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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 two 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]


  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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49 news items

Los Alamos Daily Post

Los Alamos Daily Post
Sat, 19 Apr 2014 08:56:15 -0700

Preferring to work with dry media, her favorites are charcoal, graphite, pyrography and scratchboard. Scratchboard is a subtractive medium, similar to carving, where material is removed to create the art. Abrasive tools are used to scratch away the ink ...
Alberni Valley News
Thu, 17 Apr 2014 13:03:45 -0700

And he knows he enjoys taking something that already exists, refinishing it and transforming it with pyrography. Lloyd's exhibit, Past, Present and Future, The Various Works of Shayne Lloyd, is at the Rollin Art Centre gallery. Lloyd will host a ...
The Saratogian
Sat, 29 Mar 2014 13:09:43 -0700

Debra White of Greenfield Center took up pyrography — woodburning — as a retirement hobby to fulfill a childhood ambition. “It's like connecting the dots or using a coloring book,” White said. “I don't sell anything. I just do it for fun. It's ...

Sleaford Today

Sleaford Today
Sun, 13 Apr 2014 00:30:00 -0700

On Saturday (April 12), there will be a chance to meet current exhibitor Elaine Thompson who will be running free drop-in pyrography sessions. Not only will visitors be able to see how she creates her artwork, they will be able to try their hand at ...
Manning River Times
Thu, 10 Apr 2014 16:07:55 -0700

The Woodfest and Craft Exhibition is a chance to discover locally made wooden items including bowls, boxes, coffee tables, chairs, lamps, stools, platters, intarsia, scrollwork, pyrography as well as other crafts. The workshop will be open and members ...
Bowling Green Daily News
Wed, 09 Apr 2014 09:18:40 -0700

I built it up to where it is now,” he said Tuesday as he stood next to a display of his wood-burning work – also known as pyrography – at Gallery 916. Now “one of my favorites is working with gourds. I like working with gourds because they're so unique.”.

The Express Tribune

The Express Tribune
Thu, 10 Apr 2014 13:48:45 -0700

Afridi uses a soldering rod to make burn marks on plywood and, in his statement, writes that the pyrography technique is a way for him to channel his emotions and aggression. Published in The Express Tribune, April 11th, 2014. Tweet · Share this ...
Charleston Gazette
Tue, 01 Apr 2014 21:10:13 -0700

So far, she said, the returned art chairs have been painted and airbrushed but she expects to see stencil, decoupage — which appears to be a painted design but is actually paper glued in place — and pyrography, also known as woodburning, as well.

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