Pyrography Tools Reviews - Woodburning Tools Reviews and Comparisons

Reviews and comparisons of every major brand of pyrography tools

As a professional Pyrographic artist and instructor over the last 18 years I have had the opportunity to use a wide variety of pyrography tools manufactured in North America. Some I owned and others were owned by students in my class which I was able to work with during classes. It has given me an opportunity to see the performance of each of them and as a dealer for over 18 years it has given me the opportunity to work with several manufacturers and see what the quality of their tools is & how they handle warranty issues and complaints. Let me say that it has been very interesting to say the least both as a user and as a dealer/customer. I have a perspective that most consumers don't have.

Pyrography tools can be used to do flat burning on wood, leather, canvas, paper and other natural materials as well as burning on gourds and enhancing carvings and woodturnings. Pyrography tools have advanced a great deal over the years. They are available as single-temperature, solid tip burners as well as variable temperature burners with a separate power supply but the bottom line is that they are all designed to do pyrography on a variety of materials.

What's most important...putting the horse before the cart!

The first thing that needs to be addressed is what type of burner is best for your needs. That being...do you need just a simple single temperature burner or do you need a variable temperature burner.

That's what I am going to focus on here.

Once you decide on the type of burner that is best for your needs & understand all the differences & you have read everything on this page you can head over to the Reviews & Comparison chart.

I'm NOT going to tell you which is the best or worst but I will describe the various brands, models, options, etc. Most of the information was compiled based on my experience using each of the brands (the only brand made in North America that I have never used is Everglades & they have declined to provide me with any input) & my experience when I was selling each brand such as: quality control, customer service, warranty issues, etc.

This page was updated on 9/4/17

First things First!

I know you want to get to the reviews page ASAP but it's important that you read this page first. Before you even look at the reviews there are things you need to take into consideration before you even look at brands & models.

Your first decision is the type of burner you need...single temperature solid point burner or a variable temperature detail burner. The answer to these questions will be discovered as you read through this page.

Please take your time & read this page thoroughly before moving on to the reviews chart.

I know there is a lot of information here for you to read but I think you are here because you want to make a smart decision before spending a lot of money on pyrography tools.

I really encourage you to read everything on this page & the information on the next page with the chart before making that decision.

When you finish reading through all this perhaps you still have some questions. First thing I suggest is reading one more page, the Razertip Tutorial which will answer some generic questions & then some specific ones to Razertip. If you still have questions, please feel free to contact me. I usually respond to emails within one business day.

Why I decided to do this online review

This guide was originally developed by me back in 2004 for my online Yahoo Pyrography group, Pyrographic Art, as a means of helping our new members just starting out. This combined with input from our members would help them start making some decisions based on many factors such as: budget, personal needs, company and burner reputation as well as recommendations from actual users. 

Since most people don't have access to local stores who sell all these burners people have to rely on whatever information they can get from dealer's websites and perhaps from conversations with them.  Obviously dealers want to sell you a burner so they will talk you into what they sell and that's exactly how I bought my first burner which I ended up hating. I want people to have as much information as possible before they even talk to a dealer. Perhaps armed with information they can make some sound decisions before making that first phone call. I know I wish I had this information when I bought my first variable temperature burner because I would have waited and talked to a pyrographer who knew what my needs would be, not a carver/dealer who used a burner just to enhance his carvings. He was definitely selling tools and had no expertise in "drawing pictures" with a pyrography tool. He talked me into tips I would never use or need and tips that were not polished. 

In 2009 I decided to add the original  reviews chart to this website and expand it to include even more information. I researched all the pyrography tools on the market manufactured in North America to update the existing information and I added new burner information. I update this chart from time to time to ensure that the information is up to date. 

The majority of the information was derived directly from the manufacturers or their websites.  Comments were received from actual users on various pyrography forums, my personal use and from my customers. Since I have used most of the brands (except for the Everglades) and models (exceptions: Colwood Galaxy and Olympiad; Detailmaster Dagger) of burners I have also added my own comments and recommendations. I have tried to keep the information impartial in spite of the fact that I sell pyrography tools and over the years have sold several of the brands listed. But most important is that I want to be honest in my comments.

Some might not like to hear what I have to say but perhaps manufacturers will listen & learn, Not just learn but if a manufacturer makes a change I hope they do it right...or don't bother doing it at all & yes, that is what some have done so that they can compete with other brands but instead of doing it right...they just do it, which means the result is just mediocre!

I hope you find this information useful and should you have any specific questions as you narrow down your search, don't hesitate to contact me. I also hope that you will let me know if you have anything to add to my review chart. It's my goal to have this chart as honest & informative as possible.

Let me say that most pyrography tools will perform for years without any problems but with any electronic device there is always a chance of problems occurring. Some of the brands seem to have more problems than others mostly in the area of quality control. And you, as the consumer might not know that nor will users who have a burner that has performed without any problems. It's the dealer who becomes aware of problems and most will not share that with customers for fear of loosing the sale. Me, I don't worry about that because I only sell products I feel confident in & those that I personally use. You ask why I don't sell any of the other brands....well, over the years I have sold other brands but they failed to meet my level of standards in one way or another. Rather than sell products just so I can have a variety to make more money I would rather just sell the best product. If it means losing sales that is ok with me because I can look at myself in the mirror at the end of the day & feel good about the products I am selling.

To me, the way a manufacturer deals with those problems is almost as important as the overall performance & reliability of the wood burning tools. As a dealer I don't fix them but I might have to step in if there is a problem. What I have found over the years is that there are some manufacturers that bend over backwards to resolve problems quickly and provide great customer service, there are those that give you the feeling like they are doing you a favor talking to you and then there are those who are slow as molasses. So, a manufacturers handling of problems, in my opinion, is as important as the tool itself because if you have to wait weeks or months to get your tool back from being serviced you are without that tool and cannot be busy working. If you have a product that isn't working & is replaced & that doesn't work either what does that say about the manufacturers quality control?

Over the last 15 years I do have to say that of every brand I have sold (and there have been a few), Razertip has consistently risen to the top in over all customer service, quality, workmanship and in getting burners back to the customers quickly. Being in Canada however, it does slow things down for customers in the US but over the last 15 years I have found that Razertip still gets product delivered to the US faster than most US companies....crazy, isn't it, but it's true, I have found I get orders from them faster than I ever did with other companies I have represented who are in the USA. Customers who have returned items to Razertip have gotten them back faster as well. I have also found that their quality & quality control is the best in the industry. Again, I've used & represented many other brands so I have some basis for comparison.

With that being said, the information on my pyrography tools review chart is a comparison of prices, features, warranty and it also contain comments from me and from other users on my Yahoo & Facebook  pyrography group and from customers. It is based on first hand experience, not just hearsay. My comments are based on my personal experience as a user and one that most users don't have as a dealer working with the manufacturers. It's my goal to provide you with some basic information on each of the brands and models to help you make an informed decision regarding the purchase of a wood burning tool.

If you have information you would like to add or if you have specific questions regarding some of the burners and options please email me .

How Pyrography Systems Work, The Wattage Controversy & How Tip Wires Impact Performance

This section has been moved to it's own page. Please click on this link to go to the page that discusses how Pyrography units work, the Wattage Controversy & also how tip wire impacts performance.

These are very important topics for you to read with technical information provided by Colwood Electronics & Razertip Industries.

Comparing Solid Tip, Single Temperature Burners to Variable Temperature Burners

Craft style solid tip burners:

There are several differences between craft style solid tip burners & variable temperature detail burners.

  • Single temperature craft style burners have a thicker copper tip that can withstand the constant higher temperatures
  • The handpiece is large & uncomfortable especially for people with small hands. I own a Wall Lenk & use it for burning large dark areas but I find it very uncomfortable & need to stop after a short while due to cramping.
  • One BIG difference in the tips of craft burners is that the ones made in China (all but Dremel, Colwood and Wall Lenk) have thinner tips that are not solid & they tend to break or bend faster. 
  • Craft style burners can take up to 5-8 minutes to heat and cool. 
  • Tips need to be screwed into the pen very carefully & ONLY when the tip is cool or the threads can be damaged.
  • Craft style burners are good for simple crafts such as signs and burnings that do not require any fine detail work but do not do well on detail work and they are not intended for detail work.
  • Craft style burners made by Wall Lenk (Dremel, Wall Lenk and Colwood) are still made in the USA by Wall Lenk. The tips are still thicker and solid as opposed to the ones now made in China that tend to be thin and bend or break easily.
  • The 30 watt burners solid tip burners come with a dual heat shield and do a great job of keeping the hand cool. They also do a great job of burning large dark areas faster than variable temperature burners.

Variable temperature detail burners:

  • These burners have electronic or digital temperature control and heat up/cool down in seconds.
  • One very important feature of these types of burners is the comfort of the handpieces. The handpiece is much like holding a thick pen. Some come with foam grips & others come with cork but overall, all of these are much more comfortable to use. I have relatively small hands & have had multiple hand surgeries. I can use my Razertip hours (frequently all day) without any discomfort either from heat of from cramping trying to hold my craft burner.
  • Most every variable temperature burners listed in my review chart have very quick heat recovery. They all heat within seconds.
  • Pen tips are made from nichrome alloy wire so you get a finer tip allowing you to do fine detail work.
  • Each manufacturer uses different gauges of tip wire and the percentage of nickel and chrome may also vary.
  • Some brands come with polished tips and some offer it as an option. Nibsburner, Optima & Razertip all come with highly polished tips. I have been unable to verify if Everglades pens come with polished tips. Colwood offers the polishing as an option (extra $3.00) & the tips are not highly polished & still do drag on the surface. The polished tips will give you a better burn because the tips will glide across the wood. Razertip & Optima tips are very finely polished but some other brands do not do as good a job polishing them & charge extra for polished tips.
  • Some brands like Razertip and Optima are 2volt systems & use finer tip wire which is great if you like to do fine detail work. When I was selling Nibsburner I had Alice make some of my tip styles that Razertip had made for me. There was a big difference in the ability to do the fine detail work with the heavier gauge wire.
  • Many manufacturers offer fixed-tip or interchangeable tips although the fixed-tip pens out perform and give you more even heat flow. Interchangeable tips can be a nuisance to change and with some brands it puts your hand farther back from the tip taking away some fine control over the burning.
  • While you can heat the pen tips poker hot, it is not recommended...remember these are detail burners, not craft burners.
  • Burners are available in a wide variety of prices and from single output to dual output. Dual output does not mean you can heat 2 pens at one time, it just means that you can have 2 pens plugged in at the same time & just flip a switch to go from one pen to the other.
  • There is no dual output burner at this time that will allow you to heat 2 pens at one time.
  • Variable temperature burners are intended for detail work and they will not burn as fast as the craft burners for covering large dark areas. These burners will do an outstanding job of detail work that you can't get with craft burners. 
  • It is best to burn in layers, building up the depth of tonal values rather than cranking up the heat and scorching the wood. It will give you a better quality in your burning and it will not fade as fast.
  • If detail is important to you then you need to be looking at variable temperature burners.

Variable Temperature Handpieces & Tips vs. Craft Style Handpiece and Tips

Craft Burner Handpieces:

The photo shown here is a Wall Lenk with a double heat shield. This is the craft burner I use for "non detail work"Wall Lenk 10-in-1 Tool Kit.

  • Craft Style Burners are burners such as Dremel, Colwood Craft Burner, Wall Lenk & Walnut Hollow. They are intended as the name implies, for crafts. They are not intended for fine detail work. These are typically used by crafters who are not looking to do fine art...perhaps simple projects such as signs, crafts projects for kids, etc. These burners also take a lot longer to heat & cool down.
  • Most craft style burners are now made in China except for Colwood (made by Wall Lenk) & Wall Lenk. Dremel used to be made by Wall Lenk but I'm not sure if they still are.
  • Most of the solid point tips for the craft style burners are made in China unless you buy the Wall Lenk brand of tips. The quality of the ones in China is not as good. The tips are not as durable & have a tendency to break easier than the Wall Lenk brand which is still made in the USA.
  • Craft style burners are one piece & plug directly into the wall.
  • The handpieces are large & a bit cumbersome but they are typically used by younger people who feel more comfortable with larger handpieces. These can become quite uncomfortable to use if you intend to burn for longer periods of time. They can be quite cumbersome for some people.
  • Tips need to be screwed into the burner & the burner must be cold when inserting or when removing them or you will strip the threads.
  • The tips are soft brass & MUST be cooled before removing from the handpiece or you can and will strip the threads.
  • Since it can take up to 8 minutes to cool and heat, this can be an inconvenience and slow you down when you need to switch tips to complete a project.
  • The tips are thicker so you can't do fine detail work.
  • The tips are not polished so they tend to "drag" on the wood.
  • Tips can be cleaned with a brass brush and ONLY when the tips are cool to avoid damaging the soft brass tip.
  • The handpieces come with a heat shield to keep the heat away from your hand but they still get hot. Only the Wall Lenk offers a model with a double heat shield.

Variable temperature detail burners:

The photo shown here is of a Razertip HD & Standard handpiece. If you click on the photo you will be able to see a larger version of the image. Razertip handpieces.

  • Burners such as Colwood, Everglade, Nibsburner, Optima & Razertip) are designed for people who want to do fine detail work on wood, leather, gourds & a variety of other materials. Typically these are used by people interested in doing more "artistic" work which would include fine art pictures, portraits; enhancing carvings, woodturnings, woodworking project, etc.
  • These burners have a separate power supply which plugs into the wall. The handpieces plug into the power supply with a separate cord.
  •  The handpieces are a much smaller diameter, much like an oversized pen) than craft burners making it much more comfortable for long term use.
  • All the manufacturers offer some kind of grip on the handpieces such as cork or foam to make the handpiece more comfortable to use. Most people find the foam grip is more comfortable but there are some that prefer the cork. I think it's a case of personal preference but the cork is a harder material with no "cushion" Colwood uses the cork grip as their "standard" option but you can get a foam grip for $1.00 extra.
  • Some manufacturers now offer vented handpieces such as Razertip & Nibsburner (The company was sold to Welburn Gourd Farm but I can't confirm if they are still making the handpieces vented. Venting really helps to keep the handpiece cooler.
  • Detailmaster pens are unlike any other brand. They are metal which makes the handpiece hotter during use and their pens have no comfort grip. Their pens also have the cord permanently attached to the pen. They did start to offer vented handpieces but it still does not keep the handpieces from getting hot.
  • It is not necessary, nor recommended to anneal most brands of polished tips, but if your burner comes with instructions it's best to follow them or you could negate any warranty on the pens if there is one.
  • Tips heat and cool in a matter of seconds, not minutes.
  • Handpieces remain cooler than craft burners.
  • Some brands offer both fixed-tip handpieces & interchangeable tips. The fixed-tip handpieces are more sturdy & give you better heat flow.
    Interchangeable tips can some times be a nuisance changing but they are cheaper. For carvers who frequently change tips this option is more popular but the the person doing general pyrography I usually recommend fixed-tip handpieces.
  • If you opt for the fixed-tip pen they just pop on and off in a second. You do NOT have to wait until the tip cools to change pens. The hot pen can be placed in the pen clip until it is cool.
  • If you opt for interchangeable tips you might have to screw and unscrew them from the pen (Razertip) or use a tool (most other brands) to insert or remove the tip from the handpiece and then find a place to put the tips until they are cool.
  • Interchangeable tips are cheaper but not necessarily a convenience when it comes time to change the tips.
  • The tips are much thinner than craft burners making detail work much easier.
  • The tips used on these burners are made from wire, rather than solid point tips used in the craft burners. The gauge of the wire used in these burners vary depending on whether the burner is a 2v (Razertip & Optima) or a 3v (Colwood & Nibsburner).
    The lighter gauge wire used on 2v systems will give you finer detail than the heavier gauge wire used on 3v systems.
  • If you are wanting to do fine detail work it's best to go with a 2v system with pens that are made for 2v systems (which have a lighter gauge tip wire). It really does make a difference. When I had Nibsburner make some of the pens Razertip made for me I found I lost some of the fine detail because of the heavier gauge wire. It still worked but the Nibsburner version didn't give me the fine, crisp detail
  • Razertip and Optima make the thinnest tips which make the finest detail work easier than other brands. If you are heavy handed I recommend getting the tips in a heavy-duty version.
  • Most brands come with polished tips which make burning easier because the tip glides over the surface without catching or dragging plus it makes it easier to clean. Colwood started offering this as an option for $3.00 more but I have found they do not do as nice a job of polishing as other brands such as Razertip, Optima & Nibsburner. It might not seem important but it really is very important. A tip that is highly polished will out perform one that is not because it will not drag on the surface as you are burning.
  • Polished tips are the easiest to clean. If you have "gunk" built up on it, gently scrape with a straight-edged razor and then polish with a strop or piece of leather and aluminum oxide powder....NOTHING any harsher. You can find instructions on how to do this in my Razertip tutorial.

Pens loosing heat

All pens loose heat as they move across the wood so don't think there is something wrong with your burner if this happens, it just goes with the territory. Simply lift the tip briefly (in variable temperature burners) allowing the heat to build up again and gently put the pen down on the wood in a flowing movement behind where you left off. 

The bottom line and important things you need to think about!

  1. Do I want to do detail work or just simply do some "crafty" things such as signs or just outlining (that will help you decide between craft style or variable temperature burner). If you are just looking for something to do simple craft pieces without detail your best bet is a single temperature craft burner but I highly recommend you spend the extra money on the Wall Lenk brand which is made in the USA.
  2. What is my budget. If you are on a tight budget opt for the best burner you can afford but don't sacrifice quality. Maybe wait until you can afford something a little better so you don't have regrets.
  3. Can I afford to buy the best tool now so I won't have to upgrade later?
  4. What is the reputation of the manufacturer (don't rely on just one or two people's opinion because chances are they may not really have enough information to give you an accurate response) & they may have not had a problem so they can't speak for customer service. Talk to dealers as well as customers and be a good listener. Yes, most dealers want to sell products but if you talk to dealers who have experience with more than one brand you may get answers to questions that friends can't give you...such as are there issues with customer service or are there a lot of problems with the tools. Some dealers just sell products & don't even know much about them so talk to someone with experience in all aspects...warranty, customer service of the manufacturer, quality control issues & please, if you talk to a dealer & get help from them about what tools to buy, please consider buying from them since they took the time to help you make some decisions about what to buy. Their price may not be the lowest but consider the help they gave you when you make your decision where to buy your tools from.
  5. What is the warranty of the burner. Get a clear explanation of limitations. Most manufacturers provide a warranty against "factory defects" and you should get a definition of what they feel is a factory defect. If they just say "warranty 1 year" it's a pretty good guess that it is against manufacturing defects which gives manufacturers an easy out if there is a problem. The only brand on the market with an unconditional warranty is Razertip.
  6. Does the manufacturer have good quality control in the manufacturing process (pen tips consistently made the same, low incidence of poor quality control, etc.). Some of these things may require some research such as talking to a dealer and if at a show ask to see a sampling of some of the same tip styles (ie: bent spear shader, round-heeled knife, writing tip) so you can see if the same tip is consistently the same (size may vary no matter who makes them since they are hand made) during manufacturing. This is a good indicator of good quality control. Look for things like a solder that is not right or rough edge at the solder where 2 ends of the wire meet that might be a safety hazard to a user. The other thing I recommend you look at is the soldering process on fixed tip handpieces. Some manufacturers pens look pretty sloppy which is a good indicator of poor quality control in manufacturing!
  7. How does the manufacturer handle problems. Do they make you feel like a valued customer when you call with a problem or do you feel like they are bothering them when they call for help. Most important is do they get work done and back to customers in a timely manner? I've heard horror stories from people complaining about waiting months to get something back & it's shipping within the USA. This is inexcusable!
  8. Am I looking for speed or good, quality work? If you are looking for speed I suggest you look for another hobby. Pyrography is not something to do if you want instant gratification! It's not what I consider a "fast art form". Pyrography is a slow process. If this is not for you, perhaps consider drawing!

Some things to think about if opting for a variable temperature burner:

  1. Do I need a single output or dual output burner (you can't use both sides at the same time)
  2. Do I have a heavy hand (if so, consider HD version pens & cords)
  3. Will I be burning on hard woods such as oak and maple (if so consider HD version pens & cords)
  4. What do I intend to do with it (to help you decide which pens & burner to get)
  5. Which wood burning pens do I need (if you don't know read my tutorials or if you are opting for a Razertip please feel free to contact me for suggestions on which Razertip pens to get)

Things to help in your final decision-making process:

  • The manufacturer's reputation, customer service and warranty: Talk to dealers as well as users.  Find out how the manufacturer handles problems. Speed of service, quality control, quality of the tools. Most customers have no clue how the manufacturer handles problems unless they have had a problem. Most dealers have so they would know what to expect about quality, quality control & customer service but whether or not they will be up front about this information is another question. Many dealers work with one manufacturer so might not have experience with other brands. But before buying be sure to ask the dealer questions regarding the manufacturer & how they handle these types of issues. There are a lot of dealers that sell a variety of brands so they should have experience with how the manufacturer handles problems but large companies often do not get involved in warranty issues at all.
  • Features of the pyrography systems, your needs and budget: Do you need a single or dual output.  In most cases you can do just fine with a single output burner although there are several good reasons to opt for a dual output burner if you can afford it. Digital temperature control is a nice feature but not necessarily better. Keep in mind that MOST burners will perform in the same way and do the job for all of your needs. You don't need the biggest and the best to do a masterpiece. If you are going to burn on hard woods (oak, maple, etc.) be sure you find a burner that will do the job. It does take more heat to burn on hard woods so don't buy a starter burner that is more suitable for kids (such as the Nibsburner First Step & Colwood Cub) than general pyrography.
  • Do they offer the pen styles you need: Every manufacturer of variable temperature burners makes a wide variety of pens. Most will offer the pens you will need for every day burning and almost every one makes specialty pens. If you are doing basic pyrography you usually can get away with 3 pens: a shader, a round heeled knife and a writer of some kind. Each brand makes them in a variety of shapes and sizes. Don't get talked into more than you need.
  • Make your choice based on all of those items and most important....what you can afford. Do not make your decision based on WATTAGE CLAIMS!!!. Just because your friend has a particular brand doesn't make it the best for your needs or the best burner, it's just their experience with one brand and if that's all they have ever used it's not a good basis for comparison. Just because the dealer at the woodcarving show or gourd show sells a particular brand, doesn't make it the best. Talk to a variety of people BEFORE making a decision. Talk to people who have used a variety of burners so they tell you the differences between them, not just based on someone's use of one particular brand. 
  • Dealers sell you burners but it's the manufacturer who will take care of the burner, cords or pens if you have a problem. You need to know that the manufacturer will stand behind the tools they make and will provide you with good customer service and most important fast service. If you have to wait weeks or months to get your burner back from the factory, that's not good service. If there are ongoing manufacturing defects, that's not a good product! Your friends won't know any of this so you need to talk to an honest dealer or the manufacturer themselves. You should get a feel of how they do business by talking to them & asking questions.

Thanks for stopping by...

Happy Burning ©,

Nedra Denison signature.

Disclaimer: Some of the information contained on this page is based on information that was provided by manufacturers, my personal experience & information used in my classes. The information in these tutorials is furnished free of charge.

The information is to be used at an individual's own risk. Nedra Denison and Sawdust Connection makes no warranty as to the completeness or accuracy thereof.

NOTICE: All information on this page has been researched and compiled by Nedra Denison Everything on this page, as well as on this web site are copyright protected under the law. It may NOT be copied, reproduced, altered or distributed in any way without written permission from the owner, Nedra Denison.

Want to skip the review chart and go to the Pyrography Woodburning Tools and Pens page just click here.

 

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