Photo Credit: Timberlee Art & Design
For the artists who take their pyrography craft seriously, the best wood burning tool on the market is the Razertip Dual Burner for its versatility and capabilities in creating detailed pieces. If you are just entering the world of pyrography, a great wood burning tool for beginners is the Walnut Hollow Versa Tool as it is affordable, offers a variable temperature control, and an array of accessories to get you started.
If you are looking to get into the art of wood or leather burning, than you probably realized you need a pyrography pen or what most people refer to as a wood burning tool. The term Pyrography literally means “writing with fire”, and it comes from the Greek words “pur” (fire) and “graphos” (writing). This art form can be used on paper, gourds, canvas, and leather. It’s most common use, though, is on wood, which is why it is also often called “wood-burning”. I first learned wood-burning but have since ventured onto leather which has been a lot of fun!
This fun and gratifying art form originated centuries ago using metal pokers, but we can now use an assortment of wood burning tools designed that will cater to their specific needs. Most pyrography tools today have a pen-like shape and are very similar to soldering irons used in stained glass work or circuit building. They feature a handle in the shape of a cylinder, a heating element of metal, and a tip that draws upon the material’s surface. Some units are equipped with a transformer which monitors the temperature, and maintains the appropriate setting on the pyrography tool in order to make impressions.
There are a lot of factors to consider when determining which pyrography tool is best for your needs. It will depend on many factors including your budget, intended use, etc. That is why I put together the following guide to get you started!
How To Choose: A Guide to Pyrography Tools and Wood Burning Pens
The two most common types of wood burner tools are solid tip burners or craft style wood burners, and variable temperature wood burners. Craft style wood burner tools are ideal for individuals who will be completing projects that do not require much detail or precision. They are perfect for creating large dark areas on materials, and are exceptionally useful for making signs.
On the other hand, variable temperature burners with dual wire elements are designed for users who require more detail in their work. These wood burner tools are perfect for artists and designers who need the precision that solid tip burners lack. Take a look at the following lists for a more detailed rundown of each.
Craft Style Solid Point Pyrography Tools
- Thicker tip that is usually made of copper.
- Larger hand piece.
- Longer heating and cooling times (usually five to eight minutes).
- Not good for doing highly detailed work. These are better for more general uses like larger drawings or signs, as well as filling in larger areas.
- Some feature a dual heat shield, which will protect your hand from the heat of the pen tip.
Variable Temperature Wire Tip Pyrography Tools
- Shorter heating and cooling times (as short as a minute or two)
- Feature electronic controls for the temperature
- Smaller handles make it easier to “write” or “draw” with these tools
- Heat up quickly for faster drawing abilities
- Finer pen tips for more detailed work
- Some feature dual pen capabilities adding versatility
Pyrography Tools: How Do They Perform
There are several factors affecting the performance of a pyrography pen. Depending on how you intend to use your pyrography tools will determine which of these performance factors are most important.
You may need a wood burning tool that is capable of fine details to enhance your wood carving projects. Others may need an assortment of tips to achieve a variety of designs for leather burning projects. Whatever craft you choose to use pyrography tools for, use this guide to learn what you should look for.
There are a number of factors to consider if you are in the market for a pyrography tool kit. They include the following:
Generally speaking, many manufacturers of professional wood burning tools will tell you that the more power the better. On paper, this is true because the warmer the tip of your pyrography machine, the faster you will be able to make impressions. With that said, having too much power can often lead to premature failure of your burning tool components. It can also lead to undesirable blackened look (unless that is what you are going for).
Power is usually presented in Watts (amps x volts). If you are looking for a fast pyrography tool, then consider one with more amps rather than just a high overall watt output.
You will also want to consider the voltage. Three-volt systems often feature wires with heavier gauges, which means less detail in your markings. Two-volt systems usually offer wires with finer gauges, which will is ideal for more detailed work. Three-volt systems are often found in craft style wood burners while two-volt systems are usually associated with variable temperature burners.
Tip Types and Styles
The tip of your pyrography tool is what actually makes the impressions. As such, it is extremely important to get the right tip for your needs. Take a look at the following tip types below:
- Interchangeable: Probably one of the more important features for detailed artistry, interchangeable tips will give you the versatility needed to create detailed work. It will also allow you to work with fewer wood burning pens or pyrography tools since you can change the tips.
- Non-polished: These tips are a little rougher and are more likely to drag on materials. The result is a less refined look with more imperfections. These are usually found in craft style pyrography tools and are great for making larger dark surfaces.
- Polished: These tips are very smooth, which allows them to run cleanly over surfaces. They provide much more detail and are often found on variable temperature burners.
- Fixed: Fixed tips heat up more quickly for faster and more uniform drawing.
Pyrography Tools: Other Considerations
When searching for arts and craft supplies and tools, I know firsthand that performance isn’t the only thing we consider. Price and comfort can also be a bigger consideration to some than anything else.
How comfortable it is to hold and use your pyrography tool is extremely important, especially if you plan on using it for long periods at a time. In my experience, craft style tools often have larger handles and can be harder to use without getting cramps during extended use.
Variable temperature tools tend to have smaller handles that are easier to draw with, and they are easier to use for longer periods of time without experiencing fatigue.
Wood burning tools vary greatly in cost from around $15 to over $200. If you are just getting into pyrography art, then I would suggest one of the more affordable models. While they may not be as reliable in the long run or feature rich, they are a great place to start without breaking the bank.
If you are interested in using a pyrography tool professionally, the more expensive models in the $150 – $250 range are a good investment. These machines will provide you with additional tips, all of the power you will need for making detailed markings, and longevity.
The Best Wood Burning Pens and Pyrography Tools – Top 5 Reviews
If you looking to improve your craft, this is one of the best wood pyrography tools out there and this is evident by how many professionals use it. The Razertip Dual Burner features a 10-amp output to its wire style wood burning tips. The result is an incredibly fast tip recovery time that will let you draw faster and more smoothly. This is ideal for working uninterrupted and tapping into your creative flow.
It also features variable temperature controls that let you change heat intensity from a “1” to a “10”. It is also designed to limit output so that you never over scorch the wood you’re working on, even if it’s at the maximum heat level. Over 800 pens and tip combinations are available through Razertip and a good selection can be ordered through other companies making it one of the most versatile pyrography tools on the market.
This wood engraving pen is designed for safety and reliability as well. It features stable circuitry to ensure dependable markings every time you lay the pen down. The Razertip unit is also capable of using pens from other brands as well which is for users who have developed a preference for other pens. The pen tips also heat very quickly so you wont be waiting around to get to work.
I would highly recommend the Razertip Dual Burner to high-end professionals who require incredible precision while burning or even the hobbyist who simply want the best wood burning tool out there.
This is one of the higher end pyrography tools on the market and one of the best professional wood burning tool kit which includes an assortment of tips. It is a great choice for someone looking to invest in their art. It features a powerful 60-watt wood burner with fast heat response to ensure quick and smooth drawing capabilities. You can also change the heat level to extremely precise degrees thanks to a digital voltage control. This feature lets you set your tip to produce just the right amount of heat needed for every project.
The TRUArt Stage 2 Professional Wood burning Detailer is also very small and light. As a result it is incredibly comfortable, and allows users to make very precise markings. It is ideal for the most detailed artisans. An impressive 20 tips are also included with this pyrography tool kit!
If you are looking for a capable and reliable pyrography detailer made specifically for a range of burning mediums like wood, leather, gourds, and paper, this kit will let you make incredibly detailed art.
This wood engraving pen is designed for safety and reliability as well. It features stable circuitry to ensure dependable markings every time you lay the pen down.
The Walnut Hollow Creative Versa Tool features variable temperature controls that easily let you change the amount of heat your pen is emitting. This makes it an ideal tool if you need to work on multiple projects simultaneously. It also features a very snug and comfortable grip for long-term use and minimal fatigue. The included heat shield is also designed to protect your hand for further comfort.
This wood burning tool kit also includes many points, making it a great option for different projects such as wood burning, soldering, calligraphy, shading and so much more. Tips included are a universal point, tapered point, flow point, calligraphy point, shading point, transfer point, soldering point and hot-knife point.
This is a great entry-level pyrography tool kit for those who want all of the features to get started with this art form without breaking the bank. Grab this unit if you want the best wood burning tool at a cheap price!
This “ten-in-one” pyrography tool kit features ten tips for tackling any project, not just wood burning and other forms of pyrography. It features seven tips for burning wood, two dips designed for cutting and fusing, and one soldering tip. It also features 30 watts of power that can heat the tips up to 1050 degrees Fahrenheit, and even comes with a convenient storage case.
Practicality is where this wood burning tool kit shines. It’s incredibly affordable and comes with tons of great features that will be useful for beginners looking to learn wood burning and more. If you are just getting into the art this is one of the best wood burning pens for beginners but versatile enough for experienced artists.
The Dremel 2000-01 Versa Tip Precision Butane Soldering Torch is an extremely versatile pyrography tool kit. With 14 available pieces, it lets you tackle just about any type of pyrography you may want to do including wood burning, hot cutting, shrinking, area heating and more.
It also features a butane torch for soldering, complete with a simple trigger for the ignition incorporated into the device. You can also switch on a “flame lock” for easy use with minimal hand fatigue. No matter what project you are working on, the varying temperature controls will help you tackle it with just the right amount of heat.
This particular pyrography machine is a great mid-level tool for those who want a sturdy and long-lasting unit that can be used for many different projects.
Quick Guide to Pyrography Art and Using Your Tool
If you are wondering what you can burn on, anything that is natural, untreated and free of any finish. Most common materials artists use are:
WOOD: The best wood for pyrography is soft woods with tight grain patterns. This includes Basswood and Pine but Maple and plywood are great starting points as well. Always sand the surface well before starting to ensure a smooth burning experience. Fore more info on wood burning visit the wood burning community.
LEATHER: Leather burns at a lower temperature and its smooth surface is typically very easy to work on. Vegetable tanned pre-made products are readily available from most craft stores which include belts, purses, bracelets bookmarks etc.
PAPER: Watercolour paper is the most popular for pyrography due to its heavy weight. Cold or hot pressed paper and heavy wights will provide the best results. 140lb blocks work well and help to avoid the paper buckling under the heat of the pen.
GOURDS: Hard shell gourds that are cut, clean and dried are great for pyrography as they have a hard and porous surface which burn smooth and easy.
*Always burn in a well ventilated area, with eye protection and a mask to avoid breathing in any toxic fumes from materials.
There are many methods depending on which medium you have decided to burn your art into. What works best for you is about trial, error, and drawing ability.
PENCIL: Draw your design directly onto the surface, as light as possible for easy erasing when done.
GRAPHITE PAPER: This is great if you are not a master artist. Place the paper face down on your surface and trace your printed or pre-drawn design directly and easily.
It is advisable to NOT use carbon papers, pyrography paper, and other burn through methods as many are highly toxic and burn into the work.
- You do not need to be heavy handed to leave an impression. Light flowing strokes help create nice neat lines while avoiding any slipping of the tool, uneven tones, and drag spots.
- For darker tones use a slow steady stroke and for lighter a swift smooth flow. Start off light, and layer your tones until you get your desired dark tones. It is always easier to darken than to lighten an over burned area.
- If using a single temperature tool, do all light tones whilst the tool is getting up to its temperature.
- Play around with tips, textures, and strokes to create depth and pattern to your chosen design. Cross hatching, dots, and other methods all add extra depth to your designs.