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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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1322 news items

News Item
Fri, 30 Jan 2015 01:00:00 -0800

A wood burning class, also known as pyrography, is designed by instructor Matt Leavens to make students proficient in etching images into wood using heat. "You'll be able to take up the hobby yourself after he shows you what to do with that," said Shaffer.

Falkirk Herald

Falkirk Herald
Tue, 27 Jan 2015 09:37:30 -0800

A big 'thank you' to Bobby Rennie and Galyna Lee for a fantastic demo on glazing techniques and workshop on Pyrography on Monday. The club was buzzing with activity! Artshare is on as usual on Monday, simply turn up on the night, 7.15 p.m. at St ...


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 ...
GMA News
Sun, 11 Jan 2015 23:10:07 -0800

Balitanghali. Obrang ginamitan ng pyrography o sining ng sinunog na kahoy, regalo ng isang preso kay Pope Francis. Date posted: Jan 12, 2015 1:39pm. Reporter: Jamie Santos. Related Stories. First Person: My encounter with Pope Francis · Mini-museum ...

Manning Live

Manning Live
Tue, 06 Jan 2015 23:07:30 -0800

Blackmon specializes in pyrography, “an art form whereby an image is rendered by an artist onto a wood canvas using a continuum of extreme temperature,” he said. “It is taken from the Greek 'written' or 'drawn in fire,'” Blackmon said. Blackmon said ...
GMA News
Mon, 12 Jan 2015 01:26:04 -0800

An inmate at the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) made a portrait of Pope Francis via pyrography, or wood-burning, in time for the pontiff's visit to the Philippines later this week. According to Fr. Anton Pascual, president of Radio Veritas, the portrait was ...
Waterloo Record
Sat, 17 Jan 2015 00:37:30 -0800

The practice goes back to the 17th century, and the light-coloured woods used were chestnut, linden, maple and even holly. In the beginning, most pyrography work was done at home by women, and for this reason it is sometimes thought of as "folk art.


Mon, 19 Jan 2015 09:26:15 -0800

Anne Weisdepp started “Anne's Pyrography”. She got started in wood burning when her parents gave her a starter set as a gift. At first she only did pieces as gifts for family and friends. As her work improved, she started getting requests for ...

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