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The White Horse pyrography on Poplar Wood.

Pyrography or pyrogravure is the art of decorating wood or other materials with burn marks resulting from the controlled application of a heated object such as a poker. It is also known as pokerwork or wood burning.

The term means "writing with fire", from the Greek pur (fire) and graphos (writing).[1] It can be practiced using specialized modern pyrography tools, or using a metal implement heated in a fire, or even sunlight concentrated with a magnifying lens. "Pyrography dates from the 17th century and reached its highest standard in the 19th century. In its crude form it is pokerwork." [2]

A large range of tones and shades can be achieved. Varying the type of tip used, the temperature, or the way the iron is applied to the material all create different effects. After the design is burned in, wooden objects are often coloured. Light-coloured hardwoods such as sycamore, basswood, beech and birch are most commonly used, as their fine grain is not obtrusive. However, other woods, such as maple, pine or oak, are also used. Pyrography is also applied to leather items, using the same hot-iron technique. Leather lends itself to bold designs, and also allows very subtle shading to be achieved. Specialist vegetable-tanned leather must be used for pyrography (as modern tanning methods leave chemicals in the leather which are toxic when burned), typically in light colours for good contrast.

Pyrography is also popular among gourd crafters and artists, where designs are burned onto the exterior of a dried hard-shell gourd, usually with dramatic results[citation needed].


The Tawny Eagle. Davide Della Noce pyrography.

The process has been practiced by a number of cultures including the Egyptians and some African tribes since the dawn of recorded history. Pyrographer Robert Boyer hypothesises that the art form dates back to prehistory, when early humans created designs using the charred remains of their fires.[3] It was known in China from the time of the Han dynasty, where it was known as "Fire Needle Embroidery".[4] During the Victorian era, the invention of pyrography machines sparked a widespread interest in the craft, and it was at this time that the term "pyrography" was coined (previously the name "pokerwork" had been most widely used)[5] In the late 19th century, a Melbourne architect by the name of Alfred Smart discovered that water-based paint could be applied hot to wood by pumping benzoline fumes through a heated hollow platinum pencil.[6] This improved the pokerwork process by allowing the addition of tinting and shading that were previously impossible. In the early 20th century, the development of the electric pyrographic hot wire wood etching machine further automated the pokerwork process, and Art Nouveau pyrographic gloveboxes and other works were popular in that era. Pyrography is a traditional folk art in many parts of Europe, including Romania, Hungary and Flanders, as well as Argentina and other areas in South America.


Traditional pyrography can be performed using any heated metal implement. Modern pyrography machines exist, and can be divided into three main categories.

Solid-point burners[edit]

Solid-point burners are similar in design to a soldering iron. They have a solid brass tip which is heated by an electrical element, and operate at a fixed temperature.

Wire-nib burners[edit]

Wire-nib burners have variable temperature controls. The writing nib is heated by an electric current passing directly through it. Some models have interchangeable nibs to allow for different effects.[7]

Laser cutters[edit]

Laser cutters can be set to scorch the material instead of cutting all the way through it. Many laser cutters provide software facilities to import image files and transfer them onto a sheet of wood. Some laser systems are sufficiently sensitive to perform pyrography on thin card or even paper.



  1. ^ Marianne Podgorski; Before You Pick Up That Nib: Wood Burning 101, p7 ISBN 978-0-557-05114-4
  2. ^ "Pyrography." Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. London: Chambers Harrap, 2012. Credo Reference. Web. 2 Mar 2015.
  3. ^ Boyer, R; The Amazing Art of Pyrography, Evanston 1993, ISBN 978-1-879260-12-2
  4. ^ China Culture - pyrography
  5. ^ Walkabout Crafts - pyrography
  6. ^ Carter, Julie; With Mellow Shades and Character Made: The Richness of Australian Pokerwork in Carter's Antiques and Collectables Magazine, Sept 2000
  7. ^ Walters, S; Pyrography Workbook: A Complete Guide to the Art of Woodburning Fox Chapel 2005 p13-14 ISBN 978-1-56523-258-7

External links[edit]

Original courtesy of Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pyrography — Please support Wikipedia.
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1153 news items

Southwest Virginia Today

Southwest Virginia Today
Fri, 07 Aug 2015 09:18:45 -0700

But, it's the process that has special meaning to Minix, who is a pyrography artist and taxidermist. Minix specializes in European mounting, which displays only the skull of animals, but she has a taxidermy license in case she has to remove flesh from ...

The Daily Tar Heel

The Daily Tar Heel
Mon, 31 Aug 2015 20:59:02 -0700

His art form is called pyrography — using a metallic pen or point to burn a design onto a wood surface. In his Facebook post on the Overheard at UNC group, Clark explained that the encouragement from other students helped motivate him to finish the ...

Sandusky Register

Sandusky Register
Tue, 01 Sep 2015 11:22:30 -0700

Dale is a retired laborer and enjoys ham radio, target practice and raising various breeds of hens. Debbie is a retired bookkeeper and enjoys painting, pyrography and cake decorating. They have adopted several dogs and a cat: Dusty, Lucy, Teo, Cocoa ...

Swindon Advertiser

Swindon Advertiser
Wed, 02 Sep 2015 03:10:56 -0700

Meanwhile Rhiannon Holbrook works in pyrography, creating designs on wood with electric needle. "I buy wooden boxes and picture frames, but also use reclaimed wood as much as possible to create decorative panels, coasters, table mats," she said.

Lifehacker Australia

Lifehacker Australia
Fri, 19 Jun 2015 18:34:34 -0700

The most common way to burn wood is with a pyrography pen (see the photo at the top of this post). These are called solid-point burners and are similar in look and design to a soldering iron. They have a solid brass tip which is heated by an electrical ...

Lynchburg News and Advance

Lynchburg News and Advance
Fri, 28 Aug 2015 21:16:40 -0700

... before guests were swept away in all the thrall of the Capitol itself to participate in activities like arena-style laser tag, face painting inspired by fashions of the capitol, sponsor package dart challenges and pyrography — the art of burning ...

West Hawaii Today

West Hawaii Today
Fri, 28 Aug 2015 05:22:30 -0700

The hollow vessel is made from mango features a design burned into the wood, a process called pyrography. First place for joinery was awarded to Frank Chase for his “Blanket Chest” composed of curly koa with milo trim and handles, and lined inside with ...

Manawatu Standard

Manawatu Standard
Tue, 25 Aug 2015 12:00:14 -0700

Soul is Eternal is Palmerston North-born artist Hansen's exhibition of 12 works of pyrography at Taylor Jensen Fine Arts. Hansen's medium is medium-density fibreboard, which he decorates by burning his designs onto it, and he said his work was not ...

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