Burning shapes, patterns, or words into wood is a great way to personalize and elevate your wood crafts.
You may have used a wood burning tool or pyrography pen in shop class or perhaps you’re a complete novice. That’s fine. Woodburning tools are easy to use. You can use them with stencils or freehand if you have an artistic flair.
There are a lot of wood burning tools available on the market. You have a lot of choices when it comes to size, temperature, and nibs.
It can be a bit confusing trying to find the perfect tool with so many options.
We’re here to help! We’re going to take a look at some of the best and most reviewed wood burning tools available. We’ll discuss what’s great about them and what’s a bit of a pain.
We’ve also put together a buyer’s guide that will help you understand the features and effects that can be created by different wood burning tools.
Got a burning desire to pick up pyrography? Here’s our top picks...
Top 5 Best Wood Burning Tool
OUR TOP PICK
This is a more advanced woodburning tool. It uses wire tips which gives you more control and precision.
You have the option to buy this tool with one or two pens. The two pen option is handy if you frequently need to switch between tips on a project.
The pens are a bit chunky but they benefit from the bakelite insulating connection which prevents the handle from becoming too hot to manage.
Supplied with 20 wire tips, you’ll be able to create all sorts of designs and shapes. The tips can be changed by loosening a screw in the head. It is a bit fiddly, but it does prevent damage to the threading of tips.
The temperature control allows you to crank up the heat for more difficult materials. It is a bit sensitive so you need to be careful when adjusting the dial. You don’t want to overdo it!
Overall, this is a simple but effective tool. The tips make for a smooth and clean burn. They are perfect for precision work as well as filling in larger areas.
- 20 wire tips.
- Adjustable heat.
- Two pen options.
- Great quality.
- Insulated for a more comfortable experience.
- Changing nibs is a bit fiddly.
- Temperature control is a bit sensitive.
This is a huge bundle. It has 110 pieces and comes with pretty much everything you could need for wood burning.
The tool is much slimmer than the Walnut Hollow tools which makes it far more comfortable in the hand. There is no heat guard but it does have a rubber handgrip.
There are quite a few reports of the tool becoming too hot to handle without a heat proof glove. This would suggest that the rubber is not effective in providing protection.
The heat range is more than sufficient for wood, leather, and soldering. You are given so many different tips and stamps, that it can be a bit overwhelming and the instructions are slightly scant.
Having said that, most customers are really happy with the range of tips. They report that after a bit of trial and error, it is easy enough to figure out how to change tips.
Many beginners find that this tool is perfect for starting out. It certainly isn’t the best or most functional tool around but the price and sheer amount of kit you receive are very enticing.
- Includes 110 pieces including wood burning tips, soldering tips, stencils, and carbon paper.
- Slim design for in-hand comfort.
- Temperature control dial.
- 15-second heating.
- Rubber hand grip for comfort.
- Can become too hot to handle.
- The tool rest is a bit unstable.
- Poor instructions
If you want quality and simplicity, then this is a great choice. It's perfect for beginners or to have as a spare tool.
The tool is supplied with a cone, shading, universal, and flow tips. These will allow you to create different effects on the wood.
The tips are of high quality and produce clean lines. They screw into the pen so changing them out is nice and easy. Some users report that after a few months, the tips become a bit loose. This could be a result of too much pressure during the burning process.
The pen gets really hot, really quickly. It reaches 950°F within a few minutes. This is more than adequate for creating designs on lots of different surfaces. You’ll be able to make designs quickly though you’ll need to control the pressure to avoid excessively burning.
A heat guard is included on the tool, though many people report that it does very little. The tool can get extremely hot which can make it difficult to use for long periods. There is no rubber grip which means that you can feel the heat through the plastic.
Overall, this is a cheap and easy tool to use. It will help you get the basics of wood burning nailed without costing you an arm and a leg.
- 4 supplied tips.
- Stand included.
- High, constant temperature.
- Low cost.
- Becomes hot and uncomfortable after long periods of use.
- Tips can become loose if too much force is used.
This is a slightly more advanced wood burning tool from Walnut Hollow. It’s their mid-range tool.
It has variable temperature control which is quite rare for craft-style tools. This variable temperature control allows you to work on different surfaces from leather to wood to ceramics.
The temperature control functions very well. It gives you a lot more control over your creation. The issue is the placement of the temperature control volume and its weight.
The control dial is about 10” away from the tool and weighs more than the tool itself. This means that when you are writing or drawing, the control dial has to rest on your arm or it will drag the tool.
For a company that prides itself on being frontrunners in the wood burning game, you’d have thought that they would have considered this design flaw.
You get 11 tips including soldering tips and stamp tips. This gives you more creative license than their entry model. There are, again, some reports of the tips becoming loose or not threading properly after a few uses.
This is a useful tool but it’s not without its little niggles. Because it is cheaper than most other tools with adjustable temperature controls, these niggles are somewhat expected.
- 11 tips with a variety of uses.
- Variable temperature control.
- Rubber handgrip.
- Heat guard.
- Tips can become loose.
- The temperature control dial is in an awkward position.
There is a lot to love about this tool. From the slim design to the simple tip changes, it is a quality piece of kit.
The best thing about this tool is the slim shape. It feels much more like a pen than other tools. This makes it much more comfortable to hold. The rubber grip helps to protect your hand from the heat and make it more comfortable over longer projects.
The four tips supplied can make different shapes and designs. They can be easily switched out using the supplied tweezer. The tips are plugged into the pen and held in place by a rubber seal. There is no need to screw or twist anything.
The temperature range is up to 1000°F and can be adjusted via a dial. There are quite a few customer reviews that mention the fact that the pen does not get very hot. This means that thicker and harder woods take quite a long time to burn.
Other reviews mention that the pen does not hold its heat very well. This means you have to pause and let it reheat. This is disappointing considering the price of the tool and there doesn’t seem to be an explanation for it.
There are plenty of happy, satisfied customers who enjoy using this tool. Perhaps, it lacks a bit of power compared to other wire tip tools but it is adequate.
- Slim comfortable design.
- Well insulated handle.
- Adjustable temperature.
- Simple tip exchange.
- Has trouble holding a temperature.
- Seems to be a bit weak in terms of power and heat.
Best Wood Burning Tool Buying Guide
Wood burning has a long and beautiful history. The earliest examples of wood burning date back to the first century AD and are from Peru and Roman Britain. These artifacts were created by applying fire-heated metal rods to the wood. Rods of different sizes and points were used to create different effects.
By the middle ages, small, portable wood stoves were made for heating pokers with different nibs. These pokers lost their heat fairly quickly so it was necessary to have a few nibs in the fire so you always had a hot tool.
The earliest mechanized wood burning tool used benzine and a platinum needle. The benzine was delivered to the needle using a rubber tube and a rubber ball pump. At the tip, the benzine was ignited and kept the needle hot.
Electricity greatly simplified the process. Today’s wood burning tools are heated by mains electricity. The artist now has a permanently hot tip with which to burn.
There are two types of wood burning tools widely used.
Craft style wood burning tools usually have solid copper nibs. The nibs tend to be thicker and are useful for larger pieces and filling in lines. You won’t be able to do finer details with this kind of wood burning tools.
That being said, they are much easier for beginners to get the hang of. The solid tip is more forgiving than the wire nibs.
Craft style wood burning tools tend to have bigger handles which can be a bit uncomfortable over extended periods. A bigger handle is needed to house the larger heating elements. After all, a chunk of solid copper needs more heat than a thin wire.
The heating and cooling times of craft-style wood burning pens tend to be longer than wire nib tools. Again, this is because of the thicker nib.
Wire nib wood burning tools are preferred by professionals. They are a bit trickier to work with and you’ll need to practice your technique.
The nibs are created from bent wire and can produce a much finer line. These tools are great for fine detail and smaller writing. They’re not very good for filling in big areas so you might want to have a mix of tools.
The body is slimmer and looks more like a pen which makes them more comfortable to use for longer pieces.
This kind of tool often has variable temperature controls which allow you to compensate for different kinds of woods.
The heating and cooling times are much shorter, usually around a minute or two. This is due to the thinner nibs.
You might assume that more power means better performance. This is true to an extent. The hotter the tool, the quicker you can make impressions.
However, too hot a tool can burn the wood. Like, burn it more than you want. You’ll end up with a blackened design rather than a toasted brown.
Tools are usually listed by their wattage. Watts are a measure of amps x volts. If you want a faster tool you could consider a tool with more amps rather than just upping the wattage.
The voltage of a tool tends to impact the size of the nib. The more volts the thicker the nib. If you need a tool for small detail work, look for one with lower voltage.
Most wood burning tools will come with interchangeable tips. This means you can change the shape and size of the tip or nib to get a different line or pattern.
When selecting a tool, look out for one that comes with a wide range of tips. You want a variety of different lines with different thicknesses as well as different shape nibs.
Most tools will take nibs bought separately but do check the reviews to make sure it has a universal fit.
You want to select a tool that is comfortable to write and draw with. Woodburning tools are thicker than pens or pencils so they will take some getting used to. Look for a tool that has a slim body for the most comfortable experience.
You’ll also want to look out for a tool that has some sort of rubber grip. These tools can get hot. The rubber can help protect your hand from the heat and prevent slips caused by sweat.
Another feature you might see is a heat shield. This is usually a conical piece of metal placed between the grip and the nib.
The shape of the guard reflects the heat away from the hand and back to the nib. This helps keep the nib at an even temperature as well as protecting your hand.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are wood burning tools and pyrography pens the same thing?
Pyrography is made up of two Greek words; pur meaning fire and graphos meaning to write. Essentially, a pyrography pen is a tool that uses fire or heat to create a mark.
Woodburning tools are pyrography tools. The only real difference between them is that pyrography tools are more general. They can be used to write or draw on any kind of material.
In general, the words are used interchangeably. Woodburning tools are advertised as pyrography pens and vice versa.
Some tools are sold with nibs or blades that can be used for other materials such as metal or stone. These would be true pyrography pens.
What is the difference between a soldering iron and a wood burning tool?
There are a few key differences that tend to make the tools useless for the other’s job.
Soldering irons are designed to melt solder which is a metal alloy. Solder melts at a lower temperature than wood burns.
Soft solder, which is the most commonly used kind, melts at about 190°F. This kind of solder is what’s used in circuit boards, plumbing, and metalwork. Wood, on the other hand, begins to burn at around 572°F.
Because solder melts at lower temperatures, soldering irons don’t tend to get hot enough to be effective wood burning tools.
The tips of the two tools are also different. Soldering irons usually have flat screwdriver-like tips or thin needle tips. It depends on the size of the work.
Woodburning tools have a vast variety of tips. These can be simple points for making lines to star, heart, or other patterned tips.
If you try to use a soldering iron for wood burning you will ruin the tip as it will cause the copper or iron to oxidize. This happens because the tip is not designed to be used without solder.
Some wood burning tools are sold with soldering tips. These can be used to melt solder as long as the temperature can be adjusted on the pen.
The bottom line is that soldering irons shouldn’t be used for wood burning. Woodburning tools can be used for soldering so long as they use an appropriate tip.
How do you use a wood burning tool?
For most tools, it is as simple as switching it on, waiting for the nib to heat, and writing or drawing as you would with a pencil.
Each tool will have its own set of instructions for inserting and changing nibs. These should be followed carefully to make sure that you and the tool are safe.
In terms of wood burning techniques, you can sketch your design onto the wood in pencil before burning. This will give you a pattern to follow as you burn.
If you want to copy a specific design, you can use carbon paper to transfer the design to the wood.
Print the image you want to copy and place it on top of the wood with a sheet of carbon paper below. As you trace over the lines of the image, the carbon paper will leave a copy on the wood.
When you come to burning the lines, use smooth, steady strokes. Don’t put too much pressure on the tip or you’ll find that you end up scratching the wood rather than burning it.
For filling in larger areas or getting a dark black color you will need a flatter gradient tip.
Don’t rush in with as much heat as possible. Use a lower heat and move in circular patterns. Darkening with each additional pass. This will make the coverage much more even.