The Absolute Beginner's Guide to Woodburning




Introduction: The Absolute Beginner's Guide to Woodburning

Have you ever wanted to take drawing or artistic design one step further? Maybe you wanted to skip the drawing part entirely and impress people with your epic woodburning skills...but haven't actually taken the steps to start? Either way, you've come to the right place.

This is a very basic tutorial for beginners to woodburning (or pyrography, if you want to get fancy with me). If you have any experience, you probably won't find me very helpful. Then again, you might just be here for the dragon or Assassin's Creed logo.

I'd be here for the dragon, personally.

Step 1: Materials

For this project, you will need:

1 piece of wood (I used basswood from JoAnn's- it's cheap and looks good for a low-cost project)

1 pencil, for the design

A knife of some sort for cutting out the base shape of the wood your design will be on (*I used a box cutter, but I strongly recommend using a safer method of cutting, preferably a saw or dremel)

And, of course, you'll need a soldering iron. You can get one of these at JoAnn's as well. Mine was less than 20.

---Make sure you have a nearby outlet and a stand or safe place to set a live soldering iron. You neither want to scorch your workspace or start a fire. Be safe!---

Step 2: Doodle!

Now you get to use the pencil. Whoo! Draw out an epic design of your own-it doesn't have to be a dragon. Though I personally have never met anyone who didn't like dragons.

If you either can't stand drawing or are absolutely terrible at it, you could either get someone to draw it for you, or print a template or stencil from online. My sketch was freehand, so I can't upload a template, but I'm certain you all have much better ideas than I.

If you printed a drawing you want, you have several choices. You could tape it to the wood and trace over it with a pen (if it's soft wood you're using-some types don't indent very well) and then trace over the indented marks with pencil. You could also cut out the design you want and trace the outline.

Step 3: Feel the Burn

If by now you have got your design ready to be etched, you're ready to start. Make sure your soldering iron is heated by testing it against a piece of scrap wood of the same type. If the tip burns the wood within a second, you're set. If not, wait a little bit longer.

Do not, under any circumstances, test it out with your bare hands.


Moving on-now you can begin burning your design into the wood. I'm sure everyone has a different method, but I find that starting on the edges of the design works best.

Important Note: The slower you move the iron, the darker the burn will be. The same goes for the amount of pressure you put on it. For a more precise edge, etch so the tip is facing outside the sketch. That way, if your hand slips or dips too low, the mess-up will happen on the inside, where you're supposed to burn, instead of the outside, which just makes it look messy. Be sure to keep your hands either gloved or well away from the bare metal of the iron.

Step 4: Fill in the Blanks

Great, the outline's finished! What next?

Now, my friend, you shade. Try moving the iron with the grain of the wood at a medium pressure and speed for the smoothest results. If you want to shade in your design and go just a little bit further, add more pressure in the spots you want shading in. Be careful not to add too much pressure and too little movement though, or you'll end up with a big scorch mark and a lot of compensation with the rest of the image. No one likes dents in their drawings. Don't make them.

Again, keep your fingers well away from the iron while you're filling in the picture. Take it easy; even it you have a deadline in a half-hour, the last thing you want to do is iron with burnt fingers.

Step 5: Here at Last

Alright, you're done! Congrats! Now you've got a nifty piece of wood you can hang up or use as a decoration or give as a gift or who knows what else?

I touched up the dragon after I finished, as you can see. I also did the Skyrim logo on the back since I plan on giving it to a good friend of mine. If you want a nice, cheap oil finish for your wood, olive oil is a nice go-to for that as a last resort. As a poor college student, it was really all I had on hand (and it seemed to turn out nicely). If you go the olive oil route, dribble a bit onto your wood piece, rub it in with a finger or cloth, and wipe off the excess. Leave it for a day or so to fully sink in, and you can see that it brings out the grain of the wood nicely.

On the subject of mistakes-they happen, don't get too worried if you char a bit more out of the lines than you wanted. To fix it, you can slice a tiny bit of wood right off the top, thereby removing the blemish and making the piece look neater. Be careful not to cut too deep or you'll have an unfortunate pit in the wood that you won't be able to easily cover up.

If you wanted to make a raised design like the Assassin's Creed logo up there, you have to do a bit of woodcarving before following the steps I just laid out. It's the same basic steps: obtain wood, draw design, carve out design, burn design. Just be careful not to injure yourself.

Now go have fun and impress people!

---If you like what you read, don't hesitate to vote! I look forward to making new how-to's for Instructables!---

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    Andrew JamesR
    Andrew JamesR

    7 years ago on Step 2

    To transfer a design from paper, you can still find carbon paper at some office supply stores and online. You can also use a pencil: flip your drawing over and shade the entire area of your drawing with pencil lead. Be sure to use the side of the pencil lead--you want to leave a thick layer of graphite (or charcoal), not lines. After covering the back of the drawing, flip it back over, place it, and then trace over it with moderate pressure. The pressure from the tracing will transfer the pencil lead from the back of the page to the project surface.


    Reply 4 years ago

    LOVE your idea. You saved my project . Thanks so much!!!


    Reply 4 years ago

    I'm glad it helped. Be sure to post what you made so we all may enjoy it.


    4 years ago

    Fantastic. I was worried your tutorial would be to complicated for me,Or that I'd have to adjust the speed, way up. Yours was very easy to understand.It is clear and precise as was your project ( I LOVE DRAGONS )Thank you for your fun, interesting , creative dragon woodburning project

    I thoroughly understood your instructions that were totally easy to follow and apply.

    Thank you so much.



    5 years ago

    A wonderful step by step guide for a newbie. Thank you. Plus awesome design


    8 years ago

    This is something I've always wanted to try
    Thankyou so much for the time you took to explain everything
    I'm starting up my own small Upcycling company named
    Every new skill I learn makes me want to know more and more
    thankyou again