Wood-Burning Techniques

The craft of wood burning, also called pyrography, allows you to enhance carvings on wooden surfaces with a tool that applies burning strokes on the wood. Wood burning requires thorough knowledge of the temperature you'll use, patterns of different textures, layering and proper speed for making the stroke. Many expert craftsmen have created a variety of woodburning techniques, which give a realistic depth to the finished carved piece.

Choose the Right Wood

Choose the correct type of wood before starting on the project, as the wood has a role to play in obtaining the different shades and colors you desire. Many craftsmen prefer basswood for its creamy and pale natural color, which provides a good background for different shades and tones. Other popular choices include sugar pine and butternut. Beginners often prefer white pine, one of the cheapest pieces of wood to purchase, which has a soft surface that burns easily.

Burn your wood on a smooth surface; a rough patch or uneven surface could move the tip of the tool away from the desired line. If your surface has any rough patches or chisel marks, smooth them out with sandpaper before attempting to burn the surface. This will help you maintain a steady hand while burning the wood.

Use the Right Burning Tool

You'll find many different varieties of wood-burning tools. Look for a tool that feels comfortable in your hand and has a thermostat setting to control the temperature level; differences in temperature create a striking variety of shades. If you find yourself involved in wood-burning projects on a regular basis, you may wish to keep an assortment of burning tools and accessories to prepare yourself for any project.

Care and Cleaning

Because the burning tip of the tool can become extremely hot, you will need some insulating material like a glazed tile to rest the tool on when not you're not using it. As the tool burns into the wood repeatedly, the tip will start building a residue of carbon. This buildup will eventually alter the carving edge or point of the tool, and your strokes will not have the desired effect. You can clean this residue by moving the tip quickly across a piece of sandpaper.

Burning Techniques

The tip of the wood-burning tool has three areas you can use to make different burn patterns on the surface of the wood: the blade, the point and the side. You'll generally use the blade to make lines of different thickness and depth, the point for dotting and intricate patterns, and the side for shading and for creating different tones on the wood.

Remember that the correct speed of your stroke—and not the pressure—creates a fine work of art. Your stroke speed will determine the depth of your lines and shadow effects. If you want to create fine lines, use quick strokes. The more time you take in your stroke, the more the tool will burn the wood, giving you darker and deeper lines.