Not All Wood is Best For Wood Burning

Wood Burning, also known as pyrography, is a great creative outlet and fun hobby. Some people even use a wood burning kit to design products for a business. Many enjoy wood burning so much that they spend hours each day designing and burning. Hence, it is important to know what kinds of wood to use and what kinds of wood to avoid when using a wood burning kit

Gumming Up Your Tips and Lots of Smoke- Fresh Cut Wood

The more moisture and sap in the wood medium used, the more problems you will face trying to use your wood burning kit. Green wood or wood that has not dried out long enough may produce sap which will gum up tips and create a sticky, burnt mess. The water that fresh, cut wood may contain can also be problematic. Moisture in the wood causes more smoking. Depending on the extent of the project, smoking can create a nuisance and even health issues if proper ventilation and a P95 mask are not used. 

Smoky Woods/ Soft Woods

Some wood is known for its abundance of smoke when burnt. You can use these woods with a wood burning kit but, as mentioned above, it’s a good idea to understand any of your own health or breathing conditions and wear proper facial protection with proper ventilation. These woods tend to also contain higher amounts of resin and sap that will create problems for your wood burning kit and you.  

Cedars, pine, some firs, hemlock, rosewood, yew and cottonwood are some examples of softwoods that may contain more resin and have a tendency towards smoking more. That being said, there are safe and effective ways to use a wood burning kit on these types of wood. Who doesn't want to try their hand at creating a gorgeous cedar chest with details wood burnt into it?

Pine can also still be a common choice of wood for smaller projects, although it  tends toward sapping and smoking more. 

Poisonous Woods and Toxic Smoke

It probably seems obvious not to use a wood burning kit on poison oak or sumac, especially if you are allergic to these woods. When burnt, these woods can emit airborne irritants that can cause severe reactions to those who breathe it in. 

Driftwood from the sea or ocean is beautiful and tempting to wood burn for a decorative piece. Unfortunately, wood saturated with salt water contains chlorine compounds which become toxic and carcinogenic when burnt. 

Man-Made Materials

Plywood, chipboard and any pressure treated wood will contain chemicals that are definitely going to emit toxic smoke when you use a wood burning kit on them. Old pallet wood may have been treated with antifungal, pesticides or methyl bromide which all emit toxic and carcinogenic smoke when burnt. 

It's also important to watch out for wood that has already been treated with stains, glue, paints or varnish. Burning any of these chemical agents with a wood burning kit can damage your tips and the smoke inhalation can cause health risks. Many items at craft stores that appear to be clean, dry wood are meant for painting and varnishing so they may be chemically treated with wood preservatives.  

What Wood is Safe to Use With a Wood Burning Kit?

At the end of the day the small puffs of smoke emitted from your wood burning kit may seem harmless. Yet, truthfully,  any smoke inhalation is unhealthy. It's always best to have good ventilation and wear a mask, especially for those with lung problems. 

Dry, hardwoods like cherry, burch, walnut or maple burn nicely with a wood burning kit. You can get a nice clean burn-line and not gum up your tips with resin and sap. The smoking will also be far less dramatic. 

You can also use your wood burning kit on driftwood so long as it is from a freshwater river, stream or lake. Make sure there is not rot or moss on the piece as well. 

A wood burning kit is extremely versatile and can be used on a variety of woods safely. Get yourself in a well ventilated area, use a mask if necessary, put a wood burning kit to use and enjoy that fragrant burnt wood-smell.