How to Wood Burn

Wood burning is transferring marks and designs on wood using a controlled burn. A hot appliance like a wood burning pen or a heat gun is applied on the surface of the wood and this can be used to create images, shapes, letters and more. With a well-maintained tip, a wood burning pen can create pretty much anything. Here is a guide to help you make your first wood burn project.

Wood burning basics

Wood burning should be done safely so don’t forget to wear safety gear. This project should be done in a well-ventilated environment or preferably outdoors so that you can be safe. Be sure to use only top quality materials for this project.

Things you’ll need

  • Wood burning pen.
  • Assorted wood burning tips
  • Strop and aluminum oxide to clean the pen
  • Pliers
  • Clay pot or pen holder
  • Get a hold of some nice wood for the pyrography (pine, basswood, birch, ash or maple)
  • 320-grit sandpaper


Step 1: Creating drawings for your project


Create drawings on paper. Start with a simple figure or pattern if you are just starting to learn the art. After successfully completing a few drawings you may be ready to put your art on wood by burning.

Sand the surface well. Sand along the grain. Sanding with the grain will reduce any burrs or scratch marks which can result when you dance against the grain. After sanding well, wipe the surface with a damp towel to remove any sawdust and make the transfer easier.

Step 2: Use your heat pen


Use the heat pen. Don’t press too hard on wood when using a heat pen. You don’t need to apply lots of pressure to create an impression. Using light strokes is preferable so you can easily guide the pen to any surface. Light strokes will also reduce errors and eliminates the accidental burning of the surface. Just remember that the longer you hold your pen in one area, the darker and deeper the image will be.

Work with the grain for the easiest time using a wood burner. Position your piece of wood until most of the grain is pointing downward so you can move your pen in a downward direction. Burning against the grain will only build resistance and will be harder to do.

Step 3: Practice makes perfect


Once you have your materials and understand the basics use several pieces of practice wood and practice wood burning using different tips that usually come when you purchase your wood burning pen. The tips you will use will be according to the type of picture and how much detail you want to place in your project.

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Transferring a design onto wood

Choose the ideal design technique that will work best for you. If possible, you must make wood burning art without the use of a pencil design. But if you are just beginning to work with a wood burn pen, you can settle with a pencil sketch design first. There are three basic ways to copy a design on your piece of wood.

Draw a design directly using freehand


If you are an artist and drawing is your passion, you may find this a very easy technique rather than using a pencil pattern. This is not the easiest technique but it is more efficient ways of getting down an outline.

Using graphite paper


Make or print out a sketch of your and use graphite paper, face down, on top of the wood, Secure the paper on wood with the use of a masking tape and the sketch you made on top of the graphite paper. Remove the graphite paper and improve the outline on the wood with the same 2B pencil by deepening the contours.

Transfer drawings with a transfer tip

A transfer tip is a flat tip that is usually used to transfer the ink of a printed image onto wood. First, look or scan an image online that you’d like to use on wood. Then fasten the printed image to your wood using a clamp.

Start to heat up the transfer tip then brush the back side of the paper where the ink is using the transfer tip. Now the image has been transferred to the wood, you may now remove the paper and check your design.


Burning wood requires precision and minding safety at all times. Getting the hand of using a heat pen will help you create different designs on wood. So practice every time you get a chance.

  • January 5, 2019
  • DIY