Introduction: Tiny Branding Iron From a Cartoon
I was asked to fabricate a tiny branding iron, with four aligned letters, for a Boy Scout leader. He wanted to brand leather belts and hat bands. I began welding in 2016, so pretty inexperienced. This was a fun process, figuring it all out.
(Full disclosure on my first branding iron: after I'd tacked the letters on, I was juuust about to weld them up and remembered they needed to be a mirror image! Thankfully, the letters were NYLT, so I only had to cut tacks, rearrange, and flip the L and N!)
The finished iron turned out darned good, I thought, and the Boy Scout leader must've thought so too because he soon asked me for another. This one was a bit more complex...a beaver!
MATERIALS & TOOLS
1 inch wide, 18 ga. stainless steel, about 12 inches long
12 ga. steel wire, about 2 inches
1/2 inch x 1/2 inch steel square bar (solid shaft), about 17 inches
1/2 inch steel round bar (solid shaft), about 18 inches
Sketchpad or whiteboard
Angle grinder with cutoff wheel
Angle grinder with metal grinding disc
Small multitool w/cutoff wheel
MIG welding machine with .030 welding wire
Step 1: BRAINSTORMING & SKETCHING
He wanted a tiny branding iron representing his beaver troop, no taller than 1-1/4 inches, for the same purpose of branding belts and hat bands. Tiny is a big challenge, since there is so little room for detail and also in terms of bending tiny corners, etc. But I thought, awesome, a chance to use my artistic abilities!
Away from my sketchbook, I used my cell phone notes app and a finger to sketch. I figured, to be an obvious beaver, it needed big cheeks and whiskers, long teeth, and that wide, flat tail. An exaggerated cartoon quickly emerged, and I went with it, leaving in options to decide between.
Step 2: SIMPLIFYING
From this first sketch, I realized I needed to simplify into a line drawing that could be translated into simple shapes.
Step 3: LINE-SHAPES
I broke this line drawing down into lines that connected shapes and created a few line-shapes to transfer to metal (S-shape from cheeks-to-ears, triangle for nose, etc.) These would become the edges of the flat, stainless steel. I measured these line lengths and held the steel pieces in a vice and sawed them these lengths. Then I bent them to match the line-shapes. For the eyes, I used 1-inch pieces of heavy wire.
There were ways to create the whiskers/pores, but I knew that a concentration of details in a brand could cause excessive heat when branding, and that area could just burn, with no detail. The whiskers had also just become unnecessary to depict a beaver, so I left them out.
Step 4: TACKING
I arranged pieces on a magnet and tweaked bends until together they resembled my picture. I then chose two inner pieces and tack welded them in place on their back sides. I checked the piece against the drawing then added the next piece this same way, then the next, until all were tacked together. Any gaps were "bridged" with weld.
When all tacked, I tweaked it, bending things into place to more closely resemble my drawing, I compared again and tweaked some more. Then, I held it facedown and filled the beaver tail with weld.
Step 5: SURFACE LEVELING/DETAILS
Inspecting its profile, I judged where the surface needed leveling/evening. If left uneven, the branded image would be incomplete and leave gaps in lines. (See photo) So, I used an angle grinder and ground the face to an even surface. Then, I used my small multitool with cutoff wheel and cut the criss-cross grooves in the tail.
Step 6: FINISHING & TESTING
I cut about a 1-inch chunk of the 1/2-inch square bar for a base then tacked the beaver to it as straight and plumb as possible. Then, I cut 3 pieces of square bar into about 5 inches each and welded them into a triangle handle. I welded this handle to the end of about 18 inches of round bar. I welded the square bar of the beaver piece to the opposite end of the round bar, aligned perpendicular to the handle then tested my little masterpiece! IT WORKED!
Actually, it's not perfect, but I like it that way. I wish I'd branded a few more things before giving it to the Boy Scout leader, but I guess I'll just have to make another one!
Participated in the