Woodburners & Pyrography

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Here is my response to an e-mail asking about woodburners.

I currently own and use a Detail Master Excalibre (the silver one with 2 ports) with lots of different Fixed Tip Detail Master Vented pens (the silver aluminum ones). I also have a couple of Razertip Tips sets that I mount in a Razertip interchangeable tip pen.

If I was buying a new system today I would purchase a Burnmaster Eagle (the red one with 2 ports) with Burnmaster Replaceable Tip Pen and Tips. The 10 tips available from Burnmaster are good for beginners. In the long run you can add more tips by purchasing sets of tips from Razertip.

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Currently the $259 “Burnmaster Eagle” available from “Packard Woodworks and other retailers for roughly the same price looks real good to me. I like having 2 pens and only need one set of 10 interchangeable tips.

Detail Master

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The Detail Master Excalibre and Sabre units are ok but I don’t like the Detail Master Pens.

I went with the Fixed Tip Detail Master Vented Pens because woodcarvers, etc said they were the best. The pens handles are made of aluminum. This sucks! Because, aluminum is one of the best and fastest conductors of heat.

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I like to burn really hot and fast. i.e. with the Detail Master close to or maxed out at 130 watts. So, I hate the Aluminum Detail Master pens because the handles get to hot to hold to fast! I have tried all the tricks. The rubber finger protectors, the O rings, wrapping them with all kinds of things and still they get to hot to hold.

I have also tried making my own pens from dowels, PVC pipe, etc. These work better than Detail Master pens. Stay cooler. The problem is you have to figure out how to mount the tips and keep the mounting points separated so they don’t short out. The Burnmaster Replacable Tip Pen is very similar to my home made pens. At $27 it may be cheaper and it is definitely simpler for most people.

I also have trouble with the Detail Master not being able to keep up with me when burning long lines. Not enough heat.


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I don’t own a Burnmaster but I have tried them. I like the  Burnmaster. The Detail Master and Burnmaster units are both rated to be 130 watts. But the Burnmaster seems to have more balls.

I like the plastic Burnmaster Replaceable Tip Pen a lot better than aluminum Detail Master pens. It does not get to hot to hold really fast.

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Going with replaceable tips is a lot cheaper than fixed tips. I originally went with the fixed tip Detail Master pens rather than
replaceable tip Detail Master pens because people said the replaceable tips loosened up to easily and did not conduct heat well. My experience with Razertip Interchangeable Tips suggest otherwise. I have not run into any trouble.

Updated: 6/6/2020. I have been told. But, I have not tried it myself. There is a little hole next to the power level knob on the newer Burnmaster units. You can use a little screw driver in this hole to turn up
the heat beyond what is normally available. Search around on the web and you will find more info.


I like the Interchangeable Tips from Razertip. They have lots of different sets available. Good low price solution. You can directly use the Razertip Interchangeable Tips in Burnmaster Replaceeable Tip Pen you don’t need to purchase a Razertip pen.

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The Ball Tips – 5 Piece Set is probably the first set you should add after Burnmaster 10 tip set.  You can use the smallest ball tip to sign your name. However, a magic marker works a lot better.

I do most of my burning with short and long Skew tips (any manufacture) followed by Razertip Small Ball tips.

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In the past the Razertip Woodburners were to small and wimpy for me to consider. I like to burn HOT and fast! I see they now have some 10 amp wood burners. These may be ok. But, I don’t know. The Detail Master and Burnmaster only advertise 130 watts, not amps. There is not enough advertised data to convert watts to amps or vise versa. Is it 10 amps at 12 volts DC? If so then it is only 10 * 12 = 120 watts. If AC then we need a power factor to convert amps to watts. Is the 130 watts at the input or output? The bigger Burnmaster units with their cooling vents look like a better bet.


I like some of the Colwood pens. But, there burners are to small and wimpy for me. I like to burn HOT and fast! The 130 watt Detail Master is not big enough for me. The Colwood burners are only 32 watts???

Signing your Name

Wood burners don’t work for me when it comes to signing my name. The grain in the wood always causes an ugly bump when I try to sign my name due to the curves in the letters “C”, “a”, “o”, etc in Carl Ford.

I like to sign my name with a “Ultra Fine Point” Sharpie permanent magic marker.

The “Writing” tips available from any of the manufactures definitely do not work for me! The only thing that comes close to working is the small ball tip sold by Razertip. It is like the ball
in a ball point pen.

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Updated: 6/6/2020. I now sign my name with a Dremel style engraver. I try to do it BEFORE I apply a finial clear finish.

The Burner from Hell

I made my own wood burner in a Graeme Priddle class that I call the wood burner from hell. It is a 15 amp Auto battery charger (NAPA Mode 85-439) with an old fashion light dimmer on the 120 volt input. It is really more of a wood brander than a wood burner. You get flames when you touch this sucker to wood.

The big problem with this burner is pens and tips. It melts them like butter. You have to make your own out of nichrome wire, etc.

If you are interested look around on the web for a Graeme Priddle class or demo. Or look for “DIY Graeme Priddle Style Wood Vaporizer System“. It is way to much burner for most people and I don’t want to be responsible.

Woodburning Books

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Pyrography is another name for Woodburing.

Pyrography, Learn to Burn by Fox Chapel Publications is my favorite and the cheapest. It is really not a book. It is a Special Edition of a magazine. I like the “Experimenting with Texture” section by Sue Walters on pages 70 & 71. It shows 63 pictures of sample woodburning patterns. Pick the one you like and give it a try. The projects in this book are simple and can be applied to round wood turnings.

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Great Book of Woodburning by Lora Irish is a good book. It has some pages that show different patterns but not as good as Fox Chapel book. The projects in this book are very appealing but a little complex and hard to apply to round wood turnings? Any of the books by Lora Irsh are good.

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The Art of Woodburning by Betty Auth is very appealing. This book shows only a handful of basic woodburning patterns. The projects are middle of the road in complexity and some can be applied to round wood turnings.

For more books see my Essential Books & DVDs for Students blog entry.