying your ideal pyrograph.
There are gas pyrographs available on the market as well as models that can also weld iron; mostly you choose based on your work needs and the results you want to achieve.
The first consideration when buying a pyrograph is the maximum temperature that can be reached. The cheaper versions can reach a temperature of about 200 degrees and are more suitable for small jobs and engravings on soft woods such as cork. For those who are just starting to experiment with pyrography, they are the best option as they allow you to familiarize yourself with both the tool and the technique.
Professional versions are more suitable for experienced users and can reach temperatures of up to 1000 degrees, ideal for different types of materials and especially hardwood.
Of course, the cost of a pyrograph varies with the power and efficiency of the tool.
The size and features of a pyrograph can differ from model to model, in principle amateur versions do not require much space for use.
Obviously, the larger the instrument, the better its performance. Examples are instruments with a larger electrical control unit that allows you to adjust the desired temperature and often has a special holder to change the metal tip after and during use.
Pyrographs with an electric control unit need a larger working surface, but if you don’t have a lot of space, you can choose a more compact and less bulky tool that is more than enough if the goal is to produce small things for personal use.
The shape of the handle is also important. It is a good idea to choose tools with an ergonomic design to facilitate the grip since this type of decoration implies being as precise as possible to avoid errors.
The presence of the control unit also allows you to better manage the temperature of the tool, which avoids excessive heating of the metal tip and handle. In fact, with the low-end versions, it is not uncommon for the handle to get too hot making it difficult to use.
The presence of a burn prevention mechanism and the ability to precisely control the temperature are important features, as a pyrograph with a tip that is too hot is dangerous and detrimental to the outcome of the decorating process.
Regardless of the model, the general guideline is to avoid too long working sessions and to turn off the device at regular intervals to prevent the metal tip from overheating.
The presence of a wide range of tips, made of a light and strong metal alloy such as nichrome steel, especially distinguishes semi-professional pyrography from amateur work.
If the tips are of good quality, well defined images can be produced by varying the thickness of the stroke to achieve different results. Most woodworkers create their designs by starting from the outside in and using increasingly thinner tips. Consequently, having a complete set of tips is essential.
The perfect wood pyrography machine should have the traditional fine tip for sketches and details, a triangular or square section tip for broader strokes, a flat tip to create a blurred look, and a shaped tip to produce the illusion of fine parallel lines.
Professional wood prirograph models also include tips to create a scratched effect and others that allow you to print special designs on the wood, such as stars, diamonds or spirals, acting as a sort of stamp. Some manufacturers also allow you to purchase the tips separately if you want to extend your creativity.
Some pyrographs work with butane gas. This is the common liquid gas used in lighters. The advantage of this type of pyrography is that it does not require the use of electricity, plus they have the advantage of not having any power cords in the way, allowing for total mobility.
The butane gas pyrograph is often used as a tin soldering iron and hot knife, with a small gas tank that is easy to fill and lasts about an hour, allowing you to operate from anywhere.
How to Use the Wood Pyrograph
The heat produced by the metal tip is used to decorate by burning wood. It is not necessary to apply a lot of pressure while working but it is preferable to keep your hand light and follow the natural grain of the wood.
- Carefully sand the board with very fine sandpaper. The smoother the surface, the clearer and more distinct the details of the design will be.
- Follow the grain and pass the sandpaper in one direction only to avoid scratches.
- Wipe the board with a damp cloth to remove any residue and make the design easier to transfer.
- Use a sheet of carbon paper and a 2B pencil to transfer the design to the board. It is essential to keep the carbon paper fixed in place so that you can avoid mistakes in your drawing.
- Start carving the wood from the bottom up avoiding too much limestone. As already mentioned, light strokes allow you to better control the movements of the tip and avoid mistakes.
- Complete the contours of the design.
To create a beautiful design you’ll need tips of different shapes to use in sequence to achieve the desired result.
Best Pyrographs Review
Donau Elektronik ST171
- Made in Germany
- Adjustable temperature: from 450 to 750°C.
- Voltage: 230 V, power: 30 Watt.
- For pyrography, wood engraving, wood crafts, cork, leather or leather crafts
The ST171 from Donau Elektronik is one of the best pyrographs on the market. We are talking about a professional pyrograph that allows you to produce engravings on wood, leather, hides and cork with ease and is suitable for both experts and beginners due to its ease of use.
This professional wood pyrograph is entirely made in Germany and has an adjustable temperature from 450 to 750 degrees.
It is lightweight and durable, with a pen handle and three distinct burning tips.
The device plugs into conventional sockets and delivers up to 30 W of power with a fast heat response. The knob with indicator lights makes it very easy to adjust the temperature.
The precision and accuracy with which it can be engraved make this pyrograph a bestseller. The heated end is quite close to the handle and fine details and chiaroscuros are possible.
The Donau Elektronik ST171 comes complete with all the necessary accessories, such as three replaceable tips; it is the most affordable pyrography machine on the market for obtaining professional engravings at a reasonable price.
- Suitable for both professional and hobby use;
- Made of sturdy, non-overheating materials from Germany;
- Also engraves leather, hide and cork;
- Three adjustable tips are included;
- The tip is quite close to the handle, making it very easy to engrave;
- The temperature can be adjusted via a knob with LED indications;
- The temperature controller is precise and sensitive.
- It is difficult to find replacement tips on the market.
- At first glance, the temperature control may be puzzling.
- Normal use temperature 0-1000 degrees, high temperature and high strength, high impedance alloy tip, temperature of 1000 degrees.
- 20 pieces of 1mm diameter wire, high temperature, 2 pieces high strength, high impedance alloy pens.With the screwdriver, you can install and disassemble the pen head.
- High strength alloy pen tip with high temperature resistance and long life of anti-oxidation, carbon deposit, etc.
- Copper pen head is multipurpose for rendering, painting, inking in lines, satin finishing and calligraphy.
- CD tutorial: one CD, the contents of the traditional pyrography-based tutorial (Italian language not guaranteed).
Versatility is doubled with this pyrograph. In fact, it allows you to install two pens for engraving operations with shadow effects.
The Eleoption is a powerful and professional hand tool that can be used by both artists and professionals. With 50 W of power and a fast heat response, it allows you to work on wood and hard materials without causing damage.
The temperature can be increased to a maximum of 1000 degrees allowing you to carve on any material and create a variety of tones and degrees of intensity. Despite the power, the device includes a thermostat that allows you to adjust the voltage gradually and avoid temperature swings that could negatively impact your work.
There are 20 different tips with fast heat response allowing for fast and precise work. They are easily changed with a small screwdriver and some of them can even be used for small soldering jobs. The nibs are made with anti-oxidation and carbon deposition processes, which ensures their long life.
The nib is made of insulating material and allows you to create a variety of lines, from the smallest to the most distinct.
The product includes a temperature and tension controller, as well as an ergonomic handle for comfort when drawing or writing on material.
The Eleoption is ideal for anyone who wants to make precise, detailed and artistic engravings for work or as a hobby.
- It is easy to use and has a simple and effective design;
- It reaches the maximum temperature of 1000 degrees;
- The tips are made of high quality copper alloy material;
- The temperature can be set gradually;
- Bakelite handle with insulating properties;
- Double pen included for shading.
- It is intended for professionals who are already familiar with this art
- No instructions in Italian language
- This tool kit is designed to provide the excellent results when working with wood or leather, you can adjust the power (maximum 60 W) to get different temperatures to create the dark and light shades
- Ceramic core with upgraded internal heating, rapid heating in 45s, heat resistant sheath nut and insulated silicone lid; more durable and comfortable
- Temperature can be adjusted between 200°C and 450°C, suitable for DIY pyrography and crafts, you can create images, decorate eggcups, keychains, pins, nameplates, etc.
- Anti-oxidation tip, insulated handle, insulating screen, power protection box, easy to use and safe, it is the perfect choice for beginners, professional users and hobbyists.
- 27 kinds of accessories in different head shapes available: 10 kinds of various wooden carving heads and soldering iron heads, 5 kinds of wooden embossing heads, 1 hot knife chuck and 1 blade.The 2 stencils are packed together with the tips.
This pyrograph is suitable for people who are taking their first steps and want to try carving for the first time.
It is fully equipped, which makes it easy to use and costs a reasonable amount of money. It is, in fact, one of the most affordable products from the manufacturer.
We are talking about a wood and leather engraving machine, equipped with 15 tips that produces 60 W of power. The temperature can range from 200 to 450 degrees.
Best wood pyrographs