Introduction: Branding Iron

Picture of Branding Iron

What better way to pay homage to an animal that's given its life for your nutrition than jamming a hot brand of its former self into its own butchered carcass?
Ponder no more, it's time to graduate from Bovine University and make your very own branding iron for all occasions!

This instructable will show you how to make your own beef brand from bicycle spokes.
This idea can easily be expanded to a chicken for poultry, a swine for pork cutlets, heck even Bambi for venison!

I chose to make this branding iron out of stainless steel spokes as it is food safe, the thin gauge is relatively easy to bend, and the spoke retains its shape.
Do not use wire coat hangers for this project, hanger metal is an alloy which may contain lead or other toxic elements which can be harmful if consumed
Do not brand skin

This instructable won runner-up in the Low & Slow BBQ Contest.
Check out the other entries!

Enough talk, let's brand something!

Step 1: Strip Bicycle Tire

Picture of Strip Bicycle Tire

I'm lucky to live in a city where there are plenty of bike commuters. With so many commuters it was easy to find a tire that I could dismantle and remove the spokes from.

As tempting as that bike lockup outside your school or place of work is many bikers frown upon having their tires removed for this purpose. Try to find a junked or bent tire to cannibalize.
I asked at my local bike store and they had two for me to choose from. Look for straight spokes with no coating (paint or stickers).

Step 2: Remove Spokes

Picture of Remove Spokes

There are different varieties of bicycle wheels but most will look similar to the example provided.

To remove, the spokes have a threaded end and are held in place by a fastener. The head of the fastener is located in the inside of the wheel rim, place your vice grips on the spoke and your flat-head screwdriver in the slot of the fastener then turn the fastener counter-clockwise.
Once undone feed the spoke through the center hub to remove.

Step 3: Clean Spokes

Picture of Clean Spokes

Next you'll need to clean the spokes.
Depending on the condition of the wheel some spokes will be filthy. I chose to only use the spokes which didn't have any huge grease marks or damage.

I started by using a a commercially available steel wool impregnated with detergent, however any abrasive cleaner should work. This may or may not remove all the grease and grime.
The next step was to use emery cloth (or other metal sanding paper). I placed my emery cloth inside an old dishtowel and rubbed away on each spoke for a solid minute or two until they were clean and shiny.

Step 4: Bend That Bovine

Picture of Bend That Bovine

Gather reference material.
I searched around internet for images of cows that looked good in silhouette.

Bear in mind that the size of your reference cow will dictate the length of spoke used (or the other way around). Either way consider the size of your steaks, the intricacies of the brand design, and if you're going to need more than one spoke.
If your design (or size) requires more than one spoke you're most likely going to need a weld to hold it together (see next step).

Once you've selected your bovine start bending the spoke.
Using 2 small vice grips my bovine took about an hour.

Step 5: Weld (if Applicable)

Picture of Weld (if Applicable)

A weld may not be necessary if your brand is not complicated, or large, or if you have used a spoke from a penny farthing bike.

This brand uses 2 welds. One at the front hoof to join the 2 spokes used, and one at the handle to close off the brand and attach another spoke for a handle.

Step 6: Fire Up That BBQ

Picture of Fire Up That BBQ

When you're ready, fire up your favourite appliance and find a good place to heat up your brand.
I discovered a small lip on my flame diffuser for my propane BBQ under the cooking grill.

I set the brand on the lip and placed all my food on the grill, closed the lid and cooked as normal.
The best results are when the brand is really hot. I chose to leave the brand heating until the food was done, then removed it from the heat spot and seared my steak.

Step 7: The Sizzling Sounds of Summer

I can almost hear the terrified haunting moo through the satisfying sizzle.

Step 8: Sear, Serve and Dine!

Picture of Sear, Serve and Dine!

Serve up your seared branded bovine and bask in the envy of every other BBQ'er out there!



frisbeechamp1983 (author)2010-12-04

Could this be used to brand wood?

Maybe not with this strategy, But you might want to try doing it with nichrome wire

dburton2 (author)2011-11-25

Thanks for the info. I have been looking for a way to mark the toys belonging to my grand children . They leave some toys outside and the kid next door then claims them as his own. Will be GREAT to have their toys "personalized" . You just saved me big bucks by no longer having to replace toys or confront the neighbors about their kids problem.

gilleseg (author)2009-09-29

That is one well hung cow you have there.

anibioman (author)gilleseg2011-06-05

very very funny mister.

weaponscollector94 (author)2009-08-24

lol is that bacon on the BBQ grill?

that's how I roll!

lol, i just tried grilling my bacon, it came out pretty dry but it was still good!

Herodez (author)2009-09-11

I wonder, could you use this to brand your own skin?

mikeasaurus (author)Herodez2009-09-30

branding skin would suck so bad, don't try it!

R1Ch0 (author)mikeasaurus2010-12-16

i't would look pretty cool once it scarred up though.

flamesami (author)Herodez2009-11-15

it would probably stick. I read somewhere that they branded slaves with silver brands, and still had to oil them to make sure the brand didn't stick

Jimmy Proton (author)2010-08-08

acid wash?

mikeasaurus (author)Jimmy Proton2010-08-09

sure, any method to remove grime and grease. You still may need to use an abrasive like steel wool after.

Jimmy Proton (author)mikeasaurus2010-08-09


Atomman (author)2009-08-31

What if, after time, whatever is used for that black coating chips off onto the food? Would it be dangerous?... I noticed it looks like it would come off easily.

mikeasaurus (author)Atomman2009-09-01

hey Atomman, it's not advisable to use spokes with a coating of any kind. step 1 mentions to "Look for straight spokes with no coating (paint or stickers). ". However if you have no other alternative make sure to read step 3 about cleaning, I used a combination of scouring pad and a sanding cloth to remove all traces of coating, dirt, oil and debris.

The black you see in the photos is carbon from the iron being heated and used to sear the meat, it is not harmful. If any of this would to flake off and land on your food it would be no different to eating some ash, and in such doses wouldn't be much of a health concern. That said, you bring attention to the fact that you should clean your iron regularly to prevent excessive food build up.

Atomman (author)mikeasaurus2009-09-12

Oh, I must have not seen the Spoke Cleaning step.

WoutervD (author)2009-09-07

Well, I don't think you'll ever need welding with a penny-farthing front wheel. You could brand a whole cow with one of those.

moo of the cow (author)2009-09-04

POOR COW who died to sacrifice itself ............. ohh well they taste nice anyway!!

ANTQNUT (author)2009-08-30

AWESOME! that is so cool u could sell that to like a steak house and make a few bucks!

emmerich45 (author)2009-08-18

as a vegetarian i really hope this works on quorn, but what shape would i use anyway, soil mould Fusarium venenatum strain PTA-2684 shaped brand anyone? :)

lil jon168 (author)emmerich452009-08-19

eww quorn is not just tofu its got mold in it. i saw it on modern marvels

thepelton (author)lil jon1682009-08-21

Are you perhaps referring to the mold that attacks corn, called by Mexicans Huitlacoche?

lil jon168 (author)thepelton2009-08-21

no look up quorn

thepelton (author)lil jon1682009-08-22

Fascinating. I made a copy of the article I found so I could bring it to the meeting of the Pikes Peak Mycological Society on Monday. It's a club of Mushroom enthusiasts that should be interested in quorn.

duTrieux (author)thepelton2009-08-24

Quorn is delicious, and brings us a step closer to the glory of proper vat-grown meat.

mikeasaurus (author)duTrieux2009-08-24

vat-grown meat, yikes!

thepelton (author)mikeasaurus2009-08-26

The concept of vat-grown meat reminds me of a Science fiction story I read about 20 years ago, in which they were making synthetic meat in a vat, and one day it learned how to speak... and scream.

thepelton (author)emmerich452009-08-21

You could probably brand a soft tortilla.

A tofu block! :D

yopauly (author)emmerich452009-08-18


mikeasaurus (author)emmerich452009-08-18

Well I was thinking that since Quorn is made from a fungus a mushroom would be appropriate, then I read about how some American companies said that
''Quorn's fungus is as closely related to mushrooms as humans are to jellyfish''. So maybe a mushroom is out., though a jellyfish brand could be interesting....

emmerich45 (author)mikeasaurus2009-08-18

yeah i think that was alot to do with competition between the companies. anyway, i too was thinking mushroom, or maybe a vegetarian society V style brand, like the way pork and stuff has those stamp things. i also meant to say in the first comment, nice clear instructable, good job.

jdock95 (author)2009-08-24

you are a really good welder! i didnt even notice the front hoof weld.

chakra (author)2009-08-22

hey! wondering if it could brand leather too... can it withstand the force needed to be applied on to leather??? will it char the leather??

mikeasaurus (author)chakra2009-08-23

The process could easily be applied to both leather and plastic, just don't use it for food afterwords, ok?

As greensteam mentioned already temperature will play a huge factor, and just like for food a high temperature is desired.

Just as important is to consider the size of the area you wish to brand. The brand shown here measures +/- 76 x 44.5 mm (3" x1.75") and some bends were tough for me to do by hand, intricate bends may be hard to achieve with this gauge.

Have fun, if you succeed post the results!

greensteam (author)chakra2009-08-23

That was more or less my first thought. Branding leather or plastic. In any case I would think the important factor would be temperature as much as force.

jessyratfink (author)2009-08-18

This is great! I love that the brand is a cute little cow! Great food porn, too! :D

Chromatica (author)jessyratfink2009-08-21



mikeasaurus (author)jessyratfink2009-08-18

mmm food porn

Spook-rabbit (author)2009-08-22

This is just great in so many ways haha, awesome work, just a nice 'ible overall

thepelton (author)2009-08-20

I have a branding iron made to sign wood pieces that I bought out of an ad in a woodworking magazine. Branding irons can mark wood as well, along with leather and some other stuff. Paper products would probably just catch fire.

mbudde (author)2009-08-18

Sweet. Do you happen to know if welding rod has any toxins in it? I have some of that readily available and was wondering if that would work.

bnmelech (author)mbudde2009-08-20

Most arc'n'spark rod is pretty toxic. However 302/304 stainless or (better) 316L stainless rod is great and probably won't rot your teeth. This is made for oxy-acetylene work, not arcy-sparky.

mikeasaurus (author)mbudde2009-08-19

Depends on the type of welding electrode (rod) you've got.
From what I know there are different types of welding electrodes for different applications, there's a brief list here.
It appears that many of these electrodes use flux which may contain zinc chloride or ammonium chloride, both of which are harmful to humans.

To be safe I'd consider another route.

mbudde (author)mikeasaurus2009-08-19

Allright. Thanks.

missgroves (author)2009-08-20

this is brill, thank you. I have japanese sweet making books that brand a small design onto the surface and i had no idea where to get i can just make one!

About This Instructable




Bio: I'm Mike and I make crazy things at Instructables HQ in San Francisco. Follow me and try a few of my projects for yourself!
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