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 and/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 wood-burning tool best suited to your specific needs. There are products 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 top favorites among the best wood-burning tool options available today.
- BEST OVERALL: TRUArt Stage 1 Wood Pyrography Pen Set
- RUNNER-UP: Walnut Hollow Creative Woodburner Wire Tip Tool
- UPGRADE PICK: TRUArt Stage 2 Dual Pen Professional 60W Tool
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: Plaid wood burning and stencil cutting tool
- BEST KIT: TAMEHOM 96 PCS Wood Burning Kit
- BEST FOR BEGINNERS: Catnes 97PC Wood Burning Kit
- BEST FOR INTERMEDIATES: Wattne Upgraded Wood Burning Kit
- BEST FOR PROS: TRUArt Stage 2 Single Pen Professional 60W Tool
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.
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. You may want to consider treating the wood with a stain to get a particular shade or look after burning, as well.
Types of Tips
Both styles of wood-burning tools allow you to swap out the 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, but not all materials need 900 degrees 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 on the low end to 900-plus on the high end. Not all quality burners allow you to choose an exact temperature value, however; 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 five and eight 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.
If you’re new to wood-burning, you might be interested in purchasing a kit that has 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 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.
Our Top Picks
With so many wood-burning products available, choosing the right tool or kit can feel overwhelming. The following list represents our favorites in their respective categories and will help you pick the best wood-burning tool for your projects, skill level, and budget.
This kit features a 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 nonslip rubber handle, so beginners can practice their craft for long periods without fatiguing.
The Walnut Hollow Creative Wire Tip Woodburner Tool offers convenience and capability in one package. This tool’s power converter has a built-in tool stand and an adjustable temperature range between 600 and 1,000 degrees, despite a relatively low 12W of 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.
The Stage 2 Dual Pen Professional 60W Tool kit from TRUArt is a complete wire-nib kit that comes with 40 tips, a digital 60W power supply, a dual pen stand, and a set of files and picks for detailed work. It also includes a set of needle-nose pliers and tweezers to allow you to change hot tips safely.
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 at the ready for both intricate and general work without switching tips.
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. It allows beginners to start working without worrying about temperature settings.
The Plaid wood 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.
This 96-piece kit from TAMEHOM includes a 60W craft-style pen with an on/off switch and a temperature knob that adjusts between 392 and 842 degrees, covering most materials. The pen has a comfortable rubber grip and a metal stand for safe storage during breaks.
There are 58 tips contained in this kit, including universal, calligraphy, and detail points, as well as soldering and hot knife tips. This TAMEHOM set also comes with stencils and carbon paper for transferring your sketches to wood, as well as colored pencils to bring some life to your art.
The 97-piece Wood Burning Kit from Catnes comes with a 60W solid-tip, craft-style wood-burning tool. It heats very quickly and has adjustable temperatures between 392 and 842 degrees, as well as an on/off switch for safety. A rubber grip promotes comfort while you learn the basics of wood-burning, and a metal stand securely holds the tool during breaks.
This kit comes with 54 tips, including calligraphy, universal, and flow tips, as well as soldering tips and a hot knife. There are colored pencils, stencils, and even blank wood squares to get you started.
As your pyrography skills improve, you may be ready for this intermediate Upgraded Wood Burning Kit by Wattne. The kit features two 60W wood-burning tools, allowing you to safely switch back and forth between two tips without downtime or risking a burn.
The digital power converter adjusts for temperatures up to 1,292 degrees, providing plenty of heat for any material. The pro-grade wire nibs heat up quickly, and the digital converter allows you to make quick adjustments on the fly, speeding up your workflow. It comes with two separate stands as well as a screwdriver for changing nibs.
If you’re looking for a professional-grade wood-burning tool, consider the TRUArt Stage 2 Single Pen Professional 60W Tool. This 60W nib-style tool has a digital power converter that you can adjust for the ideal temperature on a wide range of materials.
This item is a pro-grade pen with a slim, rubber-coated grip. It’s lightweight as well, minimizing strain on your wrist. Tip changes are quick and easy, as the nibs cool down quickly, and the threaded fittings are easy to loosen and tighten with the included pliers and tweezers. With your choice of 40 tips, everything stores in the carrying case for safekeeping.
Now that you have a bit of background on some of the 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 eight 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 excellently on leather. If you work on a piece of fresh vegetable-tanned leather, lower the converter to a low setting for ideal results.