Pyrography on oak  – TBH It’s not that Bad!

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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.

This guide delves into the intricacies of using oak for pyrography, discussing its unique properties, the challenges it presents for wood burning, and viable alternatives. Whether you’re a seasoned artist or a hobbyist, this article aims to provide valuable insights into the suitability of oak for your pyrography projects.

Is Oak Good for Wood Burning?

Oak is not typically recommended for fine art pyrography due to its grain pattern and density. While it’s a durable and beautiful wood for furniture, the grain pattern makes it exceptionally challenging for detailed work. Hardwoods like maple and oak produce darker lines due to denser fibers, but oak’s uneven texture and acidic nature can also erode pen tips used in pyrography​​​​​​.

What is Oak?

Oak[1] is a popular hardwood known for its durability, unique grain pattern, and versatility. It’s often used in traditional, craftsman, and mission-style furniture. The color ranges from light beige to brown for white oak and pinkish to reddish hues for red oak. Common uses include furniture, cabinets, flooring, and barrels. It’s also known for its high Janka hardness rating[2], indicating its durability and resistance to damage.

How does Pyrography on oak feels?

When engaging in pyrography on oak, artists confront its high density and hardness, as reflected by its Janka hardness rating of 1,360 for white oak and 1,290 for red oak. This density leads to uneven burning and difficulty in achieving consistent detail, particularly in fine art requiring intricate work. 

The pen’s interaction with the wood’s uneven grain – marked by pits and streaks – complicates smooth line creation and shading, demanding increased time and effort from the artist.

These challenges are further exacerbated by oak’s acidic nature, which can erode pyrography pen tips, adding to the material and maintenance costs.


Despite the wood’s aesthetic appeal and durability, these factors collectively make oak a complex medium for pyrography, particularly when precision and fine detailing are essential.

Drawbacks and Benefits of Using Oak


  • Grain pattern: Oak’s grain can make detailed work exceptionally challenging.[3]
  • Durability: While durable, its hardness can be a double-edged sword, making it difficult to burn consistently.
  • Pen erosion: Oak’s acidic nature can erode pyrography pen tips over time.[4]


  • Aesthetics: Oak is visually striking and can create beautiful, rustic pieces when grain visibility is not an issue.
  • Eco-friendliness: Oak is a sustainable and biodegradable material​​.

Is oak good for wood burning?

wood burning on oak varies based on the intended project. Its durability and visual appeal may suit simpler designs like signs or rustic artworks, where the grain’s character can add to the piece’s aesthetic. For these types of projects, oak’s unique texture and robust nature might be desirable attributes.

However, when it comes to fine art pyrography that requires intricate detailing and precision, oak becomes less ideal. Its uneven grain and hardness can lead to unpredictable burns and make it difficult to achieve consistent shading and fine lines. This can frustrate artists seeking to create detailed and delicate work.

Ultimately, while oak can be used for pyrography, it’s not universally the best choice. For beginners or those working on simple projects, it might be a satisfactory option. 

not best

But for advanced pyrography requiring detailed, high-quality finishes, alternative woods with finer, more predictable grains are recommended. 

Artists should consider the specific needs of their project and the properties of oak before deciding if it’s the right material for their wood-burning art.

Alternative to Oak Wood for Pyrography

For pyrography, alternatives to oak include basswood, poplar, cherry, maple, and magnolia. These woods are favored for their finer grains and more consistent burning surfaces, which are ideal for detailed work. 

Basswood[5], in particular, is highly recommended for beginners due to its softness and minimal grain. These alternatives not only provide smoother surfaces for intricate designs but also offer varying shades and textures, allowing artists to choose the best match for their specific project.

Final Thoughts

While oak offers aesthetic beauty and durability, its challenging grain and uneven burning make it less ideal for detailed pyrography. For simpler tasks, it might suffice, but there are better-suited woods available.

Oak’s unique grain and hardness pose significant challenges for detailed pyrography, making it less suitable for fine art. However, its beauty and durability might be acceptable for simpler projects. For finer work, alternatives like poplar or maple are recommended due to their more consistent burning qualities.


  1. White Oak Wood: Get Finest Quality from The Leading White Oak Wood Supplier in India. (2023, April 8). BFPPL.

  2. WoodCo. (2023, April 27). Understanding the Janka Wood hardness scale.,into%20a%20sample%20of%20wood.

  3. Timber, D. (2022, July 26). Understanding wood grain Patterns: Types, Examples & Terms. Duffield Timber.

  4. Table 2 . Acidity of different wood species. (n.d.). ResearchGate.

  5. Eric. (2022, July 8). Basswood. The Wood Database.

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