Pyrography is the art of decorating wood or other materials with burn marks resulting from the controlled application of a heated object such as a poker. It is also known as pokerwork or wood burning.

Pyrography means "writing with fire" and is the traditional art of using a heated tip or wire to burn or scorch designs onto natural materials such as wood or leather. Burning can be done by means of a modern solid-point tool (similar to a soldering iron) or hot wire tool, or a more basic method using a metal implement heated in a fire, or even sunlight concentrated with a magnifying lens.

This allows a great range of natural tones and shades to be achieved - beautiful subtle effects can create a picture in sepia tones, or strong dark strokes can make a bold, dramatic design. Varying the type of tip used, the temperature, or the way the iron is applied to the material all create different effects. Solid-point machines offer a variety of tip shapes, and can also be used for "branding" the wood or leather. Wire-point machines allow the artist to shape the wire into a variety of configurations, to achieve broad marks or fine lines. This work is time-consuming, done entirely by hand, with each line of a complex design drawn individually. After the design is burned in, wooden objects are often coloured, sometimes boldly or more delicately tinted.

Light-coloured hardwoods such as sycamore, beech and birch are most commonly used, as their fine grain is not obtrusive, and they produce the most pleasing contrast. However, other woods, such as pine or oak, are also used when required. Pyrography is also applied to leather items, using the same hot-iron technique. Leather lends itself to bold designs, and also allows very subtle shading to be achieved. Specialist vegetable-tanned leather must be used for pyrography, (as modern tanning methods leave chemicals in the leather which are toxic when burned) typically in light colours for good contrast.

Pyrography is also popular among gourd crafters and artists, where designs are burned onto the exterior of a dried hard-shell gourd, usually with dramatic results.


The process has been practiced by a number of cultures including the Egyptians and some African tribes since the dawn of recorded time. In the late 19th century, a Melbourne architect by the name of Alfred Smart discovered that water-based paint could be applied hot to wood by pumping benzoline fumes through a heated hollow platinum pencil. This improved the pokerwork process by allowing the addition of tinting and shading that previously were impossible. In the early 20th century, the development of the electric pyrographic hot wire wood etching machine further automated the pokerwork process. Pyrography is also a traditional folk art in many European countries, including Romania, Hungary, as well as countries such as Argentina in South America.

External links to artists

* [ Stephan Wiebe - Contemporary artist who uses pyrography in unconventional ways]
* [ Portrait Pyrography by Muse Untamed]
* [ François PEETERS, a Belgian pyrographer]
* [ Pyroengraved Fine Art Gourdwork created by Lisa Chavez-Thomas]
* [ Pyrography Portraits by Roger Bishop]
* [ Burned Images~Unique Pyrography Art on Leather by William Schieber]
* [ Site of the brasilian artisan Ronald, a unique pyrography art to burn wood]
* [ A contemporary US artist of Pyrography Portraits that are photo realistic by TiaH. Also known as Tia O'Conan]
* [ Pyrography Art by an Italian pyrographer]

External links

* [ Information on Pyrography machines]
* [ Images gallery] * [ Pyrography School - showing how it's done]
* [ (See hundreds of pyrography images by the world's best in the "Gallery")]
* [ ( This IAPA group was created on Y! to assemble a network of Visual Artists, Wood, and Leather workers, for the promotion and development of Pyrography worldwide.]
* [ Pyrography tips and techniques]
** [ Web gallery of Los Angeles pyrography art done in a Latin style.]

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Pyrography — Py*rog ra*phy, n. [Pyro + graphy.] A process of printing, ornamenting, or carving, by burning with heated instruments. One variant is {wood burning}. [1913 Webster +PJC] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • pyrography — [pī räg′rə fē] n. [ PYRO + GRAPHY] 1. the art or process of burning designs on wood or leather by the use of heated tools 2. a design so made pyrographer n. pyrographic [pī΄rō graf′ik] adj …   English World dictionary

  • pyrography —   n. tracing of designs by burning; poker work .    ♦ pyrographer, n.    ♦ pyrographic, a.    ♦ pyrogravure, n. design traced by pyrography …   Dictionary of difficult words

  • pyrography — pyrographer, n. pyrographic /puy reuh graf ik/, adj. /puy rog reuh fee/, n., pl. pyrographies for 2. 1. the process of burning designs on wood, leather, etc., with a heated tool. 2. a design made by this process. Also called pyrogravure /puy reuh …   Universalium

  • pyrography — noun a) the art of decorating wood or leather by burning designs into its surface with the tip of a heated tool b) a decoration so produced See Also: pyrograph …   Wiktionary

  • pyrography — study of woodburning Sciences and Studies …   Phrontistery dictionary

  • pyrography — [pʌɪ rɒgrəfi] noun the art or technique of decorating wood or leather by burning a design on the surface with a heated metallic point …   English new terms dictionary

  • pyrography — py·rog·ra·phy …   English syllables

  • pyrography — The art of writing on wood or decorating wood by burning it …   Grandiloquent dictionary

  • pyrography — /paɪˈrɒgrəfi/ (say puy rogruhfee) noun the process of burning designs on wood, leather, etc., with a heated tool. –pyrographer, noun –pyrographic /paɪrəˈgræfɪk/ (say puyruh grafik), adjective …   Australian English dictionary