Wood-burning crafts are becoming more and more popular, where people create amazing art by burning images into wood. Referred to as pyrography, this general term can also refer to other materials like leather, paper, canvas, and more. The art of wood burning can produce some amazingly detailed portrait and landscape pieces. As a beginner, you might want to look into experimenting until you find the right type of wood for you. To start, below are some of the more popular wood choices for wood burning.
Table of Contents
- 1 Best Wood for Pyrography
- 2 Preparing Wood for Pyrography
- 3 Tools Required for Wood Burning
- 4 Safety Precautions When Wood Burning
- 5 Frequently Asked Questions
Best Wood for Pyrography
The best wood for burning can differ from person to person and usually becomes a personal preference. The wood you choose is also determined by the cost and availability of the wood wherever you live. Pyrography itself is not a new trend and has been around since ancient times. The only changes that have developed over time, are the tools used.
The art of wood burning does require good-quality wood, and there are many different types available. So, what variety of wood is the best wood for pyrography? Each wood type has its own benefits and weaknesses, so you should familiarize yourself with the various options available. Some woods can be difficult to work with, while others cost a lot more. If possible, it is great if you could experiment on a few different options, to see which one you prefer.
Many of the wood products you can purchase come in different sizes and shapes from square to rectangular and even hexagonal. You can get wood sheets, panels, as well as rough and precut pieces of wood. You might even wonder; can you burn pallet wood? Generally, any wood can be burned, however, the best wood for wood burning should be a light color with a fine and soft grain.
So, you can burn pallet wood, however, it must be chemical-free, and you should first sand it down. You also do not know where the pallet has been, maybe some chemicals were spilled on the surface? To be on the safe side, it is recommended you use protective gear. The question of how to prepare your wood for wood burning will be dealt with a bit further down in this article. The lighter wood means that the design will be more visible and stand out nicely from the wood surface. If you are interested in the world of wood, we recommend having a look at the excellent site woodhappen.com to learn about this fascinating work material.
Softwoods will burn easier and will use less energy. However, some hardwoods are also good but may require a bit more heat to get the job done.
What Wood to Avoid When Wood Burning
Whatever wood burning crafts you do attempt; the thickness of the wood should be at least 0.38 inches (9.5 mm). Thinner wood will curl as it ages, except for plywood. Although, any designs on plywood will fade quickly over time. Also, if you burn deeply into plywood, you might come into contact with glue, which can then release toxic fumes.
Do not attempt to wood-burn on wood that is finished or any other reclaimed wood. You should also avoid any kind of synthetic materials and plastic. When doing wood-burning crafts, the heat can create smoke and if there is any substance like glue, it will release toxic fumes. So, the wood you choose should not contain any kind of hazardous material and should be as natural as possible. Other types of wood to avoid include any that are grainy, resinous and have a dark color.
These types of wood provide an uneven and rough surface that can be very difficult to near impossible to work on.
Best Wood for Wood Burning
Now we can get to the best wood for pyrography. Once you have gone through the list, you will see that you have quite a number of choices. Some people will prefer certain woods to others, which makes it a personal choice. Of course, availability, as well as price, can also be deciding factors.
Pine is a very common wood and easily sourced, and it is also cheap. You can most probably find pine in most craft stores that are cut out into various shapes. Even though it is easy to come by, it might be a great choice to practice on, however, it can be challenging. This is because of the wood’s inconsistent grain patterns. The wood can also be smokey and sappy as well. You will be hitting all the inconsistencies, which makes it difficult to do consistent designs.
Once you have a general feel for working with pyrography tools, you can think of moving on to a better wood choice.
This type of wood has a light color and is soft, which makes basswood a good choice for wood burning. Since it is a wonderful softwood, it is perfect for hand carving, musical instruments, and is also used for things like boxes, veneer, and window shutters. The wood can easily be used to create all kinds of lightweight products. The wood boasts a fine grain that is easy to burn. You can produce both darker and lighter burns, which is perfect for finer details. This is why basswood is considered one of the more popular choices for wood-burning crafts.
Birchwood is the most common wood used for plywood and veneer products. The wood grain is smooth and light in color and is often used to make furniture as well as cabinets. Birch is a hardwood and is most commonly grown and harvested in areas located in the northern hemisphere. Even though birch is a good choice for wood burning, plywood needs to be treated with caution.
You should be aware of any chemicals found in the plywood you buy and should consider wearing protective gear and working in a well-ventilated part of the house.
Poplar wood is another well-liked wood for wood burning as it is easy to burn, and you can easily find it in stores. The wood has a soft grain that is consistent, which makes it great for creating those finer details. This is maybe a better choice when it comes to practicing your wood-burning as the quality is better than that of pine. Although, it is more expensive than pine.
This type of wood is another softwood that is easy to burn, and a great choice for the art of wood burning. Willow has a very light grain, almost white, and will keep its color when applying a finish. This makes it a nice bright canvas to work from.
The downside is that the wood is difficult to source, so it might also cost you more to get your hands on some.
Aspen wood is a soft, light, and easy burning wood; however, it does have some color variations. Although, you can find a way to use these variations to your advantage when creating your design. If you are wanting a wood that has a more even grain, you might want to consider another option.
The maple wood has a minimal and light grain and is another well-liked choice amongst wood-burning artists. Since it is hardwood, you will need to turn up the heat to get results. You should be able to find the wood in most stores, however, it is on the more expensive side. Burning into maple will go very smoothly, providing you with consistent designs.
When applying a seal, it does tens to darken slightly, but not enough to be a problem.
Cherry wood is hard and durable and can be found in most stores. The cherry wood is beautiful in color and provides a medium to dark look. The wood is also not uniform in color and is not ideal for lighter and more detailed wood-burning designs. However, the wood grain is smooth and provides a consistent burn, and it is still a popular choice for many wood-burning artists. Below are a few more wood options to consider:
- Walnut: Hardwood option that has a smooth wood grain but dark color.
- Ash: This wood has a light color, but a rough grain, making it difficult to burn.
- Jelutong: High-quality wood that is great for pyrography, but difficult to find.
- Balsa Wood: Best to use this wood as only a practice option.
- Pacific Albus: Light, very softwood that has a slight grain. Although, it might be too thin and is inclined to curve.
- Alder Wood: This is a hardwood that is easy to burn and is reasonably priced.
- Sycamore: Light-colored hardwood that can work great for wood-burning crafts.
- Cedar: A versatile softwood that is quite popular, but the wood does have a toxicity warning so protective gear should be used.
Preparing Wood for Pyrography
Before you begin, the wood surface must be prepared. Sometimes, you do get wood that is already prepared for you, for example, studio panels. However, depending on the roughness of the wood, most of the wood needs to be prepared by you. You can begin by using rough-grit sandpaper, starting from 60-grit, over the wood surface, going with the grain.
You can use a damp cloth as you go to prevent any dust from building up. Follow the same process using finer-grit sandpaper, until you reach 220-grit. Once done, wet a sponge and wipe the wood down and then let it dry thoroughly. Take some more 220-grit sandpaper and sand the surface some more until smooth. Once the wood is nice and smooth, it is ready to work with.
Tools Required for Wood Burning
The art of wood burning involves more than the wood, and you need to get yourself a good quality wood burning pen or kit. The pyrography pen is what heats up to burn your images into the wood. There are different wood-burning pen tips or nibs, the most common one being the solid-point burner pen or universal tip that come in various shapes. These are similar to your soldering irons. The other option is your wire tip burner pens. Some have a fixed temperature you can work with, while others provide more control, and you can adjust the temperature.
So, now you have your wood-burning pen and your wood, you are ready to start burning. There are many creative ideas you can try from a wood burn cutting board to coasters, wall art, and customized wooden spoons. When it comes to designs and you need some help, using carbon paper can do the job. Simply place the paper on your wood item with the design on top. Trace over the design onto the paper, which should transfer the image onto the wood surface.
Then get to work by burning into the pencil lines you made.
Safety Precautions When Wood Burning
When burning into the wood, there is inevitably some smoke that is released. However, as mentioned, wood that is finished, repurposed wood, and plywood can also release toxic fumes. So, you need to wear protective gear. This includes a respirator mask that has filters, not just a simple dust mask. You should also work in a space that has enough ventilation. You can also follow these safety tips:
- Keep your pyrography pen away from flammable materials, preferably on a stand.
- The work surface should be stable and even for a comfortable experience.
- Do not leave your pyrography pen on and go do something else, turn it off.
- Avoid touching the hot tips when removing them or feeling if the tip is hot.
- Keep pyrography equipment away from pets and children.
- You can use a fan to help dissipate the smoke when doing wood-burning crafts.
We hope you have a better understanding when it comes to the best wood for wood burning. To find the best option for you, try different types of wood to see which one you like best, then use the wood to create simple images, detailed portraits, or even quotes.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is Soft or Hard Wood Better for Pyrography?
You can use both hard and softwood, however, the best wood for wood burning is your soft and light color woods. Something that has an unobtrusive grain and provides a smooth and even burns. For example, some of the popular choices are poplar and basswood.
Can You Burn Pallet Wood?
Yes, pallet wood is an option when it comes to wood-burning. However, you must find out if it has been treated with chemicals. When burning wood, these chemicals can form toxic fumes, which is why you should wear a respirator mask. Sometimes, you might not know where the wood has come from, or if any chemicals have been spilled on it.
What Wood Burning Ideas Can You Try?
There are many amazing and creative ideas you can try from a wood burn cutting board, decorating wooden jewelry boxes, wooden picture frames, to Christmas ornaments, trinket boxes, bowls, and even wooden hairpins.
Must You Seal Wood After Burning?
Before you begin, you will need to prepare the wood for burning, which means sanding it until smooth. After you have burned the wood, it is best to seal it for protection. Sometimes a sealer can change the color of the final wood piece.