Pyrography is the craft of burning or charring designs on to materials such as wood, leather or bone.
The term "Pyrography" was originated during the 1800's from the greek words 'Pur' (fire) and 'graphos' (writing) i.e. writing with fire. Although Pyrography has almost certainly been practised in one form or another since the discovery of fire itself.
It is also known as "Pokerwork" and involves the application of a heated metal tool on to the desired medium.
This webpage provides a gallery of work created by John with the use of a 'Peter Child' pyrography machine. It is hoped that you the visitor appreciates the art form and especially the work on show. If you would like to procure any of the work or are interested in commissioning a piece of pyrography then please feel free to contact me.
Many hours of effort go into creating some of these pieces, from planning the design to the burning itself.
If you are interested in trying Pyrography I can heartily recommend it. It is very therapeutic activity for those wishing to distract themselves from the pressures of life. Although make sure you do it in a well-ventilated room as the smoke can be harmful.
Pyrography equipment is available from many craft stores and online. There are various types such as:
Similar to a soldering iron it has a working point heated by a cylindrical element (coil). The working has a variety of interchangeable points that can fitted into the end and secure by a screwdriver.Solid point (or brands)
Uses solid working points with their own heating element close to the tip. They have different shapes and size points available. The flat ended points are very efficient especially for large areas of shading/burning allowing for repeat pattern designs to be quickly generated.Hot wire type
This has a flexible point or nib made from a short length of nickel chromium wire held between two terminals, at the end of a stylus. The stylus is connected to a voltage control box, which moderates the current going through the wire making it glow hot. With this device you are able to create your own styled wire shapes to create interesting branding shapes.
Other tools required include: Pliers, Wire cutters, small screwdriver
Lamp, Pencils, Carbon paper, brown masking tape, ruler (steel), sandpaper, sable brushes.
The kind of wood to use is important when creating pyrographic art. There are hundred of different wood types and some are better than others for pyrography. An ideal property for showing off the detail and texturing of pyrographic art is if the wood is light coloured. Below is a list I've compiled of different woods and the qualities they possess; based on my experience.
Remember as wood is a natural material, the shape and texture of every piece will be different so you may wish to make your own decisions on what is best for your crafting. At least below is a start.
Pine - light colour, cheap and burns well, very resinous, soft wood. The difference in texture between the grains makes continuous line drawing difficult.
Oak - light colour, very durable wood but its grain is hard making it difficult to burn. There are often too many grain lines which for delicate work requires attention.
Sycamore - no characteristic odour, but has a light colour. There is small difference in hardness between the grains which makes it relatively easy to pyrograph.
Birch - identical to Sycamore with a very light in colour, minimal grain but is cheaper.
Cherry - hardwood, very dark with streaks of pale wood (i.e. not uniform in colour).
Horse chestnut - similar colour to sycamore, less pronounced grain.
Yew - very hard wood, difficult for detailed work, large variations of colour dark going to lighter wood nearer the bark.
Hickory - similar to oak, hardwood, grain lines and tonal variations.
Maple - hardwood, expensive, light to medium in colour, minimal grain.
Poplar - light in colour, minimal grain, hardwood, cheaper than Maple.
Redwood - oily wood, grain lines light.
Walnut - Lot of grains and very dark, easy to burn, expensive.
Pear - normally a dark wood, low resistant grain markings.
Hardness: woods can be classified as hard or soft. Hard woods tend to be from broad leaved trees whilst soft wood are from coniferous
Grain: the direction of the fibrous parts of the wood.
Pattern: the natural design on the cut surface of the wood, including blemishes and marks
Texture: whether the surface of the wood feels coarse or smooth, flat or bumpy
When working on wood, it is useful to have scraps of wood at hand so that you can test for the correct temparature directly. Thus when you bring the tool to your proper working surface, you know you will not scorch the wood incorrectly.
It is important to remember not to burn on prepared, finished, man-made boards or reclaimed wood nor plastic or synthetic materials. Burning releases fumes into the air and depending on what item you are burning, those fumes can be very toxic and may cause cancer or other health issues.
Obviously you don't need to apply any finish, which is simple and cheap to do. But it is not recommended, especially if you have spent a significant amount of time creating your art work.
So, to protect your art work from moisture or dirt - a sealant can provide a barrier to maintain constant moisture levels in the wood. Wood will naturally take in and excrete moisture which makes it expand and contract. This provides wood with its flexibility when it is part of a living tree, but will lead to wood warping or cracking - which is not good for your art work.There is also the effects of direct sunlight on unprotected wood. Over a prolonged period direct sunlight tends to marginally darken most wood services as well as fade the finely burned images with its ultraviolet light. To minimise the requirement to sand down and touch up some of the artwork its worth considering where you locate the artwork and what sealants to use.
Sealing wood will not protect against physical damage from scratches or bangs.
You can apply finishes either by brush or spray.
Spray on sealants are more convenient although more expensive than a can of brush on sealant. Spraying can be tricky as you need to spray in a uniform manner to avoid pooling of the sealant on the wood. If you have ever used spray paint you will appreciate that the spray strokes should be directed on approach to the wood, follow over and beyond, so that the wood itself has an even finish.
Good finish for artwork.
Initial coat should be applied thinned (i.e. mixed with Lacquer thinner - half and half mixture) so that it spreads easily and dries faster. Then use undiluted for two further coats for optimum effect, allowing half an hour between coats. Use in a well ventilated area and ensure it is applied evenly, otherwise if lacquer pools it will soften/dissolve the previous layer creating a pitted and uneven surface.
Pour a generous amount onto the wood and rub it in. Give it several hours to be absorbed before applying another coat. Repeat until the wood stops absorbing the oil. The oil should be applied regularly during the year to keep the wood protected (Once or twice a year).
Good for all indoor applications.
Apply a thin layer with a Brush allowing a minimum of 2 hours to dry. Sand lightly and then apply another coat. Repeat as many times as desired.
Extremely durable, handle tough treatment and resists moisture better than lacquer, so it is good for furniture.
Brush on a thin coat, and allow to dry 3-4 hours in a ventilated area. Sand lightly and then apply another coat. Repeat 2-3 times as desired.
Good for woodworking (trinket boxes) and on wood items used for food (as long as it has been completely cured before using the items). It tends to have a milky colour but dries clear.
Apply a thin layer and let dry a minimum of 45 minutes in a well ventilated area. Apply a second coat. Do not pour on additional layers and brush out as any pooled shellac will dissolve/soften previous coats resulting in a pitted uneven finish.