Your Pyrography Ph.D

Your Pyrography Ph.D


There are three elements that will allow you to burn anything at any time. These three controls can be used to troubleshoot any issue and address any challenge you may ever have in pyrography.

And in this article I am going to explain what they are, how they work, and when you can use them.

They form the acronym Ph.D for Pressure, Heat and Duration. And so knowing and understanding how to use them allows you to have an advanced ability to troubleshoot intelligently and approach challenges with efficiency.

P is for Pressure

The first element is pressure. Applying more pressure will give you a darker burn. This also allows you to engrave on the surface of the wood, creating texture. Easing up on your pressure will result in a lighter burn mark.
Pressure allows you to adjust your burns immediately without losing time turning your heat up or down.
Design wise, pressure can create interesting textures and subtleties in your artwork that are impossible with other two dimensional mediums.

H is for Heat

It may seem obvious that more heat will result in a darker burn and less heat in a lighter burn but this bears repeating.

Remembering that your comfort is directly related to the amount of control you have while burning, gives you the ability to understand when to use this element as opposed to others to troubleshoot and correct.

If you have a critical area in your design, one that requires precision, turning down your heat gives you the time to position your pen properly and make adjustments if there is an issue. I use this extensively when working on eyes since I know that any deviation will dramatically change the artwork.

D is for Duration

Your duration or speed is perhaps the simplest adjustment you can make for your burning. Because it is the heat that is doing the work, the longer your pen remains on the wood  the darker the burn will be.

This is the main principle in shading. Slowing down in the darker areas and speeding up in the lighter areas helps you to maintain smooth and steady rhythm without having to wait for your tool to heat up or cool down.

This is also an excellent element to adjust when you work with grain or soft/resistant areas of the surface. Hitting a soft spot can result in extremely dark burns so if you notice this simply speed up your stroke when you hit that section. The same is true for hard/resistant areas, simply slow down to allow your tool to do its job properly. This will create a consistent look to your burning.

In addition, burning on wood with a skew – particularly when doing animal fur or feathers – can become challenging when you burn parallel with the grain. The blade of your skew will tend to sink into the grain and produce a darker burn. Employing a faster speed will keep your burns consistent, even if you do sink in.

Congratulations! You now have your Pyrography Ph.D!  And just like any Ph.D it is time to put this knowledge into practice.

Understanding these three elements allows you to approach your work from a place of confidence because you understand the physics of what is happening and how to control it. These elements may not necessarily make your work easier or faster but they will allow you to make the necessary decisions to burn successfully on any surface.

Interested in diving deeper? Be sure to sign up for my FREE Burning Basics Video series to get more information on these principles and see them in action!

8 Responses

  1. Paul J Klonowski
    | Reply
  2. Donna
    | Reply

    I have always been self taught with all of my art projects. I love pyrography and have wished I could find someone to give me some tips on technique. Your site should help me a great deal.

    • Sharon
      | Reply

      Awesome! Glad you find it helpful as I plan on adding LOTS more content from over 10 years of teaching.
      Thanks for reading!

  3. Alejandro
    | Reply

    buena información

    • Sharon
      | Reply


  4. Albena
    | Reply

    Thank you for all the helpful tools!

  5. Terry Clanton
    | Reply

    On your horse pictures , how do I get the mane as dark as yours or should I ?
    Should I add flowing lines until it is full then shade darker ?

    • Sharon Bechtold
      | Reply

      Slow down your speed to get darker lines. Don’t resort to shading everything, it makes the burning muddy. Shading is like salt, if used wisely it enhances everything. But if overused it will ruin it. Take your time and let the heat do the work.

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