Practitioners of pyrography use a handheld heated tool for controlled burning to create artistic effects on materials such as wood, leather and gourds. When wood is the medium, the craft is alternatively called "wood burning." Lighter-coloured woods with fine grains, such as beech and birch, are most commonly used. Experienced pyrographers may use woods with more pronounced grains, such as oak, and use their skill and artistic ability to incorporate the wood grain into the finished image.
Primitive pyrography can be accomplished simply, with a metal point that is heated in a fire. Modern pyrographers can buy inexpensive, widely available and easy-to-use electronic tools for this creative hobby. Wood burning sets and tools are commonly available from craft stores, woodworking suppliers and mass retailers.
The burner, a device with a metal tip at the end, is the basis of any wood burning tool system.
There are two types of wood burners. The first and simpler type is a one-piece device that resembles a soldering iron, with the heating element embedded into the handpiece. The second type of burner features a separate controller assembly to which the handpiece is connected. The separate assembly allows precise regulation of the wattage flowing through the wood burning tool, allowing a fine level of control over the heat output.
The latter type of wood burner is much more expensive than the basic type. It is usually used by advanced-level pyrographic artists, who are skilled in using the variable settings to create a wide range of striking artistic effects.
Most wood burners have interchangeable tips, which are the secret to unlocking the creative potential of the art. Different tips are used to create a variety of artistic effects, including solid lines, broad blackened areas and fine burns so small that they simulate shadow effects. Tips can be pointed or rounded, solid or wire, and are available in many shapes.
Accomplished woodworkers will create a sample board, consisting of a number of wood-burnt areas---each area burnt by a different tip and/or wattage. The sampler becomes a visual tool for the artist, to remind him of the diverse effects to be achieved with different tips. An experienced pyrographer can use multiple tips to create fine art of subtle detail and great intricacy.
Other Tools and Accessories
Fine sandpaper is used to create an exceptionally smooth surface on the wood to be burnt. Many pyrographers use graphite transfer paper to lightly apply a pattern or guidelines to the wooden work surface; old-fashioned office carbon paper may be used, but graphite paper leaves a cleaner pattern. Most wood burning kits include a small metal coil as a rest; this is used to safely hold the heated pyrography tool when not in use or when it is cooling after use. Pyrographers always keep a small piece of wet sponge near the work area, to frequently clean the burnt wood residues that accumulate on the tips.
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