Introduction: Branding Iron

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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

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

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

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

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)

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

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!

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

Moo! Happy making :)

Low & Slow BBQ Contest

Runner Up in the
Low & Slow BBQ Contest