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Pyrography - The Art of Woodburning

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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, basswood, 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.