Author: Kayla Russell is a part of the marketing team at KJP Select Hardwoods, your Canadian source for wood and woodworking products. KJP offers a diverse selection of products; their inventory features over 80 species of wood, including domestic and exotic hardwoods.

How is Wood Burning Implemented in Wood Carving?

If you look at what’s around you, you can probably find something made from wood. It might be the desk you’re sitting at, the chair you’re sitting in, or the floor beneath your feet.

Wood is an incredibly versatile material. Just as we’ve found a variety of uses for this medium, we’ve also learned different ways to decorate it. 

Wood carving involves cutting into and scraping away parts of a piece of wood. There’s also wood burning, which allows you to transform the surface and color of the wood. 

How are these techniques distinguished from one another? And how can you use wood burning to increase the dimension and quality of your carving project? We’re going to provide you with an overview of both these methods, and explain why they work so well together:

What’s the Difference Between Wood Burning and Wood Carving?

You’ve just finished a wood carving, but you find that it lacks the depth and shading you’re looking for. To add more detail, you might consider burning the wood. Here’s how these techniques differ:

Wood carving requires the use of handheld tools, such as chisels and knives, to create impressions in the wood. You can make anything from letter openers to sculptures. 

When we think of wood burning, we might imagine campfires on cold winter nights. Combining wood with fire may sound like a safety hazard, but these two elements can be used together to create works of art. 

This technique of burning is used to create dark designs on a piece of wood. With wood burning, you use a heated tool (such as a pyrography pen) to burn the wood and leave a much deeper color behind. 

This technique focuses on the finer details. Depending on the temperature and pressure you use, you can customize the depth of your design.

How Can You Combine Wood Burning with Wood Carving?

Consider implementing these techniques in your next woodworking project. Both can be used to create unique designs with wood. While you can certainly use them separately, you can combine both techniques to create an even more dynamic piece. 

Oftentimes, woodworkers start a project by carving the wood. Once that’s complete, they use burning tools to add detail. Try to burn the wood after it’s been carved—otherwise, you may chisel away the details of the burned design. 

You can use these techniques in conjunction to create the following effects:

Texture & dimension

It can be difficult to add small details with a chisel. With wood carving, you can hollow out larger areas of the piece. Then, you can create more depth and definition by burning those areas with a pyrography pen. Darker tones will make your work look more precise and clean. If you want to add additional texture, consider wood burning on high heat.

Fine detail work

The intricacies of a wood carving may be lost without a bit of color. You can use wood burning to accentuate the varying levels and decorations that are carved into the wood. 

The level of detail that’s possible with these techniques is truly stunning. Use wood burning to etch intricate patterns into the material, such as dots or crosshatches. You can wood burn using stencils to create a precise design.


Use wood burning to highlight the depth of your carving. With a precise pyrography pen, you can even create a gradient effect. 

If you want to highlight your design even more, you can try your hand at reverse wood burning. You burn all the areas around the accent point, and the result is an exceptional contrast that’s sure to draw the eye.

Which Types of Wood Will Work Best?

Live edge slabs are a popular choice for these projects. Due to their groovy edges, part of the wood is already decorated before you pick up your tools. They give a rustic look to any artwork or sign. 

You want to find a piece of wood that can withstand wood carving and burning. In general, avoid using woods that are too soft or brittle, since they may break under the force of the knife. 

On that note, make sure to avoid any type of wood that has a chemical finish, like MDF (medium-density fiberboard) or plywood. When those chemicals are combined with heat, you could be exposed to hazardous fumes. 

Most woodworkers prefer to use Basswood for carving and burning projects; this hardwood is easy to work with and can showcase fine details.

If you’re looking for a new way to design wood, consider combining wood carving and wood burning techniques. Doing so will create 3D effects that look stunning with a variety of art styles. 


This FREE (and highly detailed) digital packet is overflowing with information for getting started in pyrography.

  • 14 tools supply list – the best tools in pyrography
  • 5 pyrography patterns to use in burning
  • 2 step-by-step pyro projects with templates

I put together a digital download packet that highlights wood burning tools and projects perfect for pyro beginners.

“what burner should I use?”

“what’s the best wood to burn?”

“what are my safety options?”

“where can I get these tools?”

“where can I get pyrography patterns?”

“what should I burn?”


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wood carving