Beginner’s Woodburner Shopping Guide

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Beginner’s Woodburner Shopping Guide

These entry-level models get you burning without breaking the bank

By Bob Duncan

There are a few essential tools that you need before you begin woodburning. For first timers, we recommend starting with a cheaper model before investing in the more serious ones. If you decide that you would like to explore this hobby more, it’s important to understand the different types available. If possible, try several units to see which you prefer.

Single Temperature vs. Variable Temperature

While many inexpensive soldering-iron style burners are available, the tip size and shape and single temperature setting make them more difficult to use. I suggest that most beginnings choose a variable-temperature burner because they are easier to control and provide a greater selection of tip shapes.

A Word on Tips

Most manufacturers design burning pens and tips specifically for their units. Each manufacturer also makes a few tip shapes that are different from other manufacturers. The good news is that most manufacturers have conversion kits that allow you to use different manufacturers’ pens with their burner units.

Pens come in two styles: fixed tip and interchangeable tip. In the fixed tip style, each pen comes with a different tip, so you change pens to change tips. With the other style, you have one pen and change just the tip. Some artists like the versatility of the interchangeable tips, which allow you to get a variety of tips for a small investment. But other pyrographers feel the connectors that allow you to change the tips are difficult to use, or that they are unreliable and bleed off power. If possible, try both styles of pen to see which you prefer.


Burnmaster Hawk
The Hawk comes with the cords and adapters to use any pen via the jack on the front of the unit, but does not come with a pen. The Burnmaster pen (available separately) accepts any Burnmaster tip and will accommodate replaceable tips from Detail Master, Colwood, or Razertip. The Burnmaster pen can be used with any burner control unit. Suggested retail: $209

Colwood Cub
The least expensive hot-wire variable-temperature woodburner, this compact unit accommodates any Colwood pen (sold separately). While it lacks a pen holder, it includes a cable clamp so you can hang the unit over the work area. The pen cord attaches internally. The on/off switch is integrated into the temperature-control dial. Suggested retail: $69 (Pens and tips sold separately.) 


Colwood Detailer
The first unit Colwood created is still the company’s biggest seller. It features a temperature-control dial and lighted on/off switch. The pen cord attaches to the back of the control unit with two screws and can be replaced. The unit accommodates any Colwood pen (sold separately), and includes a snap-in pen holder on the top. Suggested retail: $82 (Burner control unit and cord, tips and handpieces sold separately.)

Optima 1 Single
The Optima 1 comes with an extremely flexible pen cord for use with their standard fixed-tip pen. A heavy-duty cord is available for use with heavy-duty pens and tips. The jack for the pen cord is on the front of the unit, and it has a snap-in pen holder that can be attached anywhere. Your choice of fixed-tip pen is included.
Suggested retail: $107 


Razertip SK
The SK is safety certified in both the United States and Canada, and features a pen cord jack in the front. The unit can handle all of Razertip’s standard and heavy-duty pens, and has a snap-in pen holder on the side. Comes with a cord and pen.
Suggested retail: $165

Walnut Hollow Creative Versa-Tool
This inexpensive variable-temperature woodburner is made in the soldering-iron style, but has a rheostat on the cord to control the temperature. People with small hands may find the thick unit difficult to hold and control. Comes with 11 different screw-on tips. Suggested retail: $35



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