Helpful Tips

Best Wood for Wood Burning

Wood in the flames

The best wood for wood burning will depend on personal preference, your skill level, and the project itself. Wood burning is a beautiful skill that involves burning pictures, designs, words, and patterns into wood. But using the right type of wood for your project will have the most impact on the final results, which is why it’s important that you do your research and choose a type that will best suit your skills and wood burning style.

The best wood for wood burning is basswood, hands down. It’s a beautiful, softwood that’s very versatile, however, it can be difficult to find this wood in larger pieces and it does tend to come with a steeper price tag compared to other types of commonly used wood burning woods. A better alternative is poplar, which is equally as soft and just as easy to work with, but it’s more readily available and comes in a variety of size options, which is a must for any wood burner. If you’re new to wood burning than white pine is a great option. It’s affordable, forgiving, and easy to work with compared to yellow pine and oak. Beginners should stick with white pine, while a skilled wood burner can rely on basswood and polar for the best results and more detailed projects. However, oak can also be a great option, one that turns out beautiful results, if you have the patience and time to work with this messy wood.

Basswood

When it comes to wood burning, most artists can agree that nothing can quite compete with basswood, considering there’s no not much in the way of grain. This type of wood is not only beautiful, but it also has a solid surface. The wood itself is very light and clean, so you can easily burn dark or light details, which is what makes it the go-to choice for many artists. The only issue with this wood is when it comes to the size options. Finding larger pieces can be a frustrating process since you’ll usually only be able to find circular sizes or precut plaque sizes, you may be limited in what you use this wood for. However, you may be able to find plank sized pieces online, just expect a steep price tag. If you can’t afford the high price of basswood, you can easily switch to poplar which is much more affordable.

Birch

Birch burns in a similar manner to that of basswood. Additionally, you’ll find that the grains are consistently soft and the wood itself is more readily accessible.

Oak

Oak can be a real pain to use. It’s hard and tough to burn, the price is steep, and the grains are uneven. You’ll also quickly notice that the wood holds onto a lot of moisture. During a project, you can also expect to come across sap bubbles that need to be burned, which can create a messy edge. While for some, this isn’t a deal-breaker, it’s definitely something you’ll want to consider before you buy. It’s a popular choice because it’s a very beautiful wood, but it’s not one I would recommend for beginners.

Poplar

As I mentioned earlier, poplar can be a better, more affordable alternative to basswood. You can customize the size, it’s easy to burn, and it’s more affordable. You can use it for the majority of your projects and can easily find it any at local hardware store, in a variety of sizes. In terms of quality, the grains are consistently soft, which is what makes it perfect for most wood burning projects. Additionally, it accepts stains easily and evenly and will hold onto the coloring very well. If you’re a beginner, start off with a smaller board for practicing purposes. The only downside of poplar is the price. It’s more expensive than pine, and more affordable than basswood. You’ll also get better results with poplar than you will with pine. If you’re new to wood burning then you can start off with pine and move up to polar once you’re more confident in your skills.

Pine

Pine is the most common type of wood used for wood burning. It’s easily accessible, it’s affordable, and you can find it in a wide range of shapes and sizes. Yellow pine can be hard to burn because the grains are so different. The darker grain is hard to burn, while lighter grain pine is very soft. When you’re burning on this wood you may find that it’s difficult to get a consistent or detailed pattern. It’s definitely a better option for signs or letters as opposed to a shaded or solid design.

White pine is a much better option, offering a smoother, cleaner burn. The wood gives into the tips very well since it’s so soft.

Related Questions

Can I Cut My Own Wood for Wood Burning Projects?

You can use the best log splitter if you want to use found wood for your next project. I recommend the Boss Industrial ES7T20 Electric Log Splitter, which is very beginner-friendly and available at a price that’s affordable. Found wood can make a piece feel more special, however, keep in mind that you’ll need to use seasoned wood for best results. If you want to take a more natural approach to prepping found wood, read my article on how to split wood with a wedge.

Is it Safe to Use Pallet Wood?

If you decide to go this route, then you’ll need to do so with care. It’s difficult to know where the wood has come from and whether it was chemically treated. Even if it was only used to transport chemicals, the chemicals could’ve made contact with the wood, which would make burning it unsafe.

If you’re going to try your hand at burning wood using pallet wood, then make sure you have a fan, some gloves, and a mask. You should always wear a mask when you’re burning any type of repurposed wood. Go with a mask that has a filter and avoid using a flimsy paper mask. A fan should always be used when you’re burning wood. It’s never safe to breathe in smoke, especially if you plan on working for several hours at a time. You can use a small battery-powered model that’s highly portable. When a fan is placed close to your burning area, it will work to suck the smoke in and away from your workspace.

Always burn in a well-ventilated area. If you burn indoors, place an extra fan in the window in order to suck the smoke outdoors and to keep the airflow going so the space remains clean and clear.

Final Thoughts

As you can see, the best wood for wood burning is basswood, followed by polar. If you’re on a tight budget, then white pine is a better option, especially if you’re a beginner and in search of affordable wood to practice on. If you’re new to wood burning, steer clear of yellow pine and oak, both of which can be difficult to work with.