Photo: Debbie Wolfe for Bob Vila
If you’re looking to express yourself creatively in a new way—to add an extra touch to your projects or perhaps to start a small craft business—pyrography might be your inner artist’s new outlet. Pyrography is the art of writing or drawing on wood, leather, and other materials with an extremely hot metal pen, and the results can be quite impressive.
To practice pyrography, purchase the best wood-burning tool for your specific needs. You can choose from stand-alone tools to well-stocked kits, some for beginners and some for seasoned pros. This guide will help you sort through them and describe why the following products are considered among some of the best wood-burning tools available. We’ve also included the results of our hands-on tests to aid you in your selection.
- BEST OVERALL: TruArt Stage 1 Pyrography Pen Wood-Burning Tool Set
- RUNNER-UP: Walnut Hollow Creative Woodburner Wood-Burning Tool
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: Plaid 30725 8-Piece Decorative Wood-Burning Tool
- BEST PROFESSIONAL: TruArt Professional Dual-Pen Wood-Burning Tool
- BEST FOR BEGINNERS: Walnut Hollow Creative Wood-Burning Value Tool
- BEST FOR WRITING: YSBMZP Wood-Burning Tool Kit
- BEST FOR CRAFTING: AOUTK 72-Piece Wood-Burning Tool Kit
- BEST FOR WOODWORKING: Wall Lenk Creative 10-in-1 Wood-Burning Tool Kit
- BEST KIT: Walnut Hollow Creative Wood-Burning Versa-Tool
Photo: Debbie Wolfe for Bob Vila
As we selected the top wood-burning tools for testing, we prioritized user comfort and convenience, fast heating, and steady heat maintenance. We included picks for both craft-style and wire-tip tools. In addition, all of our craft-style tool recommendations include multiple tips to suit a wide range of design uses. Finally, we considered temperature control. Working with different types of wood, leather, and other materials requires changing temperatures for optimal results, so we included several of our favorite products that boast an excellent temperature-control range.
Following the manufacturers’ instructions, we tested each wood-burning tool on basswood, pine, and oak. We timed the heating process, tested multiple tips, evaluated the burn patterns, measured power cords, and noted any special high and low points. We recorded our observations on a scoring rubric to determine the overall winner and the best picks.
Our Top Picks
With so many wood-burning products available, choosing the right tool or kit can feel overwhelming. The following list of products, considered among some of the top picks in each respective category, will help you pick the best wood-burning tool for your projects, skill level, and budget.
If you’re fired up to start wood burning, the TruArt Stage 1 pyrography tool set can get you going. This kit features a dual-temp 15-watt (W) and 30W craft-style solid-tip wood-burning pen, a steel letter and number stencil, a tool stand, and a plastic carrying case for safekeeping. It also comes with 21 interchangeable tips, including calligraphy, groove, dot, hot knife, and universal.
The TruArt Stage 1 wood-burning tool has two temperature settings, allowing you to choose between 15W for soft materials and 30W for heavier woods. It’s lightweight and has a comfortable, grippy rubber handle, so beginners can practice their craft for long periods without tiring.
The TruArt Stage 1 pyrography pen was a pleasure to work with, included all the accessories we needed for a variety of craft projects, and didn’t break the bank. The curved handle shape and rubber grip infused a high degree of comfort and control, while the twin heat diffusers reduced heat transfer to the handle, keeping it cooler than the cheaper models we tested.
We especially liked having the three-position power switch built into the handle. Cheaper models have only one power setting and either no power switch or one located midway along the power cord, which gets in the way. Having it built into the tool handle improves range of motion. Also, the option to use either 15W or 30W makes this tool a better pick for a wider range of materials and artistic effects.
Read our full review: TruArt Stage 1 Pyrography Pen Wood-Burning Tool Set
- Type: Solid tip
- Wattage: 15 or 30
- Number of tips: 21
- Kit includes a comprehensive set of tips for a wide range of pyrography and crafting projects
- Temperature adjustment feature accommodates both soft and hard materials
- Ergonomic cushioned grip offers excellent control and comfort
- Kit comes organized in a handy carry case
- 15/30W switch is less customizable than a temperature dial
- Short 4-foot power cord requires close access to an outlet or power strip
Get the TruArt Stage 1 wood-burning tool at Amazon or TruArt.
The Walnut Hollow Creative Woodburner offers convenience and capability in one package. This tool’s power converter has a built-in stand and an adjustable temperature range between 600 and 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit, despite a relatively low 16W power. It comes with a drawing point, universal shading point, ball point, and a rounded shading point to cover most beginner tasks.
The standout feature of the Walnut Hollow Creative Woodburner is its quick-change wire nibs. Using the included tweezers, you can pull hot points out of the tool and push new ones back in without loosening and tightening any fittings.
We found the Walnut Hollow Creative Woodburner to be a simple and relatively inexpensive entry point into woodburning with wire nib tips. The kit was uncomplicated, and the adjustable power converter let us create lighter or darker patterns in the wood as needed. It was fairly easy to get good results, even with zero prior experience. The tips did not get as hot or heat as quickly as the pro-quality kits we tested, but this kit cost significantly less and took up less space on the work table and in storage.
We had mixed feelings about how the tips on this set connect to the pen body. The large plug-style base is sturdy enough to last a long time, but they fit so tightly into the socket that they require a good bit of force to install and remove. We also wish the kit came with a storage case for the nibs. Still, this pyrography tool is a good value for an occasional-use hobbyist.
- Type: Wire nib
- Wattage: 16
- Number of tips: 4
- Dual-power controller offers a high level of temperature control
- Includes 4 reinforced wire nib points for a variety of writing, drawing, and shading applications
- Streamlined design and versatile features make this a great option for beginners
- Easy to use, even without prior experience
- Tips are not as easy to change as some of the other wire-tip wood burners we tested
- Foldout pen rest must be used with caution to avoid damaging the controller housing with a hot nib
Get the Walnut Hollow Creative Woodburner wood-burning tool at Amazon, Michaels, Blick, Hobby Lobby, or Joann.
This Plaid wood-burning tool takes much of the guesswork out of getting started in pyrography at a price that might encourage you to start a new hobby. This kit comes with a simple craft-style 25W wood-burning pen with a basic on/off switch and can reach temperatures up to 750 degrees Fahrenheit. It allows beginners to start working without worrying about temperature settings.
This tool has a rubber handle to promote a positive, comfortable grip and a metal stand for storing your pen while taking a break. It comes with two tips for cutting stencils and four tips for pyrography, as well as a plastic case for storing them.
The Plaid wood-burning tool was a budget-friendly pick that worked well for wood burning but produced a bit too much heat for soft materials like leather. Although the kit didn’t come with many extra features, the basic set was adequate for line drawing and silhouettes. With no temperature-adjustment feature, we relied on tip changes, pattern varieties, long and short burn times, and other techniques for shading. The effects were pretty good, but they were more rustic with this kit than with adjustable-temperature models.
For the price, this is a really good buy. The overall quality was comparable to the entry-level Walnut Hollow wood burner, but the price was lower. It would have been nice to have a storage case to keep everything organized when not in use, though.
- Type: Solid tip
- Wattage: 25
- Number of tips: 6
- Budget-friendly price point for a fixed-temperature wood-burning tool
- Comes equipped with the most popular craft-style tips for writing and shading
- Metal pen rest prevents tabletop damage from accidental contact with the hot tip
- On/off switch built into the power cord reduces wear and tear on the plug
- Single high-temperature setting is not great for working on soft or sensitive surfaces
- The kit does not come with a storage case to keep everything organized when not in use
Get the Plaid wood-burning tool at Amazon or Plaid.
The Professional Dual-Pen wood-burning kit from TruArt is a complete wire-nib kit that comes with 46 wire nibs, a digital 60W power supply, a dual pen stand, and a wire brush and set of files to keep the nibs clean. It also includes a set of needle-nose pliers and tweezers to safely change hot tips.
The digital power supply allows you to dial in the perfect temperature, making small temperature adjustments as you work. It also powers two separate pens, so you can keep two different tips ready without switching tips.
When we opened the TruArt dual-pen wood-burning kit, we were impressed by the sheer variety of tips and provisions for keeping them clean for efficient and precise work. This high level of precision and adaptability came at a premium price that some users may deem excessive.
In operation, the first thing that we noted was that the two pens do not operate simultaneously. A power switch on the side of the control box serves as the “main,” and you can select Pen 1 or Pen 2 with a toggle switch. The pen heats almost instantaneously (in less than 30 seconds), which was much faster than any other wood burners we tested. On the high temperature setting, the tips become glowing red hot.
We also noted that the relatively short posts on the wire nibs reduce the distance between your hand and the workpiece. This makes the tool feel very natural—more like a writing pen and less like a clunky soldering iron. The high control and precision levels set this kit apart from all the others we tested. Those who don’t mind paying a premium for a pro-quality tool will get their money’s worth.
- Type: Wire nib
- Wattage: 60
- Number of tips: 46
- 2 pens help reduce the time spent switching between different wire nibs
- Near immediate temperature response; nibs heat and cool very quickly
- Twist-to-tighten nib fittings are easier to operate than screw- or plug-style fittings
- Kit includes pliers, tweezers, and diamond files for light tool maintenance
- Nibs have shorter posts, placing the hand closer to the workpiece for better control
- Large kit takes up more tabletop space and more space in storage
- Significantly more expensive than most hobbyist wood-burning kits
Get the TruArt professional wood-burning tool at Amazon or TruArt.
Our best pick for beginners is a sturdy yet inexpensive tool with broad functionality and a selection of the most commonly needed tips. The Walnut Hollow Creative wood-burning tool is a basic kit that comes with a wire tool rest and four craft-style twist-on tips: a cone point, a shading point, a universal point, and a flow point.
This 25-watt tool attains tip temperatures up to 950 degrees Fahrenheit, allowing you to effectively work with most woods. With no temperature control, you learn how to control effects by pen position and timing. The tool features an on/off switch wired into the power cord and a heat shield between the element and the handle.
Although it was a rather spartan kit with none of the bells and whistles found on pricier models, the Walnut Hollow tool tested very well in terms of basic functionality. The tip heated in less than 2 minutes. The included tips were adequate for making wide and narrow lines, dots, curves, circles, and shading. Between this model and our budget pick, this one heated faster, reached higher heat, and seemed to maintain its heat more consistently. For just a few dollars more, we would choose this pick.
- Type: Solid tip
- Wattage: 25
- Number of tips: 4
- Affordable price point for a basic single-temp wood-burning kit
- Kit includes 4 of the most commonly needed twist-on tips
- Heat shield and tool rest prevent accidental burns and heat damage to work surface
- In-line power switch reduces wear and tear on the plug
- Does not come with a storage or carry case
- Temperature element becomes too hot for leather and other sensitive materials
Get the Walnut Hollow Value wood-burning tool at Amazon, Michaels, Blick, Hobby Lobby, or Joann.
The keys to clean, crisp pyrographic writing are comfortable pens and precision tips. The YSBMZP wood-burning kit comes equipped with dual pro-style pens and 24 assorted wire nibs that are ideal for stylized writing and other detailed pyrography patterns.
The kit includes a 60W digital control box that adjusts tip temperatures from 350 to 700 degrees Fahrenheit, suitable for a wide variety of materials, including wood, leather, gourds, paper, and more. The ergonomic pens feature insulated rubber grips for comfort and control. In addition to the tool itself, this kit includes an extensive selection of stencils and basswood blanks.
The kit presents an excellent value for a pro-style wood-burning tool. It offered much the same functionality as our best professional pick but at about one-third the price. The temperature did not reach the red-hot phase, but it reached working temperature in less than a minute. The pen grips were super comfortable and well insulated against overheating.
Two things we didn’t love about this kit included using a screwdriver to change out nibs (two set screws secured the nib to the pen) and the short pen wires. Using the screwdriver felt awkward, and we were always worried about losing one of the tiny screws if we backed them out too far. The 32-inch pen wires were the shortest on any of the tools we tested and left little room to move around without repositioning the control box.
- Type: Wire nib
- Wattage: 60
- Number of tips: 24
- Professional-style dual-pen kit with temperature control for different tasks
- Includes 24 assorted wire-nib tips for precise pyrography patterns
- Pens feature insulated handles with rubberized grips for excellent comfort and control
- Affordable price point for a pro-style pyrography kit
- Using a screwdriver to change out the wire nibs is awkward
- Wires from the control box to the pens are shorter than we would like
Get the YSBMZP wood-burning tool at Amazon.
The AOUTK 72-piece wood-burning tool kit offers dozens of crafting solutions. This tool has an on/off switch and a separate temperature controller conveniently built into the handle. It comes with 21 craft-style twist-on tips to cover most tasks.
This kit comes ready for a variety of multimedia projects. In addition to the pyrography tools, the kit includes a chuck and hot-knife blade, carbon transfer paper, stencils, balsa-wood blanks, six colored pencils, and a pencil sharpener, all packed in a convenient carry case.
The AOUTK wood-burning tool tested very well on user comfort, versatility, and convenience. The narrow handle was easier to control for those with smaller hands, and we appreciated the presence of the controls right on the handle instead of on the power cord. The handle temperature remained comfortable thanks to the low-profile heat diffuser.
This wood burner was really good, but the extra-long heating element and the temperature adjustment readout made it slightly less than perfect. The lengthy tool places your hand about ¼ inch further away from the work surface than many of the other models we tested. This made it slightly more difficult to control the tip. Also, at first glance, we thought a temperature range of 200 to 450 degrees Fahrenheit would be inadequate, but then we realized it was actually graded in degrees Celsius. This translates to 392 to 842 degrees Fahrenheit, which is good for many different projects.
- Type: Solid tip
- Wattage: 60
- Number of tips: 21
- Comfortable handle fits smaller hands better than many of the others we tested
- On/off switch and temperature-control dial are conveniently built into the handle
- Includes 21 twist-in tips, a hot knife, stencils, colored pencils, and more
- Temperature controller is labeled in degrees Celsius
- Longer heating element places your hand further from the work surface, which provides less control
Get the AOUTK wood-burning tool at Amazon.
Woodworking projects sometimes require higher tool temperatures to effectively burnish dense hardwoods. With a maximum output of 1,050 degrees Fahrenheit, the 30W Wall Lenk wood-burning tool is more capable than most other single-temperature hot tools. The kit includes a tool rest; 10 craft-style tips for woodburning, soldering, leatherwork, stenciling, and foam cutting; and a molded plastic storage case.
This professional-grade hot tool features a shortened element shaft that enables a high level of control and dual heat shields to maintain a comfortable handle temperature. The assortment of twist-on tips includes universal, calligraphy, shading, flow, texture, cone, script, knife, soldering, and dot points.
In light-colored woods like balsa, birch, and pine, it was tough for us to see the effects of the temperature difference between this 30W 1,050-degree-Fahrenheit Wall Lenk wood burner and the Walnut Hollow burners that are rated 25W and 950 degrees Fahrenheit. To test this tool, we did a side-by-side comparison on harder, darker oak.
This tool produced darker burns after simply tapping the surface with the hot tip and holding it in place for 1 to 3 seconds. It also produced smoke about 2 seconds faster than the competitor, so consider the potential for this tool to overheat more sensitive materials. For outstanding temperature control, pair it with the Wall Lenk Temperature Regulator.
- Type: Solid tip
- Wattage: 30
- Number of tips: 10
- 30W wood-burning tool heats up to 1,050 degrees Fahrenheit; ideal for hardwoods
- Shorter element shaft places your hand closer to the workpiece for outstanding control
- Kit includes an assortment of 10 twist-on wood-burning and crafting tips
- Extreme heat can become excessive for some sensitive materials
- No built-in power switch or temperature controller; tool must be unplugged to power off
Get the Wall Lenk wood-burning tool at Amazon, Woodcraft, or Rockler.
Our favorite wood-burning kit includes a variety of pyrography, crafting, and soldering tips to serve the widest range of hobby and home-repair needs. Equipped with a built-in variable-temperature controller, the 25W Walnut Hollow Versa-Tool heats up to 950 degrees Fahrenheit. It also boasts a cushioned rubber grip for outstanding comfort and control.
The tool comes with a folding stand, storage case, 11 interchangeable twist-on tips, and a spool of lead-free solder. The list of tips includes universal, flow, shading, calligraphy, tapered, soldering, hot-knife, mini-flow, mini-universal, cone, and hot-stamp points.
The Walnut Hollow Versa-Tool tested similarly to our Best Overall pick but missed out on the top spot because of its chunkier build and the clunky controller location on the power cord. Those two issues made it a little less comfortable to work with, even though the temperature range and accessories were excellent. We really liked this tool’s versatility, and although comfort was somewhat less than ideal, it was still easy and relatively comfortable to work with. The rubber overmolded handle was definitely a plus.
- Type: Solid tip
- Wattage: 25
- Number of tips: 11
- Variable temperature up to 950 degrees Fahrenheit makes this tool compatible with a wide range of materials, including wood, foam, paper, and metal
- Kit includes 11 tips for wood burning, leatherwork, soldering, and hot-knife cutting
- Includes a starter coil of lead-free solder for metal crafting
- Neatly packed in a hard plastic carry case
- Chunky build makes the tool a little harder to control than our top performers
- Temperature controller is awkwardly located in the middle of the power cord
Get the Walnut Hollow Versa-Tool wood-burning tool at Amazon, Michaels, Rockler, Blick, Hobby Lobby, or Joann.
Pyrography is an ancient art form that’s becoming a hot trend! For beginners, it’s important to understand a few things about wood-burning tools before purchasing a kit. There are two main types of tools, and they offer different levels of ease of use and level of detail, so it’s worth choosing one to fit your project needs and abilities.
Photo: Debbie Wolfe for Bob Vila
Craft Style or Solid Tip
Craft-style (also known as solid-tip) pens are essentially soldering irons with a solid brass tip. They take a while to heat up, but they hold their temperature well, making them a bit more user-friendly and less fussy than some finer tools. This is why they’re an excellent choice for beginners to learn some pyrography basics.
Craft-style pens have their limitations, however. As mentioned, they take a while to heat up and cool off, which can slow you down a bit. Also, they don’t allow you to create very fine details, regardless of what kind of tip you use.
For more professional results, look for a wood-burning tool with a wire nib. These wire elements operate like the heavy brass tip of a craft-style pen but with some additional benefits. Since there is less mass, they heat up much faster, allowing you to jump into your work almost instantly. They also allow a greater level of detail with intricate patterns and drawings.
Though wire nibs heat up quickly, they also cool swiftly. They take some getting used to, but once you have the knack for regulating the temperature, your crafting should become easier.
There’s more to choosing the best wood-burning tool for you than deciding between craft style and wire nib. Consider the projects and materials, as well as how much flexibility and convenience will suit you. Keep the following points in mind while shopping for your new wood-burning pen.
The species and type of wood you burn on has a significant impact on the end product. While some species may be more readily available than others, you should select wood with the right texture and grain. For pyrography, wood with small, tight pores and a smooth surface yields superior results. Use a relatively soft wood that burns easily. Birch, alder, beechwood, balsa wood, pine, and mahogany all work well and vary in affordability. Conversely, oak, walnut, and hickory can be too hard and grainy for quality work. That said, if you opt to burn challenging woods, use a wire-nib wood-burning tool so you can manipulate the temperature more easily.
Types of Tips
Both styles of wood-burning tools allow you to swap out tips to get a variety of results. Each type of tip excels at a specific job, so you may wish to own an assortment for your pyrography creations.
Universal tips are general-purpose workhorses that do a decent job of outlining, shading, some detailing, and some lettering. For smooth curves and outlines, you might find a rounded flow tip works, as it coasts across the surface easily. Calligraphy tips work very well when creating advanced cursive text. There are many other types of tips that you can collect as your work becomes more advanced.
Power and Variable Temperature
When shopping for a wood-burning tool, there will be a wattage rating in most product descriptions. The wattage refers to the amount of power the pen can produce, which relates to the temperature the pen can reach. The most capable wood-burning tools will have power ratings around 60W, but beginners will likely find a 30W wood-burning tool will serve them well enough.
The wattage rating relates to the temperature the tool can produce at the tip. The higher the wattage, the higher the temperature. Higher-wattage tools can reach temperatures higher than 900 degrees Fahrenheit, but not all materials need 900 degrees Fahrenheit at the tip to produce a quality burn.
Look for a wood-burning tool with an adjustable temperature range to dial in the perfect temperature for your project. Harder, denser woods may require the highest temperature setting, while softer materials (including leather) can do quite well with a lower setting.
In general, these temperatures can range from 500 degrees Fahrenheit on the low end to 900-plus on the high end. Not all quality burners allow you to choose an exact temperature value; instead, select a wattage rating like 15W, 30W, or 60W, with the higher rating producing the most heat.
Craft-style tools are generally slower to warm up. Their brass tips have more thermal mass, which can take between 5 and 8 minutes to reach the appropriate temperature. Wire-nib tools, on the other hand, can be ready to go in under a minute. Their wire points are simply heat elements, and an electrical charge can pass through very quickly. For speed and convenience, wire nibs are by far the better option.
What feels comfortable while practicing pyrography may change as your skill level increases. Newbies may find that a large, thick tool with rubber padding feels comfortable and ensures a good grip. These tools can prevent cramping, allowing you to put in plenty of hours honing your craft.
In time, as your grip becomes more natural and less likely to cause cramping, you may prefer a thinner tool. This will offer a bit more flexibility and dexterity, allowing you to tackle fine details with more elegance and flow.
As a new wood burner, you might be interested in purchasing a kit with all the accessories to get started. These kits include things like a tool stand with a sponge for cleaning the tip, pliers for changing hot tips, stencils, and other pieces to help your creative journey.
Some kits even come with accessories for soldering, allowing your wood-burning tool to pull double duty as an electrical repair tool. In fact, a soldering-iron stand (available at Amazon) can be very helpful while cutting your teeth in pyrography, as it provides a safe place to hold your hot tool when your hand needs a break.
If you decide to purchase a stand-alone tool, you can still buy an accessory kit separately. You can also buy sheets of carbon paper to make pattern transfers an easier process.
Now that you have a bit of background on some of the best wood-burning tools, you may still want more info. Check out the answers to some commonly asked questions and answers about wood-burning tools. If you still have questions, reach out to the tool’s manufacturer to chat with customer service.
Q. How do you use a wood-burning tool?
Using a wood-burning tool takes some practice, but the actual process is straightforward. Plug the tool into an electrical outlet, turn it on, and adjust the temperature, letting it heat up (this can take up to 8 minutes). Then, holding the tool by the rubber grip, slowly drag the tip across the surface of the wood or other material, allowing the tip to burn in your design.
Q. How do you keep the pen tips from getting dirty?
You can’t keep your tips from getting dirty, but you can clean the carbon buildup. Some kits come with sponges that you moisten and use to wipe the tip clean. You can also pass the tip over a piece of fine sandpaper to remove carbon buildup.
Q. Can a wood-burning tool be used on leather?
Wood-burning tools work great on leather. If you work on a piece of fresh vegetable-tanned leather, lower the converter to a low setting for ideal results.
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Meet the Tester
Mark Wolfe is a writer and product tester with an extensive background in the nursery and landscaping industries. For more than 20 years, he mowed, edged, planted, pruned, cultivated, irrigated, and renovated beautiful landscapes. Now he tests and writes reviews about the latest outdoor power equipment, hand tools, lawn-care products, and other outdoor living goods.
Additional research provided by Tom Scalisi.