The Beginning pyrography art wood burning – Tongue Drums


My first foray into the world of pyrography art occurred on four tongue drums my husband agreed to build for a coworker.   I experimented a little on some sample wood and then got to work.  I would have to admit that one of my biggest downfalls is I have little patience for practicing.   I’m the type of person who prefers to ‘learn as I go’ vs practicing.   With that comes moments of enjoyment when it turns out and plenty moments of ‘oh crap, I should have tried that on sample piece first!’

Material burned on: Oak or Maple

Size: 12″ x 6″ x 3/4″   (size of the panel I had to burn on)

Complete:  July 2014

The drums were a mixture of both.   Todd and I had a steep learning curve with the drums.  He wanted to do some artistry himself, so we designed out the drums with areas that he would cut out designs and I would wood burn the fine detail in.  Each drum had its own theme: cars/trucks, frog/lizard, moon/stars, and butterflies/flowers.


Drum 1 – The Cars & Trucks

Car / Truck Drum

I will readily admit that my enthusiasm level for this drum wasn’t high as due to my lack of interest in the subject matter.    






Car / Truck Drum – back

We got some clip art from the net, arranged it on the box, and Todd did a lot of scroll saw cutting on this drum.  There was very minimal wood burning done.  





Car / Truck Drum – front

I came up with the car racing by the kids name as a last-minute thing and liked the look.   Plus it helped balance out that side of the drum.   I did struggle with the both race cars (front & back) because they were small and I was very inexperienced.   There was a lot of scrapping little boo-boo’s away with my X-acto knife.







Drum 2 – The Frog & Lizard

Frogs / Lizard Drum

This was another drum with minimal wood burning on it.  We had some stencils and stamps that we used for the design. 





Frog / Lizard back

Todd cut out the frog and lizard designs on the back.






Frog / Lizard drum front

The frog cut out was glued onto on the front (or opposite side) creating a 3D looking frog.   I did the wood burning of the lizard on this side. 


This particular piece of wood had a lot of grain in it and I had a difficult time burning through those sections.  I had the tip heat pretty high because I wanted the image dark and in retrospect I should have had it lower and burned more slowly.  There were a lot of charred spots that you couldn’t really see unless you angled the piece just right, but I knew they existed.




Drum 3 – The Moon & Stars 

At this point I’m starting to feel a bit more comfortable with the wood burner, but I was too inexperienced to do much more than a basic fill in the design on this drum.  



Moon / Stars back

The back side of the box had a lot of scrolling lines and some crescent moon images.  The main crescent moon has been cut out as are several of the larger stars around that moon.  I got the pattern from the internet and snipped sections I liked and even flipped them to create this pattern.   




Moon / Stars drum – front

On the front I got a little creative with the moon, but it wasn’t much in the way of shading but instead was a show of contrasts.   Truthfully the idea I got from something I found on the net and adapted that design for this project.






Drum 4 – The Butterflies & Flowers 

With this drum I felt like I was starting to experiment with shading.  


Butterfly / Flowers drum – front

The side with the grandchild’s name ended up being just like the first 3 boxes where it was mostly cutouts with minimal wood burning.  






tongue drum wood burn pyrography flower
Butterflies / Flowers back

The other side featuring the hummingbird turned into something closer to what I would do with a pencil.   On the larger parts, Todd did cut out the wood, but most of the imagery was so small there wasn’t much he could cut out.  The bird’s body and a few leaves around the flowers.   

The flowers themselves, I burned in and I attempted to shade or contour them instead of just burning them to a uniform color.  I was rather encouraged by the results, so I got the stencil, flipped it, and drew in more flowers and another hummingbird.  The new section I completely rendered via wood burning and made me realize that pyrography had the potential to be what I could consider as real art.   The Roses where too small for me to do much with and aren’t worth discussing.



In conclusion, by the end of doing the boxes Todd was impressed with how the hummingbirds and flowers section turned out.  I wasn’t, but at this point my lack of experience prevented me from being able to do a better job.  Regardless, we decided that any future orders I would take care of the decorating and he would handle the construction.


In the end, what did I learn from this experience?

  1. Keeping the heat lower helps prevent char marks and discoloration (browning) of the area outside the pattern. As kids we called this learning to color inside the lines.
  2. Use a lighter touch when burning across grain. I found that if I lifted the pressure slightly on the pen when burning across the grain it was less likely to blacken out.   To this day (over a year later I’m still learning how to minimize grain).
  3. And lastly, it spurred my desired to see if I could do something that required shading.


Sept 20, 2015

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