Wood Burning with Soldering Iron: Our Comprehensive Guide

From this post you will learn how to use a soldering iron for wood burning, how it is different from a specialzied woodburning tool, and pick up some useful tips.
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Last updatedLast updated: July 24, 2021
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If you are a wood burning hobbyist, you have probably walked into several arts and crafts stores and seen loads on wood burning pens sprawled on the shelves. You must have also wondered whether wood burning with soldering iron is possible just in case you can forgo the entire cost of a new wood burning set. Well, your readily available soldering iron is not the best recommended for wood burning.

A soldering iron, unlike wood burning pens will limit your range of achievable effects and damage the tips pretty first. Therefore, if you are looking to pursue wood burning in the long-term you are better off investing in a proper set. However, if you are just getting started on wood burning and would love to perfect your skill, you can use a soldering iron. This article contains some pointers on how to go about it successfully.

Can you do wood burning with a soldering iron?

Wood Burning with Soldering Iron: Our Comprehensive GuideBelieve it or not, you may already have the right tool in your tool box to create attractive DIY home décor projects with your wood burning talents. You can use a soldering iron for wood burning as long as you get the tip and temperature settings correct.

It is a capable wood burning tool because they usually heat up between 500 and 800 degrees F and come with various tip options. There are different types of soldering irons made for specific tasks like joining sheet metal and soldering electronics.

Since it is not explicitly designed for wood burning, you may need to make some alterations to it or buy some attachments for it to work perfectly for you.

The most basic adjustment you need to make to your soldering iron for wood burning is alter its tip. Standard soldering irons have tips made of either iron or copper and they don’t come in the design or shape suitable for detailed lettering or drawing. Luckily, most of them come with tips that can be replaced easily.

The best tip for wood burning is the hot knife tip. It has a sharp edge that offers high precision and focused heat. This gives you accurate control during burning. If your soldering iron doesn’t have a hot knife tip, you can get one from your local home improvement store. If you are an unstoppable DIYer, you can make one.

If you are completely unable to get the hot knife tip, you can use the other options that your soldering iron comes with. However, you may encounter a few issues like lack of precision, melting and uneven heat.

How to use a soldering iron for wood burning

Although a soldering iron is not inherently designed for wood burning, you can experiment with it for a start. Just keep in mind that you won’t get the best results. Here is a step by step guide that will help you create wood burning art with a soldering iron:

Step 1. Find an appropriate tip

Wood Burning with Soldering Iron: Our Comprehensive GuideLike wood burning pens, soldering irons come with alternate tips. Find the pointiest tip of all the options you have. A sharp tip will give you the most control and range of effects for different types of projects.

Step 2. Lay out the script of your art on the wood

Wood Burning with Soldering Iron: Our Comprehensive GuideDraw an outline of whatever you want to create lightly on a piece of wood of your choice. Do it lightly, so you don’t dent the wood. This gives you something to follow and enhances precision.

Step 3. Fire up the iron and ensure it is hot enough

Wood Burning with Soldering Iron: Our Comprehensive GuideDifferent soldering irons heat up at different temperatures depending on their wattage. If you have a low wattage iron, it will take a bit longer for you to make any visible marks. If you are not patient enough, look for a better alternative.

Wood burning consumes more power than soldering. 35 watts should suffice. Anything lower will make the tip cool down when you start making strokes leaving you with uneven burns.

Step 4. Burn

Wood Burning with Soldering Iron: Our Comprehensive GuideThis is the fun part of the process. Remember there is no eraser: you can’t afford to make any mistakes. Hold the iron like pencil, just like you would when soldering. If you don’t trust your motor skills, you can start off with a few practice strokes on scrap wood to avoid messing up your main project. Plus, it’s quite inevitable that the soldering iron will give you less control of your lines compared to a wood burning pen.

Step 5. Clean your tip

Wood Burning with Soldering Iron: Our Comprehensive GuideSoldering iron tips are not made of nichrome like wood burning pens. Therefore, you will experience ash and wood material gathering on the tip very frequently. This might become an obstacle preventing you from actually burning the wood. You can use a steel brush to clean the tip as frequently as possible. Here is more information on how to clean wood burning tips.

Soldering iron vs wood burning tool

You may think a wood burning tool and soldering iron are entirely similar because they can both be used for creating wood burning art but they differ greatly. First off, the tools are designed for different purposes. A soldering iron is made for soldering and not burning wood.

The tools also burn differently. A soldering iron melts at a lower temperature than wood burns. This makes you wait longer for it to heat up, and is some cases give you results that are not ideal. Wood burning pens on the other hand, heat up pretty fast and get hot enough to burn wood. Most of them even come with thermometers so you can get the right temperature for the kind of wood you are working on.

Another distinction is that wood burning tools come with more tip options. Almost all wood burning tools come with a tons of tips from carving elements and blades to pointed tips for creating high-detail work. Soldering irons don’t come with as many options and can affect your ability to achieve great detail and precision on your projects.

Lastly, wood burning pens have tips made of nichrome which are more reliable. The nichrome tips are more durable and gather less debris during burning. Soldering iron tips require frequent cleaning during burning because they gather up ash and wood material.

The only positive thing about a soldering iron is that it is a more versatile tool. You can use it for other functions. A wood burning-pen is much costlier and has a limited range of use. If you are just getting started on wood burning you’d rather just use a soldering iron before investing in a wood burning pen.

In case you don’t have a soldering iron and you are looking to get one, you can look up the popular Weller WLC200 80 Watt Hobby and Stained Glass Soldering Station. It has all the rave from top reviewers because of its adjustable power range and its ability to be customized or upgraded.

As for a wood burner, the Walnut Hollow Creative Woodburner Wire Tip Wood Burning Tool remains the most acclaimed model by experts currently. It is famous for its excellent price point that offers a great bang for the buck. It also comes with 4 different tips for tackling different projects with high precision.

Wood burning: useful tips

Wood Burning with Soldering Iron: Our Comprehensive GuideAs soldering irons are not meant for wood burning tools, you will need tips on how to successfully burn wood using it. Here are a few tips on how to make the most out of it:

Ensure you have the right temperature

Be sure to get the tip hot enough to burn the wood but not so hot that it gouges or chars the wood. Remember different types of wood burn at different temperatures. You can test your heated soldering iron on scrap wood first, just to be sure of the correct temperature for your project.

Use little pressure to burn the surface

If you use slight temperature, you will gain control to create the intricate details on your project. Avoid pressing down hard or holding the iron in place for too long to get a good burn. Instead, adjust the heat or change the tip.

Always clean your tip

It is inevitable that wood material and ash will accumulate on your tip as you burn. Invest in a good steel brush that you can use to scrape the tip periodically to get rid of debris. The scraping will help maintain your tip’s edge and facilitate even heating throughout the burning process.

Practice makes perfect

You are unlikely to execute flawlessness on your first attempt. You must practice on scrap wood as many times as possible to learn the correct handling techniques. Practicing also allows you to learn how your tool will perform best.

Replace the tip when soldering

Don’t forget that your soldering iron is meant for soldering. Once you are done with your wood burning project, be sure to replace the tip, otherwise, it may oxidize and become incapable of wetting with the solder.

Final thoughts

Have you been wondering if you can do wood burning with your Weller soldering iron? Well you can, if you learn how to do wood burning with a soldering iron. The article has all the useful tips and pointers on how to create wood burning arts successfully if you are not ready to invest in a wood burning pen. If you are stuck on the wood burner vs soldering iron debate, just know that a wood burner will give you the best results. A soldering iron can do the job, but won’t give you the most satisfactory results because it is not inherently designed for wood burning.

For a start, you can get wood then practice and hone your skills on wood burning by learning tip techniques and the correct heat settings with a soldering iron. When you become a pro, you can invest in a solid wood burning set.

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