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Pyrography artwork of the Mona Lisa
1968 Chevrolet Camaro Z/28 Pyrography by BTJPyro.com
The White Horse. Pyrography on Poplar Wood
The Tawny Eagle. Davide Della Noce pyrography

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.

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 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.[2] It was known in China from the time of the Han dynasty, where it was known as "Fire Needle Embroidery".[3] 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)[4] 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.[5] 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 electrical current passing directly through it. Some models have interchangeable nibs to allow for different effects.[6]

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. ^ Boyer, R; The Amazing Art of Pyrography, Evanston 1993, ISBN 978-1-879260-12-2
  3. ^ China Culture - pyrography
  4. ^ Walkabout Crafts - pyrography
  5. ^ Carter, Julie; With Mellow Shades and Character Made: The Richness of Australian Pokerwork in Carter's Antiques and Collectables Magazine, Sept 2000
  6. ^ 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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1414 news items

College Heights Herald

College Heights Herald
Wed, 19 Nov 2014 20:38:04 -0800

From that search he discovered a love of pairing flame with wood in a craft known as pyrography. “I guarantee you, anyone you talk to has never heard that word,” Buhrmester said. Buhrmester diversifies his skill by trying to burn new materials, not ...


Sun, 28 Sep 2014 06:51:39 -0700

“The Art and Craft of Pyrography: Drawing with Fire on Leather, Gourds, Cloth, Paper and Wood” by Lora S. Irish, is a how-to book on the fascinating art of pyrography. Supplies include everything from a single-temperature solid-tip tool, variable ...


Thu, 20 Nov 2014 20:18:45 -0800

ADELAIDE - The buddy system at Charles Campbell College is getting crafty, with the Year 5/6s working with a class of Year 1/2s to design and then construct a set of clay wind chimes and wooden bird houses. A student reported in the newsletter that ...
Arizona Daily Sun
Sun, 09 Nov 2014 04:11:15 -0800

These are the required materials in Connell's art form of pyrography. Her exquisitely detailed pictures burned onto wood represent a new addition, in that category, to the 14th annual “It's Elemental” exhibition at the Coconino Center for the Arts. She ...
New Straits Times Online
Sat, 15 Nov 2014 16:00:00 -0800

Known for his pyrography technique of heating up metal molds to create burnt-on images on jute and canvas, Haafiz is fresh off of his first solo exhibition, RAGE, held in May this year. This printmaker has rather eclectic inspirations, drawing ideas ...

Trade Arabia

Trade Arabia
Sun, 16 Nov 2014 01:19:30 -0800

Dubai WoodShow has become the biggest wood and woodworking machinery trade show in the Middle East region fuelled by the Dh8.82 trillion ($2.4 trillion) construction activity in GCC region, said its organisers. More than 250 exhibitors from 45 ...
Newport News Times
Fri, 07 Nov 2014 14:41:15 -0800

Come and watch wool spinning, weaving, pyrography, Brazilian embroidery, beading and wire wrapping. Community booths offer important information and a chance to assist those in need. Visit with the Yachats Fire Department and learn something new ...

Gulf Times

Gulf Times
Sun, 09 Nov 2014 14:07:30 -0800

To me, art is boundless. I am an artist who likes to work with multiple mediums. I do pyrography which includes wood-burning and leather-burning (art of decorating or drawing images on wood or leather with burn marks using the heat generated from an ...

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