Can a Wood Burning Tool be Used on Leather ?

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Written by Jared Watson

Jarred Watson is a pyrographer with 10+ years experience and has worked with brands like BOSCH & FORD. He is always looking to learn and share his passion of wood burning with others.

Pyrography or wood burning is a beautiful art of creating designs on any receptive surface. Generally, people think that one can do only pyrography on wooden surfaces, but one can practice it on other surfaces, like leather. The designs are etched on the wood surface with heated tips. One can wonder whether they can use the same tools on leather, and the answer is yes. You can use a wood-burning pen for leather burning though the temperature needs to be adjusted accordingly. 

Tools for Leather Burning

Leather burning is similar to wood burning, which involves burning designs on the leather surface with a heated tool. Leather is an excellent material for practicing pyrography. Wood burning on a wooden surface requires navigating the tool along the wood grain. Since leather has no grain, it allows you to burn your designs smoothly. 

Leather burning is relatively straightforward if the right tools are used. Leather burning can be done by using the same tools used for wood burning. As leather is not as hard as wood, it needs to be done at very low temperatures, as high temperatures can damage the leather itself. Choosing the correct type of tips for burning leather is essential, as the residue formed can damage the tips. You can use tips like soil point tips, shader tips, and writing tips for both leather burning and wood burning. 

If you are an amateur with little knowledge about the tools you would require, you can start by buying a beginner’s pyrography kit, which is not much expensive and consists of a wide range of tips, pens and other accessories that are required for wood burning. Once you master the basic skills, you can invest in more expensive and professional tools. To start with leather burning, you would need the following tools

Leather Burning Pen

A leather-burning tool is the same as a wood-burning tool. It is essentially a handheld tool with a handle for using it as a pen. These tools allow you to attach different types of tips with which you can work. It is important to check the material with which the handle is made and whether that material is resistant to heat. Choosing the one you are most comfortable with is important among many types of nibs.

Smooth surface

The surface on which you will be working must be sturdy and smooth if you want a consistent and smooth burn. You can use a cutting board or a cutting mat to protect the surface on which you are working, especially if it is a wooden table.


A stylus is a handheld tool handy for transferring designs from paper, tracing paper, or carbon paper. Generally, styluses are blunt and are used as a pen.

Carbon paper and stencils

You would need carbon paper to transfer the design that you want to etch on the leather. Carbon paper is like a loosely bound layer of ink that helps to trace the design on the surface being used. As an alternative, you can also use tracing paper to transfer the design.

You can also use metal sheet stencils for this job. These metal sheet stencils come hollow and offer an infinite range of patterns, symbols and designs that you can directly run on the leather.

Things to Take Care of

Etching designs on leather can be very fun and exciting. Though, there are certain factors that one needs to consider before you start with your leather burning.

Safety Precautions

It is important to take the necessary safety precautions to avoid any kind of injury or hazard. As leather burning involves dealing with heated tools, one of the first aspects you need to take care of is how you handle the wood-burning pen. To avoid the risk of getting burned, use a pen holder. The pen should not be left unsupervised. Wear safety gear like protective gloves and a respiratory mask with filters for personal safety. One must do leather pyrography in a well-ventilated room[1]

The temperature of the pen

Leather burns at a much faster rate than wood. Therefore, while doing pyrography on leather, one needs to make sure the temperature of the leather-burning tool is optimum. It is better to use a pen which will allow you to adjust the temperature according to your need. Applying high heat on the leather surface can form darker patches and irregular burning.

Quality of Leather

The quality and type of leather used highly influence the look of your end product during the entire working process. All leather types are not appropriate for pyrography. The best type of leather for pyrography is natural vegetable-tanned leather[2], which does not contain harmful chemicals. This particular type of leather is also not flammable and has a beautiful grain surface texture which allows you to create unique variations and burn smoothly

Prepare the Leather

It is imperative to prepare the leather before you start etching the designs. Preparing the leather ensures a better final product and facilitates the creation of more intricate designs on the material. To prepare the leather, you would first need to distinguish between the flesh and skin sides, which is very easy as they have different textures. Pyrography will be done on the skin side. Therefore, that side needs to be prepared.

Start by spraying the leather with water to make it wet. You can use a spray bottle or any damp sponge as well. Once the leather is wet, rub the entire skin side of the leather with a burnisher to smoothen the surface. Smoothen the leather surface in all directions by rotating and burnishing in a new direction. Do the same thing on the flesh side, only instead of water, use gum tragacanth.


Thus, pyrography on leather can be done using the same tools used for wood burning, though it needs to be adjusted accordingly to prevent damage to the leather. In addition to adjusting the wood-burning tool, there are other factors that one must consider to avoid any kind of hazard and ensure an elegant finish product. 


  1. Autumncannibal. (n.d.). Reddit – Dive into anything.

  2. Leather, G. (2023). What Is Vegetable Tanned Leather and is it Superior in Quality? Galen Leather.

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