Introduction: DIY Custom Branding Iron

Picture of DIY Custom Branding Iron

I wanted a way to brand some of my projects. I know you can order custom branding irons that fit on the end of a wood burner. Well, I don't have a wood burner, and the custom irons can be fairly pricey, so I decided to do it myself. This can also be used to brand or emboss leather. Here's my journey to make my own on the cheap. Of course, if you like this, please vote.

You're going to need a few things to do this, but it's all pretty basic stuff.

Tools:

  • dremel style tool with small carving/engraving bits
  • a file or sandpaper
  • locking pliers
  • vise
  • computer and printer
  • scissors, utility knife, x-acto knife, etc
  • a source of heat (camp fire, stove burner, propane torch)

Materials:

  • spray adhesive
  • paper
  • brass cabinet knob

Step 1: Design Your Brand...

Picture of Design Your Brand...

I knew I wanted a fairly small brand with my initials. I laid it out on the computer using a photo editing software, but for basic designs, Microsoft paint can do the same things. I made a mirror image of my design and printed it out. Keep in mind that your design will be based on what you're actually making your brand out of. You should design after you know the size constraints of the material you'll use for the brand.

Step 2: Prepping the Blank

Picture of Prepping the Blank

So I found this little brass knob in the clearance bin at the hardware store. It was only $1 dollar. I wasn't sure if it was solid brass or just brass plated, but I bought it because it was flat and round. It also had some threads cut into one end so I can eventually mount this on the end of a handle. Out of the package and I see that it comes into three separate pieces. The flat end was slightly rounded, and to get an even brand mark, the brand needs to be perfectly flat. I used a flat file and flattened the top surface of the brass.

I flipped my paper template face down and placed the brass piece on top, marking around the brass. I then used a spray adhesive and glued the brass to the template. I cut around the template leaving a little extra length and just folded the excess around the brass.

Step 3: Carve It Up

Picture of Carve It Up

I clamped the brass in a vise and used a dremel with a flex shaft to engrave out all the white sections of the template. I used a pointed cutter from the second photo, and a round cutter. Go slow because once you remove material, it's really hard to add it back. The last photo shows how deep I engraved it before the first burn test. Jump to the next step.

Step 4: Test Burn

Picture of Test Burn

I'll eventually get around to making a real handle for this thing, but to test it out, I just clamped it in some vise-grips. I used my propane torch to heat it up and tested it out on some scrap pine. You'll have to practice getting the iron hot enough and putting the iron onto the piece evenly to get a good burn. You can see my attempts.

Here's a breakdown of the first attempts:

  1. not hot enough
  2. uneven pressure
  3. really uneven pressure & too hot/left on too long
  4. slightly uneven
  5. great burn - but the brand needs deeper cuts

Step 5: More Carving and More Burning

Picture of More Carving and More Burning

I let the brand cool down and clamped it back in the vise and made deeper cuts through out. In the process, I also ended up making the letters narrower that I had originally wanted, but it still looks ok. I tested the finished brand out on a scrap of oak flooring. If you look closely you can see how the smoke from burning stains the surrounding wood on some of the darker burns. This staining can be removed by gently sanding it off with some sandpaper. Don't sand too aggressively because you could end up sanding off your brand.

I even branded my sawhorses so now no one can steal them....

All said and done - design to final burn took me about 3 hours working at a leisurely pace. If someone would clean my garage so I could find my tools, these projects would probably take less time.

Comments

woodAnt made it! (author)2015-06-05

Thanks for the inspiration. Been wanting to do this for a while but was overthinking it drastically. Took about an hour from drawing on the brass weight to performing a test stamp. Bit of an uneven burn but thankfully this is exactly what I wanted as it's on the face of a pallet wood art project, so the scrappy look fits nicely. In case you can't tell, it's an ant. Thanks again.

Dustin Rogers (author)woodAnt2015-06-05

That looks great!! Thanks for sharing.

TareqM4 (author)2017-03-12

Thanks for such great idea for . Wanted to shared some cool results from professional branding irons made by Custom Branding iron from https://www.gearheartindustry.com/ for Coco Taps, for those who need for heavy use. Check them out on Etsy to see their reviews.

TareqM4 (author)TareqM42017-03-12

https://www.gearheartindustry.com/possibilities

99GSRJash made it! (author)2016-01-01

Excellent instructable. I imitated your design for my first try, but it made a perfect way to brand a giant jenga set that I've been working on. Most of the work was done with a small cutting wheel on a dremel, and the large steel bolt held the heat well enough to get several blocks branded before reheating.

GenerallyOdd (author)2015-06-10

TRÈS cool!! How hot do you suppose you went? To get the good burn?

I don't have a clue. I had heated it several times and never let it cool completely between burns.

deadsquirrel (author)2014-11-23

I haven't tried it, but what about a pantograph to hold the Dremel, and a large stencil if you want to have more accurate stamp?

fabrika.carolija (author)2014-10-18

Cool!

American Ruin (author)2014-10-08

Very cool!

underground carpenter (author)2014-10-07

Excellent concept. Love it.

Things to consider, the multi-part nature of the knob you used allows it to heat faster, but it also allows it to cool faster. you may want to consider actual bar stock and heat it slower so that it heats all the way to its core if you are going to brand multiples or want a more consistent burn.

To come by bar stock cheaply, try visiting a local machining shop and ask if they have any cut-offs. Almost all of these shops have a bin they dump the stock too small to bother keeping for recycling. Provided you don't catch them just after they've emptied them, most shops will give you a few scraps from it (within reason - don't be greedy) for nothing.

j-vega (author)2014-10-05

Question: What kind of milling cutter did you use on the dremel (Tungsten, diamond, etc.) ?, the reason for my question is that I used a normal, in bronze, and 4 seconds later, burned, literally. Thank you.

Those look like dental-style burs. They are pretty useless on metals harder than copper or aluminum. Even in those, they generate so much heat that the bit will loose its temper. Stick to carbide, and you also need to pay attention to the style of the "teeth". They are different in a bit designed to carve metal than one designed to carve wood. And the all-purpose ones do neither very well. Diamond is a gringing type bur, not a cutting one, so it will do the job, but take forever to do it. And contrary to popular belief, they do wear out. The diamond chips fracture, becoming dull or smaller and smaller until they are pretty useless.

Dustin Rogers (author)j-vega2014-10-05

Not sure what they are. I think maybe carbide. My bits have small teeth on them. I did have to use a wire brush on them 1/2 way through because the brass clogged them up.

Bowtie41 (author)Dustin Rogers2014-10-06

As you're engraving,every so often(and before you start especially),touch your bit tip to a waxy susbstance to keep it from clogging.Cheap,plentiful substances around the house are usually old birthday candles(Lord,I've earned my share of those,lol),regular candles,or kids/grandkids broken crayons work well too :-)

Dustin Rogers (author)Bowtie412014-10-06

Great tip. I've got plenty of old candles and way too many crayons laying around.

mvillalpando (author)2014-10-05

Good job, and excellent Instructable. I have been doing Pyrography art since the early 1990's and what you state about the branding tips being expensive is absolutely true. Not too mention that because there is hardly a demand for these types of branding tips they are not as common on the shelves of arts and crafts stores. I have been lucky to find a good assortment of tips from a company called Wallnut Hallow, but even they are limited with their stock. I've been looking for ways to produce these tips to add different texture to my art work and with your Instructable I now have ideas on how to create these different textures. Thank you!

The "soldering iron" style woodburners have their uses. But if you are looking to upgrade your equipment, look into the pen style pyrography tools. They have a much wider temperature range, the pens are just that - the size of a large pen, and they allow you to hold the tool much closer to the tip, giving you more control. They also tend to be much better insulated, so they are more comfortable to hold. My travel control unit is the Colwood Cub, which at $65 is reasonably affordable. The individual pens run about $20-$25, and with the changeable tip style pen, you have the option to buy just the tips for less. Plus you can also make your own tips from copper wire.

mbriones1 (author)2014-10-06

metal etching using salt and batteries

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zhWNmNYT-Q4

kwhitacre (author)2014-10-06

Nice project. I want to make an iron to stamp my glass work. I might give your instructable a go. I heartily concur with your last paragraph! However, I want to clean it so I know where items are put. I hate it when someone else puts away my tools and they aren't on the edge of the saw under the bag with doorknobs, and the box with plumbing parts. I do remember where I generally put things, but I dream of a clean work area where I can enter and have everything at arms length and easy to find. Perhaps someone will make an instructable for that.

mattdvm (author)2014-10-05

Very cool. I will make one of these. You are wrong about them stealing your tools though they will still do that but know who to thank for the nice tools. good job

achoo tim (author)2014-10-05

This is a fantastic idea! I am certainly going to use it. Thanks.

kndust (author)2014-10-05

I am looking to get a makers mark stamp for my leather work and wood projects can this type of mark be stamped into leather rather then being burned into the project?

jberry4 (author)kndust2014-10-05

Go with steel, rather than brass. Brass will work, but if you're going through the trouble, you might as well make sure it'll last.

Dustin Rogers (author)kndust2014-10-05

I don't see why it wouldn't work, as long as your leather is wet, it should hold the impression. I'll try to stamp a scrap of leather that I've got and I'll post a photo later.

I got so excited to see how it turned out, that I forgot to make sure that I got a good stamp. It tried to line it back up but got a bit of a double stamp. If you were going to do more stamping than burning, you probably want to carve deeper in the negative spaces of the logo.

CobraTester (author)2014-10-05

I like the idea.

I'm going to make one and brand the backside of the furniture I make for my kids' rooms. So when they get older they'll believe I made it.

(Plus...now I know your initials! MWAHAHAHA!!!!) j/k

MonteS1 (author)2014-10-05

Been trying to do this for years, NEVER thought of a cabinet knob! Awesome, thanks so much for sharing!

marhar (author)2014-10-05

Great job, smart idea with the cabinet knob. I was expecting it to be harder to do!

jholst (author)2014-10-05

Well done and easy to understand. Just the way I like my 'ibles :D

DIY Dave (author)2014-10-03

Thanks for the instructable. Great idea to use a knob, much simpler than I thought it would be. I'm planning to make one and I'll post some pictures when I do

DIY Dave (author)DIY Dave2014-10-03

you've got my vote

annrrr (author)2014-10-02

Cooool!

Dustin Rogers (author)annrrr2014-10-03

glad you like it.

dimdiode (author)2014-10-03

Nice work. I am planning on making some brands, but I am lazy. I have bought some 3mm copper plate, will cut my design on my vinyl cutter, and then etch the shape with Ferric Chloride. I have neither the skill, nor the patience to do the work you have done, I am too darn lazy.

Dustin Rogers (author)dimdiode2014-10-03

I had thought about that route too, but I'd have to cut the vinyl by hand, so this method was better suited for me. I have used a Sharpie marker as an etch resist for doing PCB's and will eventually try doing that with some copper. If you get to it before I, be sure to post some pics or an instructable.

boubou_360 (author)2014-10-02

nice shot I should try

Jack Moran (author)2014-10-02

Nice!

Jobar007 (author)2014-10-02

Looks pretty easy, all thing considered. I really like how it turned out and how the brand looks like it was hand made (as opposed machined).

seamster (author)2014-10-02

Excellent job. Thanks for sharing this.

tomatoskins (author)2014-10-01

I like it! I've been thinking of building a brand for all my woodworking projects. A way to sign my work.

Great. Post some pics if you make your own.

Kiteman (author)2014-10-02

Nice job.

Dustin Rogers (author)Kiteman2014-10-02

Thanks

About This Instructable

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Bio: I'm a husband and father that loves working in the garage. From sewing to welding to wrenching on engines and everything in between.
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