Make a Woodburning Brand

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Introduction: Make a Woodburning Brand

So, this all started because I'm getting married. And for wedding favors we wanted to hand out little wood disks with a magnet glued on the back, with a monogram woodburned into it. Sounds great right? Except we need to make like 200 of these things. So no way I'm doing it by hand. Thus..

Why not make a custom brand that you can use as much as you like?

I wanted to make one that would last and that could be used many times over the years. I thought a simple coat hanger wire one would distort after lots of use, and I wouldn't be able to get the detail I wanted.

I had never done anything like this...

But I won a cordless Dremel from the Halloween Challenge! Time to put that thing to use!

Step 1: Materials

Total cost of construction was only about $25, it would have been even cheaper but I needed to buy special bits for my Dremel.

What you'll need:
Materials

- The design of whatever you want to wood burn
- A piece of metal plate stock - I used 1/4", that should work for most everything
- A solid or hollow metal rod for a handle

Tools
- A Dremel or other rotary tool - I won one from Instructables in the Halloween challenge, thanks Instructables!
- Tungsten Carbide cutting bits - get a fine and regular size
- A hacksaw or other metal cutting device
- A vise to hold the workpiece
- A sharpie, and a pencil or carbon transfer paper
- Safety gear - earplugs or headphones, safety glasses
- Some sort of welding gear to attach the handle to the brand, or a high temp bonding agent of some sort

First thing to do is make up your design
- Some things to know - A design with straight lines is easier to carve than one with lots of curves (not that it stopped me)
- You need to remember to MIRROR your design! Or else your brand will always be backward!
- The smaller the detail, the harder it is - again, didn't really deter me but just FYI

Choose your metal stock
- You need the metal you use to be thick enough so that you wont cut through, but not so thick as to be tough to heat
- The handle should be generously long - you don't want a brand on you!

Once you've bought or scavenged everything, time to get started... 

Step 2: Transfer the Design

Okay, now that you have your design - mirrored, right?
Print it out, and cut it out - give some extra on the sides, but not a lot

Next, cut a piece of metal off the stock plate that is larger than the design, but again not by much. About the size of the paper.
I cut my metal much too large, and had to trim off the excess later - Wasted effort (1/4' plate takes a lot of cutting)

To transfer the image to the plate, I filled in the backside of the paper with a soft pencil - graphite paper would be easier, but I didn't have any so I did the poor mans transfer.

Tape the paper down to the metal, then use a pen to press down everywhere across the design, transferring the graphite to the metal.
You'll get a faint image of everything, then I went over it with a sharpie to make it easier to see and more permanent.

Time to start cutting!

Step 3: Cutting Out the Design

Mount up the plate on your vise nice and tight - you definitely want it to stay still.
Also, the more light you can get on it the better, I had two lamps pointed at it

Suit up with your safety gear - I used headphones, its a lot nicer to listen to music than just here a dull whir
Please do use some form of ear and eye protection, its loud and there will be little bits of metal flying everywhere

Some thoughts on using the carbide cutting bits:
- Tungsten Carbide bits are awesome! They cut very well and have a pretty long life if used properly, but they are a little $$ - about $7-8 per bit
- Use a high speed, if you go too slow the bit will catch and buck, and you might cut something you don't want to. 
- Don't press to hard - but keep a firm grip - I tended to use 2 hands most of the time, to have maximum control

Now that you're ready to go:
- Start by roughly outlining the shape of everything, except maybe very fine details, just to get a feel for how the bit cuts into the metal.
- Scratch or mark out the main outer dimensions of the brand - I obviously had a much larger piece of metal than I needed, so I planned on cutting the excess off - So no need to grind there
- Once you'e got a rough outline, I nibbled my way in from the outline to the edge of each shape - Take your time!
- I left the small numbers that would be the toughest for last, and cut up to all the edges of the big guys
- I switched to the fine point bit and very slowly etched away at the numbers in the date, just taking a little at a time

Some other tips:
- For long, straight line: you can use a thing cutting disk, it will be much faster and easier to make a long cut
- Don't try to dig in deep straight away - go layer by layer, it will preserve your bit and actually be quicker

Once I thought it was ready for a test run (took about 2 hours of cutting/grinding) I cut away the excess.
Now time for the handle!

Step 4: Attach the Handle

To weld on the handle, first cut the length you want from the metal rod - be generous, the end is gonna be hot so you want to be far away from it!

Use sandpaper or a grinding head on your Dremel to sand down the end and about 3/4" up the rod so its clean and shiny.
Sand and inch or so square on the backside of the brand - this is important to having a strong weld

I used a welding magnet to hold the handle in place while I welded it to the brand.
I used my flux-core wire feed welder to make a solid weld on each side of the handle, and that seemed nice and sturdy

If you're using a hollow handle:  make sure you 'aim' your weld more at the brand plate - its a lot thicker and will take longer to heat up, if you go right at the joint or the pipe you'll melt through before the plate is hot enough to fuse.

Once its firmly attached, clean up the weld with a metal brush or your grinder
I may wrap the end of the handle in cloth to insulate, for now I just wore a welding glove while I used it.

Then test that thing out!
I didn't have a propane torch, which would be ideal, so I used my stove - took a while to heat it up sufficiently.
You may need to go back and grind out more material if you see that the design isn't clear or the background is contacting the wood.
Also, how much pressure you put on the brand while in use and hold long you hold it in place will affect how the brand looks - take some practice runs before you do anything irreversible.

But other than that, enjoy your woodburning masterpiece!

I did this over a weekend, it took about 4 hours total time.

3 People Made This Project!

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22 Comments

Jon, I am interested in making brands for my logo, and for quotes on wooden signs. I was thinking about using electricity to heat the brands. I could maybe have a set of fancy first letters made, and then several full sets of alphabet letters made. Maybe make a holding device that locks them in place. Your thoughts on this...maybe too complicated? I don't know of a way to mass produce wooden signs by paint lettering.

There actually are a number of commercially available electric brands, really all they are is a high wattage woodburning/soldering iron with a clamp for custom brands (they are not cheap though!). You could probably convert a soldering iron or woodburning tool to hold a brand plate. Electric branding is cleaner, easier, and more repeatable, but if you going the DIY route you'll need to probably have access to either a CNC or some type of mill to create a steel bracket for the brands. You might be able to fabricate with bits of angle iron though. I wouldn't recommend using aluminum for anything though, it dissipates heat too quickly. Hope that helps!

Hey, so I'd like to do this with the attached design (I'm currently doing it with a paper transfer process, which works well but is pretty time-consuming.) Couple questions:

1. Would a brand have a good enough resolution to get this design on a coaster? I'd really like the QR code to still be able to scan.

2. I'm thinking it's too detailed to make this by hand - I'll probably contract someone to make the brand (there's a local makerspace with a CNC router who could probably do it.) Do you agree with this assessment?

Thanks,

Xave

IMG_0478.JPG

Sorry I didn't respond earlier, I hadn't checked in in a while. For that kind of detail a CNC would definitely serve you better, but I don't think even if you had a perfect brand it would work well, at least consistently. When it burns in the burn will most likely 'bleed' a little bit, which would render it unreadable. If you were able to very tightly control temperature on the brand and had a very consistent, tight wood grain then it might be possible, but still difficult.

Hope that helps!

Thanks very much! I appreciate the feedback.

Would it be possible to laser cut a woodburning brand like this?

Anyone any experience with that?

You'd need a massive laser to really cut into thick steel, so I would say its not really feasible. You could probably etch the design on steel with one then manually remove the material.

Alright, thanks for the advice!

I am thinking about wood coasters for our wedding favors and branding them, similar to what you did. Once you had the brand made, how long did it take you to brand the 200 pcs? Did you have to reheat between each piece?

I make a charcoal fire in a grill to heat the brand, and usually got about 2-3 burns per heat. To make around 200 pieces (that's also how many I did) I think to took around and hour maybe 1.5 hours. Make sure that if you are cutting your own wood, that you dry it out well beforehand - if it still has moisture it will greatly reduce how well the burn works. And if you are drying them, make sure you weigh them down under a flat board to prevent warping. If you have any other questions feel free to ask!