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.
- dremel style tool with small carving/engraving bits
- a file or sandpaper
- locking pliers
- computer and printer
- scissors, utility knife, x-acto knife, etc
- a source of heat (camp fire, stove burner, propane torch)
- spray adhesive
- brass cabinet knob
Step 1: 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
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
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
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:
- not hot enough
- uneven pressure
- really uneven pressure & too hot/left on too long
- slightly uneven
- great burn - but the brand needs deeper cuts
Step 5: 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.