How to burn letters into wood

Updated July 20, 2017

Whether you're looking for a personalised gift or a welcome sign for your front yard, a burnt letter sign provides endless possibilities. Thanks to woodworking hobbyists and wholesalers, unfinished wooden pieces, such as children's furniture, chests, plaques and serving trays, are readily available at craft stores and fairs. According to wood-burning artist Lora S. Irish, basswood is a favourite in this craft because of how its pale colour contrasts with burning, but other woods, such as butternut and sugar pine, work well too.

Use letter stencils to outline with pencil on the wood where you want your letters placed.

Preheat your wood-burning tool. Always place it on a tile or plate to prevent scorching surfaces.

Drag the tip's blade along your pencil lines, holding the tool like a pencil. The blade is the sharp, chiselled edge. Use little, if any, pressure. The longer a tool rests on an area, the darker and deeper the line will be.

Clean carbon residue off the wood burner's tip as needed. Lay sandpaper on your tile, and pull the tip across to reveal the brass under the residue.

Use the tool's tip to create texture if desired. Press briefly with the point to make dots or other patterns inside or around your letters.


Use stencils to add shapes to your design. Seal the finished design with polyurethane if desired, especially if it will be placed outdoors.

Things You'll Need

  • Letter stencils
  • Graphite pencil
  • Wood-burning tool
  • Heavy glazed tile or plate
  • Fine-grit sandpaper
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About the Author

Jennifer Keigh is a professional technology journalist and wireless forum community leader who specializes in mobile operating systems. She holds a B.A. in English from the University of Wisconsin.