Wood Burning for Beginners: An Introduction to Pyrography | Hannah Baker | Skillshare

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Wood Burning for Beginners: An Introduction to Pyrography

teacher avatar Hannah Baker, Knots and Embers

Watch this class and thousands more

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

    • 1.



    • 2.

      Health and Safety


    • 3.

      Pyrography machines


    • 4.



    • 5.



    • 6.

      Preparing wood


    • 7.

      Class project


    • 8.

      Sealing your art


    • 9.



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About This Class

In this class I will teach you how to use a basic pyrography tool to turn a simple fern design into a beautiful piece of wood burned art. You will learn about the different tools and materials that are required and how to use everything safely. We’ll go through some of the different types of surfaces you can burn on, different burners and nibs, how to transfer the design onto the wood, burning techniques and what finishes to use to seal and protect your art.

This class is suitable for beginners, no prior experience is necessary. You will need a piece of wood for your art, another for practise, sand paper, the downloaded template, a pencil or pen, carbon paper, a rubber, tape, a printer and a pyrography machine.

Pyrography is a wonderful craft suitable for all skill levels. You can use it to create so many different items for yourself or gifts for others; jewellery, photo frames, furniture, wall decor, candle holders, wedding decor, memorial pieces… The list goes on! It also doesn’t have to be about the finished piece, as the nature of burning is a great mindfulness practise - if you get a beautiful piece of art at the end then that’s a bonus!

Below is the list of songs used throughout my class:

Introduction - Sapajou 'Intencion'

Health and safety - Smith the Mister 'Ohayo'

Pyrography Machines - Smith the Mister 'Riviera'

Equipment - Smith the Mister 'Charlie Brown'

Surfaces - Smith the Mister 'Clocks'

Preparing Wood - Smith the Mister 'Green Tea'

Class project - Smith the Mister 'Floating'

Class project - Smith the Mister 'Ohayo'

Sealing your art - Smith the Mister 'Green Tea'

Conclusion - Smith the Mister 'Floating'

Meet Your Teacher

Teacher Profile Image

Hannah Baker

Knots and Embers


Hey, I'm Hannah - the face behind Knots and Embers. I started this little venture back in 2020 when life slowed down enough for me to get back into exploring my creativity and it's now turned into my full-time business. 

My favourite pieces to burn are designs based on yoga and anything that involves nature or animals. As an artist, finding the joy in being creative is what drives me and helping others to find that joy through teaching is a real privilege. When I'm not wood burning, you can usually find me rock climbing, practising yoga, walking dogs or if I'm really lucky, up a mountain! If you have any ideas for what you'd like to learn, please get in touch and I'll see what I can do! 

If you'd like to learn more about me... See full profile

Level: Beginner

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1. Introduction: Hello. Welcome to my class, Wood Burning for Beginners: An Introduction to Pyrography. I'm Hannah, the creator of Knots and Embers, and I'm so happy that you've chosen to explore my favorite art form. When I discovered wood burning art, it became a huge passion. Some of the pieces that I create include nature and yoga-themed art, pet portraits and other custom block, and earrings. In this lesson, we'll go through everything that you need to know to get started on wood burning. You need no prior experience of wood burning, or even art. We'll talk about the safety measures that you need to be taking, different surfaces that you can burn on, types of burners, and more. Once you've gone through all the necessary information, we'll burn our own piece of art together, and I'll give you handy tips along the way. I'd love it if you could upload your progress and finished photos to the class discussion. If you upload any to social media, please tag me at Knots and Embers so that I can see them there. Now let's get burning. 2. Health and Safety: First, we're going to talk about health and safety when burning. Our pens are going to get very hot, and getting burned is no fun, so we want to make sure that we're always holding the pen on the handle and not on the metal. It's really important to keep the wire out of the way so that that doesn't melt. You should also have a stand that comes with your paleography kit, to rest your pen on when it's not in use. It's a good idea to tape both of these down to the table, so that they stay in place. Never leave your banner unattended while it's on, and it's a good habit to get into to unplug it when you stop using it. Always turn the machine off and wait until it's cold to change tips. This avoids you getting burned and destroying the threads on your tips, or depending on the design of your device, stop you from getting an electric shock. Always read the manual before you begin. It's important to have good ventilation in the room that you're burning in, so opening a window or a door is great. You could also purchase a fan and have it turned away from you so that it's drawing the smoke away from your face. Another thing I recommend using is a face mask that can protect against very small particles and toxins given off by burning wood. I use the Cambridge Mass company mask as I have found it to be the most comfortable for long periods of time. Other items that you might like to use are heat proof gloves or finger shields because the pen can get really hot when you're using it for long periods of time. Make sure you take breaks, it's good to give your machine a rest and a chance to cool down, as well as give your fingers, hands, and body a good stretch. 3. Pyrography machines: Choosing a pyrography machine can feel a bit overwhelming because there's a huge variety out there in varying prices. There's no need to go out and get the most expensive one that you can find. Some of the cheaper ones do a really great job. My personal burnout is an antex filewriter, which has interchangeable nibs that get up to a high temperature faster and where you hold it as closest to the wood's surface so I get more precision. It also has a variable heat setting, which is really good for doing it lighter and darker shading. However, I'm using a basic solid tip banner from hobby craft for my lessons and workshops because I think it's a great alternative for starting pyrography or doing it as a hobby. If after trying it, it's something that you really want to dive into it, then you may want to look at upgrading your machine later. You'll find a few different tips with your machine and I really recommend practicing with them on a scrap piece of wood to get the feel of them. I'll just show you a few. The flow tip, which is good for lines, lettering, and dots. [MUSIC] This one's the shading tip which is good for shading and then lots of different stamps which are nice for patterns. The one that we'll be using today is this one, the universal tip. It's called this because it can pretty much do everything the other tips can do but its best uses are for lines and shading. The best way to use it is by dragging it towards you. Because at the point here is a lot harder to push away from me because it'll catch on the wood. To attach it I'm just going to screw it into the end here. 4. Equipment: [MUSIC] Here is the rest of the equipment that we will use today and is useful for other wood-burning projects. Scrap wood, carbon paper, and tape for transferring your design, a pencil, sandpaper, I like this brand as they last a really long time, and a rubber. I like using this sand one as it's great for getting rid of the stubborn lines from carbon paper. Just make sure that you don't press too hard as this can lead to little scratches in the wood. The other items that I like to use when burning are this tea strainer. This is great for scraping off the carbon buildup on the tip. If you get carbon buildup, it can make burning feel a little bit harder and less smooth. It's good to have something to scrape it off with. You can also use sandpaper or metal nail files. However, I like a tea strainer because it's not too abrasive on the tips. Finally, I like having something to balance my hand on. When I get to burning something near the edge of the wood and have nothing to rest my hand on, I can find it tricky to get an accurate burn line. So I rest it on top of scrap wood or a notebook or just something that's the same height. 5. Surfaces: Pyrography is a very versatile craft and you combine on many different surfaces, canvas, leather, cork, cod, and of course wood. The type of wood is important as it will change how your pan works, how your art looks, and your overall experience. The first thing to mention is dangerous woods. There are a few woods that are poisonous like hew, contain chemical adhesives like MDF or have a lot of resin in them, like pine. These fur for release harmful smoke when burned that would be dangerous to inhale. We'll say avoid burning on anything that has paint on it or could potentially have been treated like pallet wood. If you're in doubt, you can simply Google the wood and see if it's safe to burn on. The best wood for pyrography is light in color so that it contrasts with your burn. Dark wood can be used, but your design might not stand out as much. Soft woods with an even texture and grain are the easiest to burn on and allow the pyrography pan to move across more smoothly. Some of my favorites are lime or pa sued, sweet and horse chestnut, batch, willow and cherry. 6. Preparing wood: Now that we've gone through all that, we're ready to prepare our wood. In order to get a smooth burn, we need some smooth wood. I sand my wood with 120 grit paper and then 240 until it's really smooth and I can't feel any ridges in it. Once it's smooth, we're ready to put our image on. You can either sketch straight onto your wood with a pencil or you can use a template and carbon paper. Whichever you choose, make sure that your lines are light so that you have less rubbing out to do at the end. If using your template, first, make sure it's the correct size for your wood and think about what position you'd like in. When you think it's right, place it down on your wood and secure the top with some tape. Then paste your carbon paper with the shiny side down underneath your image and secure it with tape at the bottom. Then you're ready to gently draw over your lines with your pencil. Try not to press down on the wood with your hands as anywhere you put pressure some of the carbon will rub off onto the wood. When you think you've finished, release one piece of tape and peel back your template just to check that the image is transferred okay and if there are any parts that you've missed out. If it's all okay, then you can remove the template and carbon paper and then we're ready to burn. 7. Class project: Once your pen has heated up, which could take 30 seconds to three minutes depending on your device, test it on a bit of scrap, weird to check it's the right temperature, and then we can have a go at some techniques. When the tip is not touching the wood, it will gain heat and then you can end up getting a heavy band at your first point of contact. Therefore, you need to try to bring the tip down to the wood in a smooth motion without holding it in one place. One way to think of it as like an airplane landing on the runway. You can also gently blow on the tip as you bring it down to the wood to help it cool a little. You'll see that the tip loses heat as it moves along the wood. [MUSIC] Once you've done some lines and feel comfortable, let's practice some other techniques. These will help you to add depth and texture. The first is shading. Turn the tip on its side along this edge and lightly move it along the wood. You can go over this again and again to build up darker shading. [MUSIC] Another way to shade is crosshatching. Start by making some lines going in one direction and then add more on top going across them. The more you add, the darker the shading will become. [MUSIC] The final technique is called stippling. Here we use lots of dots placed closely together or further apart. The closer the dots are to each other, the darker the shading will be, and the further away from each other, the lighter it will be. [MUSIC] When you feel ready, you can start to burn your piece. Start with the base of the stem and move up to the top. Move slowly and keep a gentle even pressure. Pressing too hard will not speed up the process and you may end up damaging your pattern. [MUSIC] I find it's easiest with a small piece of wood like this one to move the wood around and keep the pen coming towards you. [MUSIC] Remember, if you get a build-up of carbon, just wipe it. [MUSIC] 8. Sealing your art: Now that you've finished burning your lovely piece of art, it's time to think about sealing it. You are fine to leave your piece unsealed, however, the burn will fade naturally over time. Putting a finish over the top of it will help slow that down. It also helps to protect the wood from damage, and it deepens the color and makes the wood brain pop. Be aware that if you've done quite a light burn, sealing it will make the wood darker and therefore may make your design harder to see, especially as it fades over time. There are lots of options out there for this, and it all comes down to personal preference. My favorite brand to use is Osmo oil, which is vegan and nontoxic. I use the 410 clear satin oil which has got UV protection; and the finish that I get from this is always fantastic. If you're making something that will be used in the kitchen, like spoons or chopping boards, be sure to use a food grade sealer. Other finishes that you could use, are beeswax, Danish oil, walnut oil, and various synthetic sprays. Its a good idea to test your sealer on a piece of scrap wood first. Make sure it's the same type as your piece of art to see how it turns out before applying it to your final piece. You should keep your art out of direct sunlight, and away from heat sources, this will help to prevent UV damage, and the wood from cracking. 9. Conclusion: Thank you so much for joining my class on beginners pyrography. I really hope that you've enjoyed it, learned a lot, and feel confident to take on your own projects. I'm available for any questions that you might have. I'd love to see your progress photos, finished pieces, and any other projects that you create. Please tag me at Knots and Embers or share in the class discussion. I'd also love to hear from you in the class discussion about any other lessons that you'd enjoy. Thank you and goodbye.