Pyrography — derived from the Greek pur (fire) and graphos (writing) — has been around since fire itself. While there isn’t hard evidence, it’s quite likely that cavemen etched the walls of their caves with fire sticks. While today it’s primarily done on wood with a heated pen, it’s been done (and continues to be done) on leather, clay, and even gourds.
Historically, it was used to decorate and brand various tools and musical instruments. Kitchenware or folk guitars were marked with a little bit of art both to convey the owner’s personality, and to distinguish their stuff from other people’s. It wasn’t really until the late Victorian era that the art form was taken up in earnest, and done on blank “canvasses” of wood and other materials rather than being a decorative embellishment.
In the early 20th century, soldering pens were developed, from which today’s woodburning tools were derived. This is a fun project for men, women, and even kids
(under adult supervision, of course). Luckily, the start up costs are cheap, and it’s an easy hobby to learn. If you enjoy it, woodburning can be the source of DIY gifts for the family for years to come!
Woodburning pen. Quick note about the pen: I started out with this one: Walnut Hollow Value Pen. The heat is simply on/off, and it comes with 4 tips. After I lost a couple of the tips, I upgraded to this model: Walnut Hollow Versa Tool. It has variable heat control, which I like, as well as a case for the various tips. It’s double the price, but still only $20! This is about as cheap and low-end as it gets, but has worked just fine for me for 6+ months. If you get really into pyrography, you can get pens that go into the hundreds of dollars.