Pyrography Tools and Wattage - How Pyrography Tools Work, Tip Wires and Wattage

How Pyrography Woodburning Systems Work and The Wattage Controversy

Virtually all of the modern wood burning units are constructed in the same manner. A transformer provides the power and is controlled by a device not unlike a light dimmer that passes the power to a pen cord where a burning pen and tip are attached. The transformer's purpose is to step down the voltage to a usable level that is regulated by the controller that passes the power through the cord to the pen and tip.

There has been a lot of misleading information concerning wattage on wood burning units. Many manufacturers make high wattage claims that are false. We have tested many of these units and have found that they all consume less than 45 watts of power, including the units claiming to deliver 130 watts max.

This page was updated on 3/12/16

How Pyrography Units Work

Simply put, wattage is power; and generally speaking, more is better than less. The logical question to ask is how much wattage does one need. To answer this, we conducted an experiment in our shop using a wattmeter, a Detailer with 18 gauge cord, and a "K" tip (small point). Several feather barbs were burned on a piece of basswood with the Detailer's control knob set to 3. We were able to burn a nice, crisp "toast" colored barb. The wattmeter registered 10 watts! Next, we set the Detailer to full power. The "K" tip glowed a bright orange, the basswood burned a burnt black, and the feather barbs looked horrible. The wattmeter registered 27 watts. With respect to wood burning, we feel that wattage rating is severely overrated. You should choose a pyrography tool that has the features that you require, and a price tag that fits your budget....Colwood Electronics Inc.

About tip wires & how it impacts on performance

I have used just about every brand (except Everglades) of burner manufactured in North America. What I have found is that the tips made with 18 & 20 gauge wire (such as Razertip & Optima) that are 2 volt systems, heat as well as the brands that are 3 volt systems that use heavier gauge wire. If you attempted to use a 16 gauge wire on a Razertip or Optima you would definitely notice it taking longer to heat & it would not get as hot.

The 18 & 20 gauge wire produces quick heat recovery & more than sufficient heat for most burning needs when used on a 2 volt system. The heavier gauge wires will not give you the fine (Razer tip) tips or detail you can achieve with the 18 & 20 gauge wire.

So that you understand a little better I will explain using Razertip as an example. Their HD tips are 18 gauge wire & their Standard tips are made with 20 gauge wire. The 20 gauge wire can produce the smallest, finest tips available (such as the 5S & 5XS spears) which is needed for the very small detail work. What I discovered is when I had Nibsburner attempt to make some of these same tips was that they did not come out as well because Nibsburner's lightweight tip wire is 20 gauge (Razertip's HD wire) & when trying to reproduce these tips they came out thicker thus loosing the ability to do the very fine detail work that can be accomplished with Razertip's version of the same tip.

If you attempted to use a 16 gauge wire (as an example of Nibsburner's HD tips) on a Razertip or Optima burner you would find that the tip does not heat up as much as it would on a 3 volt system.
So the bottom line really is that if you use tip wire that is compatible with the system they will all perform equally as well. It's when you try to mix & match burners & tips that you will run into the problems. This is one of the reasons I always recommend using the same brand of pen as the brand of burner you own.

You might also want to read the information regarding the Wattage Controversy issue as told by Colwood Electronics & Cam Merkle of Razertip Industries. They provided me with this information which I think might help explain how pyrography tools work & why the wattage claims are pretty unimportant when making a decision regarding which tools to buy.

Why do different manufacturers boast about their watts and amps?

“Watts are not amps. Some manufacturers state that their tools vary between 20 and 130 watts. It has been proven beyond any doubt that there are no burners that exceed 45 watts. Some brands claims of 130 watts of output are false; they are under 40 watts. Also, the statement that "the higher the watts, the quicker you can draw" is not completely accurate. As a general statement, with all things being equal, it is true. However, you need to take into account the ability to supply current (amps) to the tip. High current flow is critical to tip heat recovery. Our Razertip 2 volt transformers are rated at 10 amps. It is the amperage, not the voltage that gives fast tip recovery. Colwood, Detail Master and Nibsburner operate at around 3 volts (compared to our Razertip, 2 volts). In theory, the extra voltage helps with faster tip heat recovery, and it gives them a 50% increase in wattage over us, but it has the unfortunate by-product of heating up the cord and the pen body faster as well. Then there is the tip wire itself. Our Razertip pens use an alloy that doesn't require nearly as much power to heat it as the Detail Master wire does (Razertip's more energy efficient), so our Razertip standard tips running on 2 volts will recover their heat as quickly as the heavier Detail Master and Nibs tips operating at 3 volts. As a thumbnail guide, watts can be roughly calculated as amps x volts. Using this quick method of estimating watts, our Razertip burner comes in at 20 watts (2 volts x 10 amps). The Detail Master/Nibs burners would come in at 30 watts (10 amps x 3 volts - assuming a 10 amp transformer rating; I don't believe their transformers are actually rated this high). Razertip could achieve 20 watts by using 120 volts and 1/6 amps, or 20 volts at 1 amp, but our Razertip burner wouldn't work well because everything would get hot. The lower the voltage, the better - but if the voltage gets too low, contact becomes an issue. It's easier to keep consistent contact at higher voltages. We could also easily change to a 3 volt transformer (such as Detail Master, Colwood and Nibs), but our pen bodies and cords would heat up too quickly, and I doubt that CSA would pass a 3 volt burner because of a risk to the operator burning himself on a hot pen body. I believe that we have a better product because of the lower voltage and overall design......Cam Merkel, President Razertip Industries

More information about Wattage

For more detailed information about the Wattage Controversy please read my webpage that deals specifically with this issue & how tip wires impact on overall performance. It is worth taking the time to read that page before you take the plunge into buying a pyrography system.

Disclaimer: Some of the information contained on this page is based on public domain information that is believed to be reliable & information used in my classes. The information in these tutorials is furnished free of charge. The information is to be used at an individual's own risk. Nedra Denison and Sawdust Connection makes no warranty as to the completeness or accuracy thereof.

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Happy Burning ©,

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