Best wood for wood burning

What is the best wood for wood burning? Is it better for it to be hard, soft, light, or dark? What characteristic make wood good for my project? Today we are going to discuss the benefits different types of wood have when using them as support for a wood burning project. 

We will talk about the easiest wood to use for beginners and more challenging supports for advanced wood burners. Then, we will also comment on which types of wood are not appropriate and should be avoided for wood burning. Finally, we will advise you on how to prepare the wood for better results when working with your wood burning pen.

The wood you choose to use to create a wood burning piece should not be random, so you need to put some thought into it. Selecting the right type of wood will have an impact on your design and finished product. It will also play a role in the details you will be able to create on the wood. Of course, it doesn’t all only depend on the wood! 

Other factors have an important role when working on wood with a wood burning tool. Your wood burning pen and tips will create different patterns. The pressure you apply while burning, and how fast or slow you work may create more definite and sharper designs, thinner or thicker lines, shading, and other personalized designs. 

Types of wood for wood burning

  • Poplar
  • Basswood
  • Pine
  • Birch
  • Maple
  • Oak
  • Jelutong
  • Alder
  • Cedar
  • Fir
  • Cherry
  • Walnut 

There are many types of wood that can be used for wood burning. Each has different qualities and while some are better for beginners, others may pose some challenges. So, the burning question in everyone’s mind starting this hobby is: which are the best wood for wood burning? Let’s go through each of them analyzing their specificities. 

While any type of wood can potentially be used for pyrography, some woods like Basswood, Birch, and especially Poplar, are popular choices among the lovers of this craft. Have you tried a different kind of wood that you like?

The most important aspects to consider when choosing the right wood for your wood burning project, are the color of the wood (which is always better lighter to show off your design) and the grain patterns that tend to highlight the details of your drawing in an interesting way (or make your work more complicated).

Whatever wood you decide to use, you need to make sure it’s thick enough, at least 3/8 inches. When wood ages it tends to curl and thinner pieces may end up being ruined after a few years, which would be a shame.

For projects where you need a thinner piece of wood, some experts recommend using plywood. We tend to discourage the use of this type of wood since very often it’s a treated piece of wood. When applying heat with your wood burning pen, it may release toxic smoke that may affect your health. Not worthy. 

However, if you can make sure your piece of plywood is not treated, and you trust your seller, it can be very useful for thinner pieces. Just be warned, plywood is good for durable pieces but is susceptible to water damage.


poplar wood for wood burning pyrography

Poplar is one of the favorite types of wood among wood burner aficionados. It’s commonly considered the best wood for wood burning. 

What makes poplar so good for wood burning projects? 

First of all, it’s easily accessible and can be customized in different sizes and shapes. It is also a light-colored wood with very soft grains that make for a perfect background to any wood burning project. And it’s also quite easy to work with.

A downside of poplar is that it is a bit pricy. It definitely costs more than pine, but it’s worth it for a better finishing and a better quality piece. So if you have a fancy project in mind, this may be the perfect wood for you.

If you’re just starting with wood burning, you may want to practice with pine, the easier and cheaper version of poplar. You can switch in the future when you’re more familiar with the craft.


basswood wood for wood burning pyrography

The qualities of Basswood make it a wonderful type of wood for wood burning projects. It’s a softwood, which makes it easy to burn. Also, it is ideal for beginners because of its solid light color and lack of grains and nods.

However, basswood is among the most expensive types of wood to do wood burning, so at the same time a risky choice for beginners. But if you’re not concerned with your budget, using basswood is worth it for detailed projects that require a solid light background.


pine wood for wood burning pyrography

There are two types of pine that are very popular in the world of wood burning: yellow pine and white pine. 

The main difference between both pines is the grains and the clean look and general color. Yellow pine is more related to cheap, lower quality products, while white pine is said to be easier to burn and offer a more finished look to your pieces if you believe the experts.

In any case, pine is one of the best wood for wood burning since it’s inexpensive, easy to get in different forms and shapes and to prepare for burning.

The most common complaint about burning pine wood is that its irregular grains may condition your design and force you to make some changes to adapt to them. If you can work around random grains, you can come up with beautiful designs and even include them in your drawing wood.

But don’t worry, pine is the best wood to practice and experiment with different techniques, wood burning pen tips, shading techniques, or anything you dream of making. You can start with pine wood and then when you’re more confident, you can move on to a more expensive type of wood.


birch wood for wood burning pyrography

Birch is very popular as a wood burning support. Because of its light color and soft grains, it’s a good drawing wood and quite popular among wood burning beginners, aficionados, and experts. 

The good thing with birch is that it’s usually easy to find and not very costly. It’s available in most hardware stores and they usually cut it in the sizes and shape you need if you request it.


maple wood for wood burning pyrography

This timber is definitely an expensive option as wood burning support. However, its light to medium color and its subtle, soft grains, make it ideal for pyrography art. 

Since its price is higher and it’s also harder than other types of wood, we would recommend maple to be worked with high-quality tools and by more advanced wood burners. Maple is among the best wood for wood burning.


oak wood for wood burning pyrography

Oak can be a challenging wood to burn, so we don’t recommend it for beginners. It’s a hardwood with very uneven grains, and this poses a challenge. But, what makes it especially hard to burn, it’s all the moisture that this wood holds. Wood that has a high level of humidity means that when you burn it, it makes bubbles and smoke.

If you’re hoping to make a detailed job with shading and intricate patterns, oak may not be the best choice for you. On the other hand, oak can make for beautiful pieces with some expertise. 


jelutong wood for wood burning pyrography

This type of wood is quite popular among arts and craft aficionados. 

It’s commonly used not only for wood burning but also for modeling and carving, which makes it versatile and easy to use. It also means it’s a cheap option since you can buy a big piece and use it for different projects.


alder wood for wood burning pyrography

Even if we have repeated a million times that you should always use lighter wood, alder is actually quite dark. But it’s a great wood for burning because it doesn’t have any sap or resin and regardless of its hard quality, it doesn’t pose any particular challenge when burning. 

Alder is ideal for alternative projects, experiments with darker woods make for interesting art pieces. With the right design and considering the grain pattern of the wood, you can end up with very interesting and elegant objects.


While Cedar is among the types of wood that are popular for wood burning, we wouldn’t recommend it for beginners. It’s hard to burn due to its irregular grains and has some parts that are softer than others, so you need to consider it while using your wood burning pen.

It is also hard to shade this wood, so it may not be among the best wood for wood burning, but still, an option that we found often in the recommendations. The best way to decide if it’s the right wood for you is to give it a go, try it out and decide if you like it or it’s too challenging.


fir wood for wood burning pyrography

Fir has some similar problems as the cedar. It has soft spots and this may affect your working flow with the pen, creating spots with different pressure and therefore different results.

Apart from that fir is rather sappy and has a lot of humidity. That’s why we cannot recommend it for beginners. More experts would burners may be able to get around the challenges and find fir useful for certain projects.


cherry wood for wood burning pyrography

Cherry trees are beautiful thanks to their lovely flowers, but its wood is also quite special. It has a unique color that could complete your wood burning piece of art.

Comes as no surprise that this wood is a favorite among wood burning experts. Many say this is the absolute best wood for wood burning. 

Burning cherry wood can result in sharp and dark lines creating an excellent contrast. Shading is also easy on this type of wood. 


walnut wood for wood burning pyrography

Walnut is a wood that comes in different shades, it can be light or dark. The type of walnut you have will condition your design. You may be able to get good contrast or not so much.

It’s also a hardwood so make sure you work slowly on it with your wood burning pen. Using the right speed and pressure will guarantee even results and sharper lines. 

What wood to avoid in wood burning

While most wood can be used as support for a wood burning project, there are some types of wood that are not be the best choice, and others that may even be dangerous to work on.

First of all, you want to stay away from dark wood, timber with very uneven grain patterns, or resinous wood. Rough or irregular surfaces may end up being impossible to work on. Remember you want a light-colored wood, soft grain patterns, and smooth surface to work.

Something very important you should always avoid is wood that has been treated, either with varnish or other toxic materials. This usually includes plywood, though some people recommend it for specific projects, as long as it can be guaranteed that has not been treated. When heated, treated wood will release toxins that you may end up inhaling, causing damage to your health. 

Many people ask us to present projects with reclaimed wood, and while the idea is enticing, we face the potential risk of working with wood that has been treated, and worse yet, we don’t know with what. Better choose one of the proposed types of wood, and leave the reclaimed wood for something else.

How to prepare the wood for a wood burning project

There are a few steps to prepare the wood so you can use it for your wood burning project since you cannot use it as it comes. You want your wood to be soft and clean. Obviously, we are talking about sanding, but there is a particular way to do it that will leave the wood in the best possible condition to start your wood burning project. 

First of all, you have to sand the wood with a 220 grit, but in some cases, you may need tougher sandpaper. 

Next, you want to wet the surface of the wood, but be careful to just pass a lightly wet sponge and not let the wood dripping. 

Finally, you need to let the wood dry and then sand once more using a 220 grit paper. Then, the wood is ready to use!

Another method for wood that is already soft is to pass a razor blade on top as if you were sanding it. This works with most hardware stores wood.

Conclusion: best wood for wood burning

With each type of wood having its own characteristics, deciding which the best wood for wood burning is will depend on the project you’re undertaking

Keep in mind your design, the drawing wood, how complex the details are, and finally, what’s your expertise with the pyrography pen and in the wood burning craft in general.

Once you have all of this clear, it’s time to select the type of wood that is appropriate for your project. Are you burning pine wood? While it’s cheap and widely available, there are other options that may suit you and your craft better. 

A lot will depend on how easy is to find the wood you’re looking for, and the sizes it may be available in. Hardware stores and hobby shops are your best bet if you’re looking for wood ready to use. 

Finally, remember the key points when selecting the wood for your wood burning project. Do you prefer hardwood or a softer type? This will affect your work with the wood burning pen. You also want to make sure the color of the wood will show the burning and make your design jump out of the wood. 

You also want to check the grain. Soft and smooth, subtle grains are easier to work with, while more random grain may affect your drawing wood project.

And do not forget to check the moisture in the wood you’re using. Some types of wood contain a higher level of humidity, even when ready to use, and this will produce more smoke and it could even create bubbles when you’re working. Leave these types of wood for when you’re more familiar with the art of wood burning. 

Last, but not least, remember to always check the wood you’re using has not been treated since it can affect your health.  

Now you have selected the best wood for wood burning, it’s time to get started!