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It’s better to burn out than fade away: adventures in pyrography

First attempt at pyrography - Monica MoodyI’ve always been fascinated with pyrography but until recently had never tried it. My husband and I are working on some new functional art, some of which I felt would benefit from burning, so I ran out and bought a Creative Versa Tool and fired it up. My first attempt was interesting; I started out doodling and ended up with some sort of flower (this is interesting to me because I don’t usually do “florals”.)

Let me just stop right here and gush about THE SMELL. Ooooooooohhhh my goodness! I am a “smell person”, and yes, I sniff books (this is why I don’t like e-readers). The smell of burning wood now surpasses most any other aroma as my favorite.

Pyrography colored with Inktense colored pencils - Monica MoodyAnyway, I tried 2 or 3 of the different tips that came with the Versa Tool and enjoyed creating my first piece. It was more difficult than I suspected: making a straight line, figuring out how to shade, and moving a tool much slower than I’m used to were new challenges.

Never one to leave well enough alone, I went at this piece with my Inktense colored pencils. Probably overkill, but it was fun.

As I do with any new interest, I researched pyrography to death and decided that while the Versa Tool was cool, I really needed to spend more money on a more “pro” setup (because, you know, I’d done ONE piece – lol!) and invested in a Razertip Dual Burner and 3 fixed tip woodburning pens. I purchased a kit from Sue Walters, who offers some great deals on pyrography tools, books, tutorials and DVDs. Sue’s work is beautiful, by the way, and she and her colleague Barb are so helpful and lovely. I can’t say enough good things about them. Thanks ladies for all of your help!

Butterfly - pyrography colored with Inktense colored pencils by Monica MoodyI had started on this butterfly (on a 5″ x 7″ wood plaque) with the Versa Tool, but once my new burning equipment arrived, I finished out with that, and oh what a difference it made! When I sat down with the new Razertip tools, I remembered the day I tried painting with alcohol inks, because it felt just like that: love at first sight, or in this case, love at first burn. It was another of those “WHY have I never done this?!” moments.


I colored the background of the butterfly piece (blue) with Inktense pencil and stained the wings. After I knew it was dry, I sprayed a couple light coats of Krylon UV Resistant Clear Gloss (which is what I also use to protect alcohol ink paintings) and will ultimately seal the whole piece with poly or something like that.

Kokopelli-Pyrography-by-MonicaMoodyThe next thing I tried was burning an image based on a black and white Kokopelli illustration that I did a while back. Like the butterfly, I burned it on a 5″ x 7″ wooden plaque and added color with stain. I ventured into a bit more detail work on this piece, which was trying but fun. I felt like I was getting better at this point (but still not “good enough” – isn’t that the artist’s way?) After stippling parts of the face with a small, ball-tipped woodburning pen, I wasn’t happy with the look and ended up darkening the whole area. This was not what I had intended, but when learning and experimenting, things do not always go as planned. I am usually okay with this (especially considering the variable nature of alcohol ink painting) but will admit to some frustration in this case.

Okay, now I’m over it! This is too fun! I’m hooked!

Cthulhu-Pyrography-by-MonicaMoodyMy fourth pyrography attempt was to burn the Cthulhu image I sketched recently. This time, I wanted to experiment more with shading and also to force myself not to add any color or other embellishment. This piece is actually the smallest woodburning I’ve done so far but perhaps the one I’m most happy with, as it actually turned out the way I wanted it to. I added a tiny bit of white to the eye(s), going against my intent not to color it, but I just had to. I used a white charcoal pencil for that.

As I mentioned above, Hubby and I are working collaboratively on some functional art pieces (which I can’t detail just yet but will have more news on soon.) As someone with “creative A.D.D.”, I’ve collected a ton of art supplies over the years, a lot of which has either never been used or pushed aside when I moved onto the next new interest or endeavor.

Pyrography by Monica Moody

Burning some details with a Razertip skew pen

I’m not gonna lie – this has caused marital strain at times. HA! But in this case, my other half has jumped hard onto the woodburning bandwagon…to the extent that we have quickly determined a second burner is required so that we don’t have to share one.

Of the pieces above, the butterfly, Cthulhu and flower are sold or otherwise unavailable. Once I get everything sealed, I may make the Kokopelli available for sale in my online store.

Below are all the woodburning tools I used to create the pieces detailed above. I purchased the Creative Versa Tool at a local retailer but ordered all of the Razertip supplies from Sue Walters’ online store. She has a lot of nice packages/kits, and I like the idea of supporting another artist. 🙂 Shipping was international but FAST and

well-packed. I have since ordered three more Razertip pens from Sue’s store and will ramble on about them in a later post.


  1. Update: the Kokopelli piece is no longer available, as I traded it for a sweet owl painting from an artist friend of mine. 🙂

  2. hi Monica, first of all your work is beautiful and original, I love it. As a fellow burner (who also happens to love the aroma!), I use a colwood super pro II. Good machine, but I go through the handpieces like their disposable crap. Does your razortip machine stand up to long hrs of heavy use? Im curious what you like or dislike about your gear. I LOVE your Ktulu piece, Im a sucker for sea monsters real or mythical! Peace from a fellow pyro, Travis

    • Thank you so much, Travis! 🙂 I have never tried the Colwood. I am very happy with my Razertip dual burner, but I can’t help but be curious about other brands/types of burners. I use fixed-tip pens with my Razertip. So there’s no actual tip-changing – I swap out pens when I want to move from one type to another. I probably have 12 pens or so. I guess I’ve been burning for around a year or a little longer and have only had to replace one pen…it was an extra small, teeny tiny skew-tipped pen. I got into some sap, and it seemed to fry it! I had also pressed too hard and bent it prior to that, so it was beginning to get a bit questionable anyway. Knock on wood, that’s the only pen I’ve had to replace thus far. If I understand correctly, on Razertip’s fixed-tip pens, if one needs repaired or replaced, you send it to them and pay only postage, and they send it back. I was in a hurry when I replaced the one pen that “went down”, so I just bought another one from Amazon to get it in a hurry.

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