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It's not difficult to use a hot wire pen!

You do not need to be good at drawing. You can easily copy designs from books, cards, magazines and photographs. Transfer the outline to the wood and off you go!

The following is an excerpt from the manual supplied with the Peter Child Kit


Please read the Safety precautions before first use. Before switching on, make sure the point is not touching anything and turn the heat control knob to minimum. Switch on then slowly advance the heat control clockwise until the point glows a dull red. Too high a setting can quickly burn out a fine point.

Practice strokes on a scrap piece of smooth white hardwood. The technique for producing evenly burnt lines is quickly acquired. The secret is light and even pressure combined with even speed of stroke. Notice that any slight hesitation during the stroke will result in a "blob" because the depth of burning, or the width of a line, depends on contact time rather than pressure. If you want a thick line, move the point slowly to give the point time to burn the wood. If you want a fine line, move the point quickly using very little pressure, starting and finishing the stroke in the air to avoid a blob at the beginning or end of a stroke. Never press hard as this will bend the point (you can bend it back using pliers). See how many different effects and textures you can obtain by various different ways of applying the point to the material. The beauty of pyrography is in the rich palette of different shades of brown obtainable, which give a subtlety to the image not available in other mediums such as pen and ink which are limited to one tone.


The standard fine loop (PP11) is best for general work but the spoon shape point (PP30) is good for shading and the edge of the spoon is very useful for special textured effects or fine lines.

Setting the heat

The heat control is normally left at one setting and the depth of burning varied by using different speeds of stroke. The best heat control setting will be determined after a little practice and depends on the individual's technique. Most users keep the point at a dull red heat. Too much heat makes the point bend easily and can give fuzzy outlines. Some users blow on the point to cause a temporary reduction in temperature rather than fiddle with the knob. The setting is the number at the top of the dial. The numbers on the dial are only intended as a rough guide to help you remember your favourite settings. They are not calibrated in any way and can vary from machine to machine. Older models may give a different tip temperature for a given setting on the dial. Thicker points need a higher setting to get a given temperature. The general rule is you should be able to see the point glowing red but if it is a bright orange or yellow, turn it down.


It is not necessary to be a talented artist to do pyrography. Even if you are not adept at freehand drawing you can copy designs and line drawings from books etc. You can trace designs and transfer them to the wood using carbon paper or preferably graphite paper. You can zoom designs up and down in size using a photocopier. If you place a photocopy or laser printed sheet face down on the wood you can transfer the design by "ironing" using a domestic iron. This works because the ink (or toner) melts with heat. Transfer the minimum needed to give you a guide to the pattern. You cannot get rid of excess toner.


The machine can be used on wood, leather, cork and certain plastics and fabrics. It can be used for shaping, welding or cutting thermoplastics and tooling wax models provided there is adequate fume extraction.


The best wood to use is a hard white wood such as sycamore, maple, holly, hornbeam or boxwood. The harder the surface is, the better the result. Dark woods can be used but they will not give such good contrast. Good results are difficult to achieve on softwood (pine) because it is so soft and the resin gums up the point. Wood which darkens with age such as fruitwood (eg apple, cherrywood) will gradually lose contrast.


A good, economical material to practice on is birch plywood obtainable from DIY stores. Choose a hard, white sheet. Birch is rather soft however, and it is difficult to achieve fine detail.


An excellent surface is sycamore veneer stuck onto a rigid backing such as MDF. You can use iron-on glue film or contact adhesive to mount the veneer. You can buy veneer and glue film from specialist veneer suppliers.

Bought objects

You can decorate finished items such as cheese boards and wooden spoons bought from kitchen shops or from specialist pyrography suppliers. Usually you will need to smooth the surface with fine sandpaper before you use it.


Leather can be easily worked and gives a good contrast. Use light coloured vegetable-tanned tooling leather if you can obtain it. Do not breath the fumes.


Cork mats or sheets of self adhesive cork applied to a firm substrate offer an alternative surface and can give very striking results.

The Art of Pyrography, Margaret Child.

If you want to read more you can read a scanned copy of this book here. Art of Pyrography

Peter Child machines are available from Turners Retreat. Please see notes below if you live outside the UK

For customers outside the U.K.

Suitable units are available for other countries as follows : - -
Euro 240 volt machine fitted with Schuko plug.
U.S.A. (and Canada) machine specially made with 110 volt input and U.S. style power cord and plug.
Select from the drop-down list on the Turners Retreat page to choose the correct machine for your electricity supply.

Machines are,in fact, available for most countries complete with the appropriate power cord and plug and with a transformer suited to the electrical supply. The Turners Retreat website lists UK, European, American, Canadian, Australian and Japanese versions and may expand the list as time goes on.
Robert Sorby is the manufacturer now and machines are available from some Robert Sorby retail outlets. See the website for a list of dealers in your country.

Turners Retreat
Turners Retreat Logo

Turners Retreat also trade as Craft Supplies. They sell Pyrography tools and also woodturning tools, accessories and sundries. They have a shop, a web shop and a nice printed mail order catalogue.