E-Museum of Pyrographic Art


Pyrography Tools and Techniques

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Today's Pyrographic Tools, A look at some of the tools used by pyrographers today with links wherever possible to sources.

Unusual Pyrographic Tools, are tools of many kinds, such as nails, blowtorch, magnifying lens, matches, candles, and more, used by artists for various reasons and effects. They are described in the Special Hall of the E-Museum and link from there to those artists' respective salons.

(The Arts of Fire: PYROGRAPHY)

The French term "les arts du feu" refers to any of the arts that rely on fire in one way or another, such as china painting and ceramics, glass work, and gold jewelry, as well as pyrography.

The picture above shows a woman in Victorian times using a standard pyrography enthusiast's benzene-fueled tool with a hand bellows.

From an antique postcard advertisement

Antique Tools, a comprehensive exhibit showing how pyrographers from the past used to work.

See what the Flemish Art Company's Factory
used to look like in the early 1900's and take an imaginary tour with the company's president, M. B. Baer.

Exhibited here in its entirety is the Flemish Art Company's 1907 Instruction Book for Pyrography. Still meaningful and compelling, this small book is a testament to the intense interest in pyrography that flourished at the turn of the century.

J. William Fosdick's Thermo Pyrography Tool, is an exhibit featuring an 1894 article by this artist in Art Interchange magazine. In it is a photograph of the artist posing with his gigantic tool. He offers a detailed explanation of the tool's use and expresses a desire that in the not-too-distant future there will be electric tools and no more fumes from the naphtha associated with the use of the thermo-pyrography tool. This artist wrote several articles on pyrography, and many of them offer technical information regarding woods, tools, techniques, sanding, and finishing. His treatise article and his 2-part article in Palette and Bench Magazine are recommended. The 1892 Franklin Smith article about Fosdick is another excellent one. J. W. Fosdick has a large section in the E-Museum's Antique Hall.

Patty Prather Thum's Electric Pyrography Tool, is an exhibit featuring an 1894 letter to the editor of the Art Interchange magazine. It was written—and illustrated with two drawings— by this famous 19th Century painter, as a response to the article described above by J. Wm. Fosdick, in the previous issue that year. In her letter, Patty Thum talks about the merits of the electric pyrography tool, which, by her own account, she invented circa 1891— a quarter century before a tool of this type was patented for the first time in the United States.

UPDATE: August 2008: An earlier, handwritten letter from Patty Thum has revealed new information about the circumstances of her invention of an ELECTRIC pyrography tool.

Lawrence Willmore Pennington's Electric Pyrography Tool, is an exhibit featuring a 1907 account of this artist stating that he invented an electric pyrography tool in 1894.

From the late 18th and early 19th Centuries are Joseph Smith's Hand Pyrography Tools, which were noted in an 1893 article, as follows:
"One who saw the artist at work has described the tools used as being like a plumber's soldering-iron, except that they had two edges or angles, and were more sharply pointed. They were, of course, of various sizes. Smith worked with great rapidity, and soon produced a striking effect, sometimes using irons at white heat to obtain shadows by scorching without actually touching the wood."
For the entire segment, see the Joseph Smith section in the Antique Hall.

By the curator is the 1997 article Pyrography: Decorative Art, offering a detailed description and illustrations for several Mexican pyrographic techniques learned in Guatemala. Also noted here is that of the more than 50 Pyrograffiti articles written from 1997 to present, and indexed here in the E-Museum, almost all offer notes on techniques and tools used by the artists featured.

By Ellen T. Masters is the 1893 article Pyrography Upon Glass, offering a detailed description and illustrations for this unusual pyrographic technique. She also quotes Maud Maude to describe a variation of the technique utilizing gold.

By J. Harry Adams is an excellent 2-page illustrated article entitled "PYROGRAPHY", page 716 and also page 717, which he wrote for youngsters in the 19th Century. Published in New York in May of 1897 for a magazine called Harper's Round Table, it offers an explanation of how to work on a pyrography project, including how to make and use basic hand tools. Noticeably lacking are today's concerns for safety and requirements for adult supervision for youngsters working with shop tools and over an open flame.

A 10-page chapter entitled Pyrography or Burnt-Wood Etching was published in 1893 in a book entitled Amateur Art by Henri Clarise. It offers a good overview of the history and uses of the art form followed by a thoughtful explanation of materials needed, woods recommended, tools, and interesting techniques.

By Mrs. Maud Maude is an excellent 2-page illustrated article in The Delineator Magazine entitled The Art of Pyrography or Poker-Work—No. 1 published in January 1892 in both London and New York. It does an excellent job introducing the technique and detailing the use of the benzine tool and the platinum tips.

The second in The Delineator Magazine series by Mrs. Maud Maude is a 3-page illustrated article entitled The Art of Pyrography or Poker-Work—No. 2 published in February 1892. It offers conventional border patterns appropriate for pyrography.

The third in The Delineator Magazine series by Mrs. Maud Maude is a 3-page illustrated article entitled The Art of Pyrography or Poker-Work—No. 3 published in March 1892. It familiarizes the student with both the technique for natural drawing as well as decorative adaptations of natural subjects. It also offers patterns and tips to familiarize the more advanced student with the techniques for doing flowers and plants, landscapes, and portraits with both light and dark backgrounds.

An excellent chapter on Pyrography by L. E. Kelley is in her book 300 Things A Bright Girl Can Do.
It explains the use of the early tools, and offers projects and designs.


Adapted from the 1905 book The decoration of leather by Georges de Récy is a segment on p. 38 devoted to this unusual pyrographic technique called pointogravure.

By Fred Miller is an enjoyable, well illustrated chapter entitled "Poker Work on Wood and Leather", chapter XIII, pages 224–232 in his 248-page book Art Crafts for Amateurs, published by Truslove, Hanson & Comba, Ld., in 1901.

In his pyrography chapter, he discusses works at the Paris Salon of 1900. He also references a design for carving found elsewhere in his book that can be applied to poker work, Vine No. 7, p. 16. And in his chapter on "Bookbinding and Leather Work," he notes in the caption that the design for Wall Hangings, No. 78 on p. 115, can readily be applied to poker work, as well.

Tool. A curious note regarding Fred Miller's chapter is that he refers to the pyrography tool with the misnomer "pyrometer" which is a term that instead defines a machine for measuring the expansion of metals by heat.

You are leaving the
Pyrographic Tools and Techniques exhibit.

Continue your stay at the E-Museum
with a visit to:

More Pyrographic Art Exhibit Halls:

Portraits and Paintings

Decorative and Applied Art


Traditional and Folk Art

Antique Pyrography

Children's Pyrographic Art

Special Pyrographic Art

The Book Store and E-Museum Library Exhibit

Please e-mail the E-Museum Curator with questions or comments.

© 1998, 1999, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2014 Kathleen M. Garvey Menéndez
Updated 6 June 2011. Updated 15 August 2012. Last updated 07 June 2014.

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