11 Jan 2017

An Introduction to Pyrography

If you're wondering how to get started with pyrography - or what the hell pyrography is - this post is for you! 

Pyrography is the technical term for wood burning as an art form; meaning quite literally 'fire writing'. If you're new to this craft, it can be quite daunting as there are lots of different machines ranging from £20 to £200. When I first started, I was surprised how hard it was to find information!


If you just want to dip your toe in the water, I recommend the Kirstie Allsopp Pyrography Kit (which can be purchased from Hobbycraft) as a cheap starter machine. The kit is only £25 and comes with lots of wood blanks to practise on, and various writing and decorative tips (although you don't really use most of them!)

However, the element that heats up is quite long - as you can see from the image below, the rubber grip is quite high up making it quite clunky to use. This makes it difficult for fine detail and writing - and it takes a bit of practise! 

These cheap starter machines also don't have variable heat and need to keep being turned off to allow to cool down.

It's also important to know what you can and can't burn - when buying blanks or boxes, make sure they're not made from MDF - they need to be real wood. Most of my work is on plywood but different woods create different effects/colours. The cheapest place for wooden items to burn is definitely The Works; their wooden boxes are less than half the price of Hobbycraft.


Once you've caught the pyrography bug, you might want to think about upgrading to a wire point machine. These are the machines that all the professionals use (and myself - not sure I'd class myself as a pro yet!). The most highly recommended wire point machine is the Peter Child Pyrography Machine. With cheap machines like the Kirstie Allsopp kit, the way you have to hold the writer makes it awkward for fine detail and writing. However, with wire point machines, it's just like holding a normal pen! 


The tips for wire point machines are quite literally just pieces of wire - meaning you can make your own tips and just change them over with a mini screwdriver! The Peter Child machine comes with a few ready-made tips to get you started (as well as wire to make your own). The two main tips I use are a standard loop tip (for drawing/writing) and a spoon point for shading.

The great thing about wire point machines is because you're using wire, you can achieve really fine detail and accuracy. The cheaper machines use metal tips that you screw in, meaning it's almost impossible to draw fine lines. You can also vary the heat on wire point machines (which is great as every wood type burns differently). For plywood, I typically work between 3 and 4 on the temperature dial...but every machine is different so it's all trial and error!


I would always recommend drawing your design on to the wood with pencil first to give yourself a guide when burning. For larger projects I trace my design on to tracing paper, repeat on the reverse of the tracing paper and then transfer the design by rubbing/scribbling over your design again with your pencil. 

You can also use clear or rubber stamps to stamp a design on to the wood and then burn over - you will need to make sure you cover all of the ink with your burning though as you can't rub it out like you can with pencil!

If you have any more queries about how to get started in pyrography, just leave me a comment below or email me - otherwise, watch out for future blog posts on some of my pyrography projects!


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