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  • Writer's pictureTodd DeGarmo

Flemish pyrography

Here's our newest addition to the Folk Arts Collection:

Flemish pyrography Christmas chair/table found in neighboring Washington County, NY.

Flemish pyrography Christmas chair/table, Folk Arts Collection, Crandall Public Library.

Pyrography is a term used fairly recently to describe an art form that uses heated metal tools to burn designs into wood surfaces. Light-colored wood have been commonly used for this art form, like beech, birch, sycamore, basswood, and pine. The technique can be traced to the art traditions around the world for thousands of years. It is also referred to as wood burning, burnt wood, wood etch, poker work, and poker art.

Detail of chair/table.

At the turn of the 20th century, the invention of pyrography machines and kits for home use popularized the craft. The Flemish Art Company of New York was one of the first companies to supply these new tools, so much so that the name, "Flemish Art" became one more generic term for pyrography.

The chair folds down into a table.

Pyrography kits were promoted and sold in catalogs and women's magazines as a good pastime for women. They were encouraged to create beautiful items to decorate their homes or be sold to others. Typically, small items like cups and bowls, picture frames and handkerchief boxes were made, but large furniture pieces like chests, cabinets and chairs were also burned.


For more information:

A Brief History of Pyrography & Wood Burning Art,

Antique Pyrography by Kathleen Memendez,

The Amazing Art of Pyrography by Robert Boyer, Evanston Publishing, Evanston, IL, 1993.


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