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Should I buy an Aluminum or Brass Branding Iron?

If you have been asking yourself “is an aluminum branding iron or a brass branding iron better?” The answer is that both are good choices and it really comes down to your specific situation. I have customers who have done over a thousand impressions with both metals. The ideal temperature for bringing out the details in a design is far below the melting temperature of either metal.

My advice: Because of it is less expensive, aluminum is my general go-to. Always buy aluminum for food. Although Aluminum will melt before brass, most people can hardly wait the 3-5 minutes it takes to get up to branding temperature, let alone going to 2x that to actually soften the metal. Only by propping it up and wandering off to do something else will damage occur. If one is doing large batches, it is also important to count in your head how many seconds it takes to get smoke per piece and keep it around 1-2 seconds so that heating between pieces doesn’t cause sloppy, overburned marks from getting it too hot. Even if something does happen to it, I’m always ready to help if a mishap occurs.

Brass Branding Irons are good for shops where there are multiple people and perhaps not all of them have seen the instructions for best results (1-2 seconds to smoke). If they get carried away it is less likely to cause damage. It is also good for fitting to an electric handle. Electric handles put all their heat right into the threads of the iron and if they run hot can damage the threads.

Either one will make 4-6 impressions before needing another 30 seconds of heating with a torch. Both should be held by hand over the heat source and have their temperatures checked once a minute until the first hint of a mark on scrap wood. Then, I recommend checking them every 30 seconds after that first hint is seen.

Aluminum Branding Irons

Material properties of Aluminum (link)

Less Expensive

Food Safe ( 6160 alloy has zero lead )

Harder at room temperature

Requires checking their temperature every 30-60 seconds by pressing against a piece of scrap test wood (needed if you want a nice crisp mark with either iron).

Demonstrated to reliably provide 500+ impressions when heated to “branding temperature” (300C). If the wood smokes in about a second, that is hot enough.

Brass Branding Irons

Material properties of Brass (link)

Higher cost but very pretty and heat tolerant.

Not recommended for food. (360 Brass alloy has a small amount of lead in it to make it free machining).

Requires checking their temperature every 30-60 seconds by pressing against a piece of scrap test wood (needed if you want a nice crisp mark with either iron).

Good for use with electric handles to prevent thread damage.

I have never seen one melted even when carelessly heated far beyond the “good mark” temperature.

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