Top 10 Wood Burning Tips & Tricks


Wood burning art hacks that will make your pyrography sessions easier

If you’ve ever wanted to learn how to wood burn or are a seasoned pyrographer, below are 10 essential wood burning tips for any level to keep bookmarked.

Pyrography is the art of creating simple line designs, highly detailed renderings, and finely shaded and shadowed drawings using a hot-tipped pen. As the electrically heated pen is pulled across the surface of the chosen medium, the tip literally burns the medium to create varying tonal value lines. The most common and familiar medium used in pyrography is wood, which is where the oft-used term “woodburning” comes from, although pyrography is done on many other media as well, such as paper, leather, and gourds. The pattern of lines and shading strokes that you use in your pyrography work determines the art style of the finished piece. Any pattern can be worked in any art style or in a combination of styles. (Lora Irish, Landscape Pyrography Techniques & Projects)

Woodcarving Illustrated Magazine

Pyrography Magazine

Each issue of Pyrography Magazine includes feature articles of inspirational artists stretching the art of woodburning limits, comprehensive step-by-step wood burning techniques and tutorials for experienced pyrographers, and reviews of the newest and most useful wood burning tools.

Wood Carving a Fish - Step 01

1. Keep your tips clean.


Over time carbon builds up on the wood burning tool tips (or nibs), interfering with your burn. Use a sharpening strop or fine-grit sandpaper attached to a flat board to remove the carbon and polish the tip. (Source: Lora S. Irish, Pyrography 2018)

Wood Carving a Fish - Step 02

2. Remove your pattern easily.


Sometimes graphite paper can be hard to remove. Try charcoal paper, such as Mona Lisa Charcopaper, to transfer your wood burning pattern onto the blank. It doesn’t smear and can be removed with a damp cloth or cotton swab. (Source: Deb Shell, Custer, Wis., Pyrography 2018)

Wood Carving a Fish - Step 03

3. Fix your Mistakes.


We all make them. Instead of trying to sand out the mistake, which can leave a smudged area (Photo A), use a razor blade or hobby knife to totally scratch away the mistake. (Source: Sue Walter, Pyrography 2012)

Wood Carving a Fish - Step 04

4. Prep before you burn.


We know you’re excited to get started, but a bit of prep work before you fire up the burner will go a long way. Sand the wood with progressively finer grits of sandpaper up to 400-grit. Tape the top of the pattern securely to the blank, slip graphite paper under the pattern, and use a colored pen to trace the pattern onto the blank. (Source: Sue Walters, Pyrography 2018)

Wood Carving a Fish - Step 03

5. Protect your lungs.


It sounds like common sense to be cautious when you’re using a heated wood burning tool, but it’s easy to get so absorbed in your work that you forget you’re holding a dangerous object. Burning wood creates smoke. Set up a small desk fan blowing away from you to draw smoke away from you. (Sue Walters, Pyrography 2014)

Wood Carving a Fish - Step 04

6. Burn Paper.


Don’t try this with copy paper, but you can create a beautiful sepia-toned image using rag paper or heavyweight watercolor paper. (Source: Sue Walters, Pyrography 2012).

Wood Carving a Fish - Step 03

7. Repair a hole if you burned through paper.


If you’re used to burning on wood, it’s easy to burn through paper if you’re not careful. All’s not lost though—you can repair a small hole with this simple procedure. (Source: Michele Parsons, Pyrography 2018)

  1. Tape a small piece of paper over the hole from the back.
  2. Touch up your design on the front of the patch.
  3. Add a drop of clear-drying glue to the front and spread it with a toothpick; remove the excess glue with a razor blade. Allow the glue to dry thoroughly.
  4. Flip the paper over and carefully remove the tape. Hold the paper patch firmly with the razor blade and tear off the excess as close to the repaired hole as possible.
Wood Carving a Fish - Step 04

8. Burn on Leather.


Don’t try this with your leather jacket! Most soft leather is chromium tanned and will release toxic chemicals if you burn it. Stick with vegetable-tanned leather, which usually feels stiffer, to keep your lungs safe. (Source: Sue Walters, Pyrography 2012)

Wood Carving a Fish - Step 03

9. Shield your burns from fading.


Don’t let the sun fade your artwork. Keep your woodburned pieces out of direct sunlight, and apply a UV blocking finish, like spar varnish, to keep the sun from bleaching your burning (and the wood itself). (Source: Lora Irish, Pyrography 2018)

Wood Carving a Fish - Step 04

10. Keep away the dreaded blobs.


When you’re starting out, it’s hard to get consistent lines. If you hesitate at all, you’re going to get a blob. It takes practice to keep your pen moving, but it will be worth it in the end. (Source: Sue Walters, Pyrography 2012).

New Pyrography Books

Carving Award-Winning Songbirds

Little Book of Pyrography, Gift Edition

Little Book of Pyrography makes it easy to learn the creative craft of woodburning! Perfect stocking stuffer or traveling on the go, this portable little hardcover book is a great reference for beginner pyrographers or those that want wood burning practice. Lora walks you through 7 skill-building exercises to help you master essential wood burning techniques such as tip temperature, burn time, textures, layers of strokes, composition, and more.

Woodcarver's Workbook

Landscape Pyrography Techniques & Projects

Nationally recognized artist and pyrographer Lora S. Irish reveals her easy-to-learn methods for working in layers to obtain stunning results. You’ll learn how to use contrasting tonal values to create dramatic depth in any landscape, scenery, or wildlife wood burning. Inside Landscape Pyrography Techniques & Projects, Lora introduces you to many different aspects of burning, and guides you through small practice patterns so you can discover and apply all the techniques. Learn about pen tips, temperature settings, fill patterns, and everything else you need to burn interesting, textured, lifelike landscapes.

About the Author

Robert Triplett has been carving for most of his life. He retired from the U.S. Army after twenty-five years of service and later worked as a safety engineer at electrical power plants. Born and raised in Bedford County, Pa., Robert lives in Hummelstown, Pa.