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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 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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1234 news items

Lifehacker Australia

Lifehacker Australia
Fri, 19 Jun 2015 18:30:00 -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 ...

Undead Walking

Undead Walking
Sun, 28 Jun 2015 10:15:00 -0700

Wendy is from the Netherlands and she does an art called pyrography. She doesn't use pencil, or pen or a paint brush. She uses a special tool with tips that burn the wood to create different shading and effects. This process is quite time consuming and ...

Iowa State Daily

Iowa State Daily
Fri, 26 Jun 2015 09:31:38 -0700

Lokenvitz will perform pyrography techniques from 1 to 2 p.m. June 28. Carrie Hoffnagle and Chris Vance, ISU College of Design alumni, are included in the professional artists at the festival this year. Hoffnagle is a jewelry designer with a degree in ...

Undead Walking

Undead Walking
Fri, 26 Jun 2015 09:07:30 -0700

11059748_1641311869434289_6649220368179457213_n-1-1 The Walking Dead has inspired creativity and art of all kinds. Woodburning, also called pyrography, is an interesting art that is new to me. I've recently found two woodburning artists on Twitter ...

Ames Tribune

Ames Tribune
Sat, 20 Jun 2015 07:03:45 -0700

Lokenvitz creates her work based on “material with characteristics.” She typically looks for old barn wood or knotted wood to create her furniture. But during the festival, Lokenvitz will also demonstrate her work with pyrography, or woodburning, and ...

Peninsula Pulse

Peninsula Pulse
Thu, 18 Jun 2015 23:11:15 -0700

Midsummer's Music Festival will celebrate 25 years of bringing classical chamber music to Door County's residents and visitors by merging two of the area's most beloved segments, art and music, into its Great Musical Chairs project, debuting June 24 in ...

North Coast Journal

North Coast Journal
Thu, 04 Jun 2015 01:06:06 -0700

Linda Parkinson makes wonderful watercolors of wildlife, and I'm working with pyrography." She started using the technique, drawing on wood with a heated stylus, after a visit to Steven Vander Meer's studio three years ago. "I saw a hand-turned bowl ...

Redskins.com (blog)

Redskins.com (blog)
Wed, 03 Jun 2015 08:45:00 -0700

In what is known as pyrography, Diaz likely used a wood-burning pen, a hand-held device with metal tips that heat up, giving him outlines to paint the design and finish with a perfect rendering of the logo. After a long day's work, I'm sure he was ...

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