When getting started in pyrography, one of the biggest questions is how to choose the best wood for wood burning. While a lot of the decision comes to preference, there are a few species of wood that stand out. Let’s sort it all out.
Try out different samples of wood like the ones listed below and look for the following qualities:
– Hardness. The harder the wood, the more difficult it is to burn. The flip side is that it’s difficult to correct mistakes in soft wood.
– Grain. Visible grain lines mean your pyrography tool will feel sticky, making it nearly impossible to create smooth lines.
– Moisture. Wood with a lot of sap or resin can create flaws. As the sap heats, it bubbles up. As resin is heated, it can pop or spark and may splinter the wood.
Best Wood for Pyrography :
There are a lot of nice things about basswood and it’s often the best wood for pyrography. The light yellow color and fine grain looks similar to parchment paper. This creates a nice background for decorative items. This light color also makes it a great wood for burning projects that involve a lot of detail.
Mostly, basswood is fairly inexpensive although it doesn’t come in a large variety of sizes. It’s safe for pets, too, so you can use it to dress up any hutch or aviary project you might think of building.
Basswood burns quickly. You’ll be moving your pen at nearly the same pace as drawing lines with a pencil.
There isn’t a lot of resin or sap, so there aren’t a lot of sparks to startle you out of your workflow.
It’s a softer wood, which makes it easy to create grooves and other embellishments. The drawback to being soft is that it’s harder to cover mistakes.
There are two types of birch that are commonly used for wood burning: Russian birch and Baltic birch. It’s usually easier to find Baltic birch than Russian birch. Russian birch is pricier than Baltic and the grain is more visible. Birch is usually sold as a plywood, which makes it less desirable as a pyrography wood.
If you can find this as a solid wood, you’ll have fewer problems with splintering. You should find a solid piece if you want to use birch. Plywood darkens over time. This natural darkening will mask some details in your art.
You should also be careful of burning too deeply into plywood since you’ll wind up burning glue. Everyone knows that inhaling glue fumes can be dangerous.
Oak wouldn’t be my first choice to teach wood burning for beginners. The color of oak could be medium to dark. The grain is obvious, and it makes the texture is inconsistent.
There’s a lot of moisture in oak. This can make the sap heat and bubble out quickly.
Since oak is a hardwood, it’s a good choice for practical items made in woodworking shops. That means you may run into projects that call on you to burn into oak, especially if you collaborate with woodworkers that enjoy working with reclaimed wood pallets. If your project is a simple lettering, the grain will be revealed.
Not great for large or very intricate art pieces because the grain shows through, the darker color of oak will make it difficult to bring out the details of any project.
Poplar is a great wood for wood burning. Both beginners and professionals love to work with poplar.
It’s hard enough that it can be used to make home items of any size. It also holds stain very well, which can add another dimension to your work. This means anything from table trays to coffee tables and dressers can be turned into real show pieces.
If you take on commissioned work, you’ll discover how much easier it is to burn poplar than other woods. It’s a little more expensive than something like pine, but you’ll find the higher price is justified by the result.
The wood and the wood grain are a lighter color than other woods. Along with the sharp edges that you can create, this makes it a great choice for projects that show off a lot of detail.
Watch for color streaks. If there’s sap or resin in the wood, it’s usually found in these areas. As far as covering up mistakes, poplar is resistant to gouging.
As with any hardwood, the more dense it is, the higher your pen’s temperature will need to be set.
Pine is a good place to start your pyrography journey. The ability to create contrast is acceptable. It’s also easy to shade, although the lines created aren’t as fine as you’d see in other woods like cherrywood.
Pine is readily available, but it may not be a practical choice for pyrography for beginners. You will run into a lot of resin when trying to burn into pine. You may notice this from any bonfire you’ve enjoyed that the pine sparks a lot. This is the resin and the same sparks will fly every time your hot pyrography pen runs into resin.
Because it’s inexpensive, pine is commonly used for building the decorative items you find in craft stores. You could wind up collaborating with someone who built a project using pine. Use a light touch when using pine. Don’t try for a lot of deeply burned backgrounds.
Poplar is really the best wood for wood burning, especially for beginners. The hardness and grain make it the perfect platform for learning.
The runner-up choice would be basswood. You can have a lot of fun and get through projects quickly with this softer wood.
As your technique improves and your style evolves, you’ll discover which wood species work best with your wood burning art tools. The possibilities are as endless as nature itself.