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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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45 news items

Sat, 13 Sep 2014 14:11:15 -0700

Steven Wilson is a Westphalia, MO artist who works in many mediums which include: ceramic stucco, resin sand, oil, acrylic, pyrography, wire lath, and plaster of paris. He is an experimental artist who delves into Minimalism, Expressionism, and Fauvism.
Falkirk Herald
Sun, 14 Sep 2014 08:00:00 -0700

His wife's step father Ralph Pearson created a one off Star Wars guitar depicting the Millenium Falcon, the Death Star, Yoda and Darth Vader using a wood burning technique called pyrography. Adam, from Grangemouth, said he was blown away with the gift ...
The Morning Sun
Sat, 06 Sep 2014 11:42:26 -0700

Hawkes, who said the art center used to be in downtown Alma but moved to a building on Woodworth that is under renovation to become the permanent home for arts in the city, specializes in pyrography, the art of decorating wood by burning a design in ...
The Sylva Herald
Fri, 05 Sep 2014 07:03:45 -0700

... and her husband, Ron Smith, will perform with a guitar and banjo; Ramona Eddy will showcase woodcarving and pyrography (woodburning); Diane Nutty will be crocheting knitted animals for children; Junetta Pell will do chair-caning and basket-weaving; ...
San Jose Mercury News
Tue, 02 Sep 2014 13:37:30 -0700

There will be live demonstrations on carving, pyrography (wood burning), wood turning, painting whittling and more. Children (and adults, too) are welcome to try their hand at carving at the soap carving station. Many of the carvers will be on hand to ...
Waterloo Cedar Falls Courier
Mon, 18 Aug 2014 09:52:30 -0700

CEDAR FALLS | The Hearst Center for the Arts, 304 W. Seerley Blvd., will host a closing reception for the exhibition, “First Fifty 2014: Works by Cedar Valley Artists,” from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Thursday. Live music will be provided by local indie band Peas ...
Inverurie Herald
Mon, 08 Sep 2014 04:37:30 -0700

Pyrography demonstrations will be held by Val Hudson, arts and crafts for sale include fashion jewellery by Maureen Singer, wood turning by John Gordon, knitting by Janet Cowie and paintings by Sheila Noble and Enid Smith. Sandy Cowie will be present ...

The Guardian

The Guardian
Fri, 22 Aug 2014 04:39:35 -0700

The 10th National Forest Wood Fair takes place at Beacon Hill, Leicestershire, on Monday. Activities include tree-climbing and pyrography, forestry demonstrations on lumberjacking and horse logging, and top “bodgers” competing in the wood-carving ...

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