If you’re familiar with the design of a wood-burning tool or a pyrography pen, you’ll notice its resemblance to a soldering iron, with electricity heating their respective tips.
Naturally, this may lead you to wonder: Can I use a soldering iron for wood-burning? And if so, why invest in a pricier pyrography pen?
In this article, we’ll dive deep into a comprehensive comparison between soldering irons and wood-burning pens, guiding you to decide which tool aligns best with your needs.
Can You Use a Soldering Iron to Burn Wood?
Yes, you can use a soldering iron to burn wood to create beautiful artwork.
The process a process also known as pyrography, which is a more appropriate term for this beautiful craft. The word pyrography is a combination of two Greek words, pyro (fire) and graphos (draw or write), so pyrography is the art of drawing or decorating wood by burning it. It’s interesting to know that the origins of this practice can be traced back over 2,000 years, way before electricity and modern tools like soldering irons.
The temperature used for drawing the most common types of wood is around 200°C (392°F); this means that to do the job properly without setting the workpiece on fire, you should use a soldering iron of 30W tops.
Of course, these tools were not designed to burn wood but to melt solder; nonetheless, you can use a soldering iron for wood-burning and achieve decent results.”. Stay tuned to see all about specific wood-burning tools, their pros and cons, and a performance comparison with soldering irons.
Soldering Iron vs. Wood Burning Tool
Soldering irons are ok for wood burning, but as the saying goes, “It’s like using a sledgehammer to crack a nut”. There are special tools for burning wood that allow more precision, control, and other benefits.
Wood burning tools, also known as wood burning pens, or pyrography pens, work following the same principles of electric soldering irons but come with many advantages and are specially designed for this craft.
Some manufacturers and artists differentiate wood-burning pens from pyrography pens as if the latter were more sophisticated tools. However, as both tools serve the same purpose, work in the same way, and many people use both terms interchangeably, I will do the same.
Pyrography Pens vs. Soldering Irons Main Differences
|Feature/Aspect||Soldering Irons||Pyrography Pens|
|Temperature Control||Most stand-alone soldering irons don’t have temperature control. Temperature set by wattage and tip material.||All pyrography pens offer temperature control. Allows for varied burning temperatures to achieve different shades on wood.|
|Tips Variety||Limited tip shapes available.||Wide variety of shapes, thicknesses, and styles available.|
|Tips Material||Made of iron, copper, or alloys; erode quickly when used on wood.||Made of brass or nichrome; designed for extended wood-burning.|
|Heat Distribution||Uneven distribution; more heat on the sides than on top edge.||Even heat distribution, is perfect for wood-burning.|
|Ergonomics & Design||Not designed for wood-burning; it might be uncomfortable for drawing.||Specifically designed for wood-burning with ergonomic grips.|
|Safety||No specialized safety features like heat shields.||Comes with heat shields and sometimes padded surfaces for protection and comfort.|
|Price||Generally cheaper than pyrography pens.||More expensive, but price reflects specialized design and features for wood-burning.|
This feature is essential for wood-burning because the ideal burning temperature varies depending on the workpiece’s type of wood. Besides, by raising or lowering the temperature, the burnt wood’s color changes; the higher the temperature, the darker the wood turns.
The ability to adjust temperature is like pressing a pencil harder against a paper sheet: the harder you press, the darker the mark. This variation helps create more complex drawings than if you were to work with a constant temperature.
In my experience, 99% of stand-alone soldering irons don’t have any kind of temperature control. Their temperature is set only by their wattage and their tips’ material properties. On the other hand, all wood-burning and pyrography pens bring some temperature control.
Better And Exchangeable Tips:
The tip is another feature that impacts on the precision, practicality, and results achieved when drawing or writing on wood.
- Soldering irons’ tips can be removed and replaced, but there aren’t many choices available; they have pretty much the same shape, which limits the drawings and patterns that can be made with them.
Besides, soldering irons’ tips are usually made of iron, copper, or alloys that are great for melting solder but are easily eroded when heated for extended periods and by contact with materials like wood. This means that when using a soldering iron for burning wood, you should consider spending some bucks on replacement tips.
- On the contrary, woodburning pens bring different tips with a wide variety of shapes, thicknesses, styles, and even stamping tips designed for creating art.
For example, using a thick tip allows you to burn large portions of wood as if you were using a marker. The tips of these tools are easily exchangeable and are usually compatible with different models of pens.
Besides, these tips are usually made of brass or alloys like nichrome, which is a combination of iron, chromium, and nickel, designed to work for extended times and are hard to endure woodburning for longer periods than those used for soldering.
Soldering irons’ tips are designed to concentrate more heat on the sides than on the top edge, and their temperature is not evenly distributed. Wood-burning pens’ tips have an even heat distribution which makes them perfect for drawing, writing, or decorating wood.
Ergonomics And Design:
These are other crucial aspects to bear in mind when choosing a tool.
Soldering irons are not designed for wood-burning; they have a long tip and a grip that may be uncomfortable for drawing. On the other hand, wood-burning or pyrography pens are designed for the job, so they are ergonomically designed to be held for extended periods.
It would be unfair to say that soldering irons are not made ergonomically, but they are designed to be comfortable when soldering, which is done in a completely different position. Besides, wood-burning pens have heat shields that prevent injuries and keep the hands of the users protected when drawing. Some of these tools have padded surfaces for a better, more comfortable grip.
Soldering irons are cheaper than wood-burning tools, the price difference varies depending on the model, but the price difference between them and pyrography pens is significant.
In my own experience, I’ve found that while a soldering iron can handle simple tasks like lettering, outlining, or crafting basic Christmas ornaments, it’s not ideal for more intricate projects. Holding it for detailed work can be challenging, and its limited tip choices often left me wanting more flexibility.
On the other hand, pyrography pens felt much more intuitive in my hand, making them easier to grip and maneuver. Plus, the array of tips they come with allowed me to delve into more intricate designs, shading, and finer details.
Safety and Maintenance
While both the soldering iron and wood-burning tool can be used creatively, these tools are hot and can cause serious burns. It’s essential to prioritize safety when using such tools. For comprehensive information, refer to our guide on soldering iron safety here. Always ensure you’re working in a well-ventilated area and using the appropriate protective equipment.
Maintaining your tools is essential for their longevity and effectiveness.
When using a soldering iron for wood burning, it can accumulate different residues compared to its typical soldering use. Cleaning the tip after each wood-burning session can prevent build-up and ensure clearer designs.
Whether you’re using a soldering iron or a wood-burning tool, regular care can ensure consistent performance and reduce the risk of malfunctions.
Using a soldering iron for wood-burning can be practical if you have one handy and are eager to try out this craft. However, if you don’t do it frequently or need high precision, a soldering iron might suffice. But remember, wood-burning can wear down the tips of soldering irons quickly.
It’s advisable not to use your favorite soldering iron for this purpose. Instead, consider using a cheap or expendable tip to avoid damaging the one you use for soldering.
If you find yourself falling in love with this craft, investing in a dedicated wood-burning pen might be a good idea. These pens often come with multiple tips, making your work faster and more enjoyable, ultimately leading to better results.
David Castillo is an automotive industry expert specializing in vehicle electronics and stand-alone fuel management systems. He has over 20 years of experience and owns a car repair garage and tuning shop.
David still runs his shop but is now more focused on pre-purchase car inspections and writing for FinePowerTools.
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