I purchased this custom made branding iron from 4NE1 Craftshop on Etsy:
Plate sizes ranged from 1cm x 1cm to 10cm x 10cm and pricing ranged respectively from $25 – $100 plus $8 for a curved or straight screw-on handle. I purchased a 5cm x 5cm block for $50 and asked them to scale it to 3cm x 4.4cm to fit my design—seen below.
The item description stated that designs between 2cm – 5cm transferred to the iron best, so I stuck within those limitations.
Once I received my custom iron, I had to find a way to heat it—options included heating with a branding iron heater, barbecue pit, or blow torch.
Branding iron heaters were too expensive, firing up a large barbecue pit to make one mark was a waste of time and fuel, and it seemed like using a torch might promote uneven heating across the length of the brand.
Through research I discovered an outdoor survival site that offered a tutorial on how to make a small portable stove with two empty can goods cans.
Follow these links for the more information and an instructional video:
I modified the design to accommodate my heating needs and therefore used larger cans to hold more charcoal and greater surface area on the outer edge to rest the branding iron handle.
I added a modified eyebolt, attached to the side, to support the iron on the inside and a lid, made from a thick metal cat bowl and a cheap wooden drawer knob, to contain the heat.
Once completed, I added charcoal to the interior can and fired it up. Fifteen to twenty minutes later the thermometer read between 650 and 700 degrees Fahrenheit on the modified eyebolt that would support the iron, which is sufficient to brand maple.
So far, I’ve used this heater twice and I couldn’t be happier with it’s functionality and convenience.
On the second try, I found that allowing the inner can, containing the fuel, to burn on the grill of an open barbecue pit helped heat the coal faster, because it provided better air flow. Once the coals were hot, I placed the inner can back in the outer can and then added the branding iron and lid.
I have found that branding is a game of trial and error—you keep heating the iron and applying it for different amounts of time until you achieve the desired result. Plus, if your mark appears too burnt, you can sometimes remove some of the scorch markings with fine grit sandpaper.
This heater turned out to be a perfect fit for heating my branding iron and at $15 in parts and an hour of work, it was an awesome deal.