It’s important to know the best wood for wood burning if you’re a beginner, or an expert. The wood is your canvas, and it will significantly impact your ability to make art or various designs.
This guide goes over all the wood you should consider for your next wood burning project. You’ll be amazed at the different results you can get from them!
Aspen trees are native to the Northern Hemisphere, drawn to climates with cooler summers. They frequently grow in mountain areas. While these trees have leaves, they generally only grow in conifer-dominated forests. Their trunks are relatively thin. The wood has low flammability.
Aspen is a soft, light-colored, and easy-burning hardwood, making it some of the best wood for wood burning. Pen settings between five and six are adequate for writing quickly and smoothly. Aspen maintains its original color well when sealed, adding consistency and predictability to your designs.
The wood slices often have apparent color variations. This lack of uniformity can disrupt your design or present an opportunity to adapt the character of wood into your pyrographic art. Slabs may have less coloration but are harder to procure and more expensive.
Oak is a deciduous or leaf-bearing tree that belongs to the Beech family. The trees grow naturally in Europe and North America, tolerating a range of climates from subtropical to semi-desert. Oak is among the strongest hardwoods, making it great wood for wood burning projects that require durability.
The same complex and dense grain patterns that make it so visually appealing for woodworkers make it less than ideal for wood burning. The tannin-rich wood is also relatively moist, leading to sap release during burning that may result in bubbling that affects your art.
Many pyrographers use oak when a project calls for a simple design or if they believe a distinct grain pattern will enhance their art. The strong appearance of the grain can give projects a striped effect.
White oak and red oak are the most widely available options. White oak is harder than red but is more vulnerable to darkening from oxygen and UV light exposure. The wood is sold at most major craft retailers and is a viable low-cost option.
Cherrywood comes from the American Black Cherry, a deciduous fruit-bearing tree found in the Midwest and East Coast of the United States. The wood first has a pale salmon color when initially harvested and darkens into a rich reddish brown as it ages.
Cherry is similar to aspen. Most available pieces are round slices, making them best for small projects. A single portion of cherry wood has varied coloration, making it a challenge to add detail and shading to your projects. Despite its relative flexibility, the wood is resin-free, minimizing the risk of moisture released during burning.
Cherry is a smooth hardwood that is great for wood burning when using your pen set at six or seven. The wood will darken when sealed, but not enough to obscure your work. The pattern of cherry pieces is not uniform, so be diligent when checking inventory while shopping.
While the wood is easy to find, it is considered a premium hardwood and used for woodworking and flooring, making it a pricier option.
Willow trees are relatively soft and flexible compared to other hardwood trees, like oak and maple. They have very moist bark and complex root networks. However, they have an extremely short lifespan. Willows are challenging to cultivate because they do not compete well with conifers and large deciduous trees.
To many experienced pyrographers, willow is considered one of the best kinds of wood for wood burning. It is on the softer end of the hardwood spectrum, allowing for easy, smooth, and fast burning. A medium pen setting is enough to create vivid detail in your work. Willow is virtually grainless and provides an excellent display surface for intricate and detailed designs.
Its pale cream color shows well and remains unchanged when sealed. Willow is one of the most expensive woods due to its scarcity.
Basswood trees grow across North America, reaching as far south as North Carolina and north to Manitoba. The fast-growing tree reaches 120 feet and can live up to 200 years. Farmers propagate new trees from cuttings, which usually thrive. The trees are relatively flexible. The wood is on the weaker end of the hardwood spectrum.
Basswood is a great wood for wood burning because of its balance between quality and availability. This smooth and fine-grained wood burns with minimal exertion. Pieces are usually a pale brown, but sometimes appear almost white or with a slight red tinge.
The soft wood is desirable because its pale composition allows you to craft either faint and light design patterns with your burns or darker and embossed designs.
Clear coating shows slightly, but experienced pyrographers can minimize the appearance by slowly and patiently applying sealants. While not as smooth as willow or aspen, basswood is a lower-cost alternative readily available at craft shops and big box retailers.
Pieces of walnut come from the Black Walnut tree, another deciduous species native to North America. The wood is kiln-dried after harvest, darkening and muting much of its color. Walnut is extremely popular with woodworkers, making it one of the premium hardwoods on the market.
Walnut is widely available and has an even, consistent grain. A 5 or 6 pen setting is adequate for achieving a smooth burn. Its relative softness allows you to work at a slightly lower temperature without sacrificing tone.
The natural color of the wood masks shading and other advanced techniques that add depth to your pieces. However, walnut’s unique natural shine can add a striking dimension to the right project.
The wood darkens even further when sealed, further obscuring your pyrography. The main drawback to walnut and other softer hardwoods for wood burning is the slim margin for error due to their cost and the difficulty of correcting mistakes.
Ash is a dense hardwood closely related to olive trees and lilac bushes. Builders and wood burners frequently use it for a variety of projects.
Ash is a pale blonde color with a semi-apparent grain. The relative roughness requires extensive sanding and makes the process of learning how to wood burn more challenging. Pen work must be done slowly to accommodate its uneven texture. However, its density allows you to craft vivid images with rich dark colors and grooving.
You need to burn at a higher setting, usually 7, to achieve good results. In addition, the wood can release sap, leading to more smoking and oozing than harder woods.
Birch is a small to medium-sized tree that belongs to the oak family. They are relatively short-lived and grow across the Northern hemisphere in temperate, boreal climates.
Birch is a moderately smooth wood that takes longer to burn than aspen and basswood. Most experienced pyrographers consider it a comparable and lower-cost option to those high-end woods.
Its pale blonde color is mostly consistent despite its somewhat perceptible grain. Most pieces have straight or slightly wavy grain patterns. It also has a low sap content, minimizing the chance of oozing during your pyrography session.
Birch stands apart from other woods due to the unique bark pattern on slices, which looks amazing and makes it a great wood for wood burning art. Birch is also a popular type of plywood. It will require additional sanding and prep work.
Pine comes from fir or conifer trees, one of the most wide-ranging species in North America. They are fast-growing and relatively easy to cultivate.
Pine is the universally accepted starter wood for wood burning. It’s easy to come by and relatively cheap, making it perfect for your initial projects. Some experienced wood burners use it for practice. It is a solid option for conceiving a design before recreating it on more expensive and higher-quality wood.
The main challenges of pine are its grain and moisture. The wood is soft but highly uneven. These conditions force you to burn slowly or risk catching your pen. Additionally, it releases a lot of sap during burning, which leads to smoking and markups. The wood is not receptive to erasing and corrections.
Maple belongs to a genus of woods that grow across the world. Most timber available for pyrography comes from Sugar maple or Sycamore maple trees. It is one of the densest hardwoods and, though sappy while alive, dried samples are low moisture.
Maple is on the firmer end of the hardwood spectrum, requiring more pressure for successful wood burns than most other woods. These conditions force you to slow down your burning or use one of the highest temperature settings.
The wood is extremely smooth with a nearly imperceptible grain. The pale color allows you to complete detailed shading for your projects. When selecting your wood, choose carefully because though faint, the grain pattern can vary starkly from tree to tree.
It will slightly darken when sealed, but not enough to mask finer shading. Its hardness makes it easy to fix markups and errors. Maple is widely available at hardwood stores and lumber yards but is usually not in craft stores.
Native to the eastern United States and Southern Ontario, Canada, Yellow Poplar is the tallest eastern hardwood. It’s a fast-growing yet short-lived tree. As a result, its wood is relatively weak.
Due to its rapid cultivation time, poplar is widely available in slabs and slices. This alone makes it one of the best kinds of wood for wood burning. It has a consistent cream color and faint grain, making it relatively smooth burning. Be selective when choosing your pieces from the hardware or craft store. Poplar often has a slightly green hue around its edges.
This wood is also well-liked in the pyrography community because it accepts sanding well. Like other hardwoods, mistakes and errant burn marks are relatively easy to remove.
Balsa trees are native to Central and South America. Despite the woods’ flexible nature, they are hardwood trees. Balsas are one of the fastest-growing trees because of their softness. Their wood is popular with woodworkers and crafters because it is the lightest weight and cheapest commercially available.
While it has a faint grain and is very smooth, the wood often curls when burned. Its soft surface will allow you to create grooves and embossing, but the boards are so thin that correcting mistakes is almost impossible. You also won’t be able to burn dark because the pen will sink into the wood.
Burning balsa requires minimal pressure and a low temperature. It’s usually only sold in blocks, making it best suited for practice or honing advanced techniques. Balsa is also only suitable for projects you plan to display. Functional projects like cutting boards or trays are not viable because the wood is so breakable.
Beech trees grow in the temperate regions of Asia, Europe, and North America. Most available wood comes from European Beech trees because they are easiest to cultivate and develop the stoutest trunks.
Beech is a smooth burning softer hardwood that skilled pyrographers often use for cutting boards, spoons, and other cooking implements. The wood has higher moisture content than most hardwood and commonly oozes sap during burning. The grain often darkens during burning, creating an unwanted dotting effect on designs.
These challenges make beech better for stenciling and silhouette projects than ones with extensive shading. This wood is cheaper but usually harder to find than maple and oak, which most pyrographers consider comparable woods.
Now that you know the best wood for wood burning, it’s time to pick some up for your next project. Some lend themselves to certain styles and designs more than others, but you should never be afraid to experiment!
If you have any questions about these types of wood and how to use them, send over a quick message. We’ll help you out the best we can.