Improving my branding iron

A few years ago I invested in a nice branding iron featuring my company logo and website underneath. I love the thing to death and have never regretted the pretty penny I spent on it. The only issue I ever had with it was user error. When my branding iron gets hot it works like a charm. The problem is that sometimes I think the iron is hot enough and when I go to press the iron to the wood, I get an imperfect burn. With the iron being free hand, there was no way for me to line back up the iron perfectly with what was already burned in the wood. I basically had one chance to get it right. When I made my kitchen cabinets a few summers ago, some of the burns turned out not so pretty.

Then last year I attended the Marketplace at The Woodworking In America conference in Cincinnati. There I met a guy who was selling branding irons that attached to a drill press. With his iron being in a fixed position, if you don’t burn enough of the logo into the wood, you simply lower the head back down and burn again. I knew that was my answer but my branding iron wasn’t equipped to be attached to a drill press. I had the idea of buying one of those old jigs that turns a hand drill into a drill press but they were $45 on amazon and I wasn’t sure if it would even work.

Then last week my wife and I attended the Springfield Antique Show Extravaganza in Springfield, Ohio. As soon as I walked into the show, I spotted this thing lying on the ground. The old man saw me looking at it and yelled out “ten bucks” to me. I yelled back “Sold!” I immediately walked it back to my truck with delight.

This drill press attachment was made for a 1/2″ drill with the collet being a 1 3/4″ in diameter. I knew I had to make some sort of spacer in order for it squeeze my 1/2″ branding iron shaft tightly. I grabbed some scrap poplar, drew a 1 3/4″ circle around and drilled a 1/2″ hole in the middle. I had my spacer made but needed to make it work so I had to cut in half so it would wrap around my branding iron shaft.

After a few minutes tinkering around, I got it to squeeze tightly on the branding iron and the collet of the drill press. It fitted, but now it needed to work.

I lined up the cutter head so that it was perpendicular to the base on all four sides with my small try square. Once it was square I tightened the collet wing nut with all my might.

 

Now it was time to see how this thing actually worked. I heated up the iron, grabbed a piece of scrap wood and gave it a go. What do you know, it worked. I pressed down, and checked to see how it burned. If it didn’t do a well enough job, I just lowered the arm and gave it a little more heat. I definitely got a more consistent burn versus free hand.

The only downside to the jig is the wood that I used as a spacer for the collet started to burn at the bottom. Now I’m not sure what to do about this. Since I won’t being using the iron all that much, the wood should last a long time. Plus it was super simple to make and would be a snap to make a new one if the this one burns up too much. I think I’ll just let it be.

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9 Replies to “Improving my branding iron”

  1. My branding iron is not electric, rather I need to heat it with a propane torch. It often does not burn evenly. I figured I need to sit for an hour one day and play around with it to see how it would burn evenly. Am I applying pressure unevenly or is the iron heating unevenly?
    Very cool jig. When do you brand your pieces? i usually do it right before I finish it, perhaps on the inside of the drawer. The jig looks like it determine where and when you you brand your piece.

    1. It could be both. My branding iron comes with an electronic thermostat so the iron has an even heat to it. However that doesn’t guarentee that I’ll get a perfect burn either. When using it hand held, I would often have to rock it back and forth so that all of the pressure points meet the wood. Obvisously I would practice on scrap first but when I go to the actual piece to burn, bad things happen. Sometimes I’m not pressing down hard enough or sometimes the wood is not perfectly flat. With this jig, I can press down, check my status and if need be, press down again. Something I could never do burning by hand.

      I usually burn before assembly. Most of the time on the inside of the drawer or the back of a cabinet. The jig’s table is 10″ in diameter so I have 5″ between the center of the branding iron and the back of the press so I have plenty of room to work with. After I burn, I take a very very light pass with my smooth plane to shave away any excess burn from the top. 220 grit sandpaper also works but you’ll get sawdust in the burn.

      1. The ability to hit again is key! I can certainly appreciate that. I also like the idea of hitting it with a smoothing plane once your done.
        So silly to spend all this time on a piece and then have a sloppy signature.
        great post.

    1. It’s an old drill press attachment where one would strap a hand held power drill to it to turn it into a drill press. As far as I know they don’t make them anymore which is why I ran to give the guy my money. Search flea markets, antique shows and eBay for one.

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