Pyrography is the decorating art on the wood surface with a burning mark by heated objects or metal heater.  It is designed by burning the wood with a heated metal point or like poker. This has been a history practiced by Egyptians culture and African tribes. It was known in ancient China as “Fire Needle Embroidery”.

In the realm of Queen Victoria known as the Victorian era the art of pyrography boomed and the term “pyrography” given which was previously known as “poker work” widely. The word pyrography breaks in two parts from Greek nation. “Pyro” comes from the word “Pur” a Greek word means fire and “Graphy” comes from the word “Graphos” meaning the act of writing.

Traditional pyrography has been performed by heated metal implement but now there are many machines exist in three categories like a) solid point burners b) wire nib burners c) laser cutters.

A perfect pyrography depending on different things, firstly and mostly the skill which requires and then comes with the materials required to perform it. The surface where the art will be performed must be soft and easy to burn type but with the balance of it. Here are some woods can relate to pyrography and analysis will tell the perfect matching.



Basswood is a class of 30 types of trees from mostly temperate northern hemisphere. It’s also known in North America and Europe as linden and lime tree. Basswood is very light, soft and easy to work types. This is grained and odorless with nice texture and natural luster. This is wood is very easy to dry and fast.

This wood is also good for pyrography. No resin with great texture and cleanliness give a fine look to the art. It is very economical and very available. It’s easy to glue, easy to cut, easy to sand and easy to shape. It’s controllable. But sometimes its softness can be tough for hard art or decoration.

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Mahogany is strong and heavy wood. This is mostly straight grained and reddish. There are three types of mahogany like Honduran, west indian and swientenia humilis. This is widely popular for use of furniture. It’s dark reddish and brown color beautify the furniture at best. It’s very durable because of its hardness.

Its dark color sometimes overshadows the art. Most of the time this type of wood used for name art only. Its color faded sometimes and changes the surface texture often. But if faded wood can be chosen then it can be work sometimes. Also, this wood is very expensive to purchase.

Birch Plywood

This is very unique types of wood because its veneer core which cross banded and laminated exterior glue. This birch belongs to Europe north eastern region. This is widely popular for cabinet making. There are basically two types one is Baltic and other one is Russian.

It’s also known as the panel for an artist. It is clean and vibrant with attractive looks. It has grain favourable to art. This is also very economical and easy to cut and easy to shape. It’s thick and its clean surface focuses the art most. If mistakes are made it’s tough to overwrite in this surface. Solid piece of wood is more popular rather than plywood. This is more like Basswood.

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european alder

This is a genus of 35 species of monoecious trees. It is hard and nice to burn. No resin and fresh outlook is perfect for any art to perform. But this wood is not wide enough. And it’s very grainy which sometimes causes trouble to art. It is neither expensive nor very economical, its more in midrange budgeted wood. Because of its hardness it’s more durable.

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Balsa Wood

Balsa Wood

This is more flower plants type of wood. It contains species Ochroma pyramidale which is known as balsa tree. This wood has no grains. These woods are harvested after growth of six to ten years. Balsa is considered as the strongest wood in the world. Its light but strong and this the specialty of this wood. It has pretty good surface and thin trips.

It has no resin, it is soft and very easy to give shape, easy to cut. This is also very economical to purchase and practice. Clean color also makes the art very attractive on its surface. But this is not ready to go wood it has to be prepared. And this has very low variant of size available. This wood is mostly used as practices. Because of thickness sometimes the burning tip sink into the wood.

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Beech Wood

This wood belongs to Europe, Asia and North America.  This is also a hard and strong wood. This is basically white color wood but sometimes it colors reddish while growing on acid soil. Its finely grained, its smooth. This surface hardness sometimes gets the work hard to burn and art.

This is mid-range premium budgeted wood for pyrography. This wood is not famous among pyrography artists.

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Cherry Wood

Cherry wood is mostly famous for its super bending features. It’s not that hard like others and widely used for cabinet making, moulding and millwork. It’s also not belongs to the favorite cart of pyrography art. It’s dark which may not highlights the art performed on its surface. This has no resin and available in different colors.

And this wood can cost the pyrography a bit high. Because its famous in other purposes. Mostly this wood has been used for practice purpose. It’s more like maple wood. Artist may find it super easy because of its smoothness.

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Hickory Wood

Hickory belongs to the nature of Carya. Worldwide there are nineteen species available, mostly in North America and the rest are in Asia. Hickory is the hardest and strongest wood. This wood is widely used for its best special feature of shock resistant. There are lots of color variations in wood surface which may cause little trouble for pyrography. Too much grains also bother the art as pleasant. This is very economical to purchase.

Maple Wood

Maple wood mostly found in Asia, there are 128 species of it. This is strong and great in looks, it stains great. It’s very much attractive for its color, smooth grain, nice texture and durable by nature. It comes from sugar maple tree with white color rounded with brown reddish hue. Mostly used for furniture, cabinets and sports equipment.

Because of its super attractiveness, this is a little costly but worth of money.  Less grain and light colour with no resin this hard surface is popular for pyrography. And importantly on this surface, it’s very easy to fix the mistakes done.

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Oak Wood

Also the most popular woods for furniture and other craftsmanship. This is hard but not as maple wood. But it’s durable and well; stained. This wood has great texture. Though it’s popular in other purpose but it doesn’t cost as much as others. White oak is stronger than red oak. This becomes darker with time because of oxygen and UV light.

This can cause a little damage to the art performed on its surface. There is a wide saying that there is much moisture in this wood which makes unnecessary sap bubbles and can get the art messy. It’s not the best wood by nature to art or wood burn. This is dark and lots of color variations may not highlight the artwork on its surface. Oak is economical to purchase and mostly available.

Pacific Albus

It’s more like Balsa Wood. Low grain, light colour, no resin and softness is perfect for pyrography. It’s very easy to art on the albus surface. This is hardwood. This wood has a fine texture which looks better with the art. And this wood is very easy to glue, easy to boring and turning and sanding also. It is hypoallergenic. It is lightweight so very comfortable to move.

Pine Wood

Pine is a common wood for pyrography. But there are so much not to love. Yellow pines fail to give a proper finish to the art. And it’s hard to art because of its different grains. It’s pretty resinous. It is light in colour, it’s soft and easy to control or embossed lines.

Fewer features but widely common for pyrography. But white pine is suitable for all sites to burn. Its cleaner and smooth. Art on the white pine wood surface looks very beautiful and attractive. It is durable and economical to purchase.          

Poplar Wood

North American Hardwood Poplar is good alternatives for many of woods which can cost more than 2 or 3 times. This is white and creamy yellow in color can sometimes be brownish in appeal. The name “Poplar” comes from ancient Rome. Romans used to plant this tree in public spaces or near to local public people and that how the name “populous” comes and then the name got form of Poplar.

This is reviewed and liked as the most popular one for pyrography. This wood is very easy to resize. Soft grains are perfect for wood art. It burns very easily and it’s so accessible. The color is light, hard surface, gouge resistant and economical to purchase is ideal woods for pyrography. Most of the artists recommend these woods for pyrography. This surface allows to fix the mistakes very easily. Little resinous and hard surface can heat back the pen or poker.      


Redwood is basically industrial wood. This wood has chemical inside and it’s much more durable than any other wood. There are basically three types of redwood, a) Coast redwoods, b) Giant sequoias, c) Dawn redwoods.

Its exposure is oily and bothers the artist to art on its surface. But this wood is easy to burn and requires a lower heat to burn. It has grains but not others and favorable to art and burn. This wood will cost a little much because of its availability. It’s hard and strong wood.

Overall a perfect condition for perfect pyrography is light color hardwoods so that it never sinks the fire pen on it. It has to be low grains and favorable to art. It is to be remembered that never to burn on finished wood or anything made of plastic.

Choosing a smooth surface with great light texture which is easy to burn. Also preparing the wood in right way also makes differences for pyrography. This can make big differences on the wood surface. So sometimes a good wood surface can be ruined because of poor preparation.

Also there are different types of art different types of personality and choice which makes the woods preference different. But after analyzing the above discussion, concerning the features of the woods Poplar, Basswoods, Birch Wood are more suitable for pyrography. And rest are depending on the choice of preferences the artist wanted to choose.

David D. Hughes
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