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Making a Custom Wood Burning Stamp

If you are into wood burning (pyrography) or woodworking a custom stamp can be a huge time saver and bring future customers and orders in your door. If you just make for your family, the mark you put on the pieces will be looked at fondly for generations as the stories are retold of the piece’s origin and its maker.

Brass Custom Wood Burning Stamp or Brass Custom Branding Iron used for burning a design into wood.

The process to get your own is easy–You don’t need to have a logo already. You don’t need to be able to design one. You don’t need computer skills other than to exchange emails about it. You also don’t even have to be sure exactly what you would want on it. If you don’t have those things, how can you get one made?

Where to Start

Everyone would like to mark their work professionally and beautifully, but it isn’t always clear where to start.

That’s where I come in. I have guided over 1,600 people through the process of creating beautiful wood burning stamps so I know what questions to ask to save you time, inspire ideas, and avoid mistakes. The process is so refined it takes an average of only 4.8 responses to go from first contact to a completed design. So how do I do that?

Listening. Digging a little deeper. Providing options. Guiding decisions. Doing the worrying and fine adjustments for you. Although that kind of care may sound expensive, through practice I’ve come up with ways to drive out wasted time and mistakes and provide you better value. Want an example?

My Productivity = Your Value

When I save time, I shift that time to focus on you. In my shop, I batch orders to save time. But having a big batch of wood burning stamps all done in a pile could lead to mix-ups, right? Not in my shop. To allow this time saving technique, but prevent mistakes, I have written software that organizes all the orders I’m running into a printed list complete with barcodes and pictures. When I scan them it automatically takes care of many tasks that have to be done when I finish the job. I have dozens of other examples I could bore you with — the point is that by figuring out ways to save time in my shop I can deliver exceptional service and value on a product you’ll be proud to tell people is Made in the USA. So where do we go from here?

Ready, Set, Go!

The fasted way get a wood burning stamp is to pick a size and checkout. When I see that order come in you’ll be amazed at the fire hose of personal attention I turn on you. If at any point you feel the process isn’t working for you I will cancel the order and refund your money without giving you an ounce of grief.

The Deal

My wood burning stamps start at $89 and increase in cost with the amount of metal involved. The design work is included. That’s an exceptional value since many people charge that much for just a logo. You can get yours below.

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In December 2021, How long are USPS Priority Mail Packages taking to be delivered?

First — THANK YOU SO MUCH to all of the hard working people in the USPS during this, and every holiday season. I appreciate you SO MUCH. This is a hectic time of year, and your dedication to making everyone’s holidays happy is truly awesome!

My standard shipping for the branding irons I make in my home shop is USPS Priority Mail. A Priority Mail Express Upgrade is available to add to orders when you need the 1-2 day guarantee.

For my customers: The below is a sampling of the time it takes to get an order when you’ve given me the green light to ship it. The below table is my experience with real packages and tracking this holiday season. I’m not in a “hub” city for the USPS. Trenton, Ohio is the origin for the below list of packages:

TABLE LAST UPDATED: 2021-12-13 — Doing great! 5 Calendar Days is the longest as of today.

DestinationDate Shipped# of Calendar Days
NE12/143
CA12/132
FL12/142
TX12/142
PA12/142
RI12/112
VA12/112
NC12/83
NC12/72
OH12/92
PA12/45
NY12/24
NY12/24
NV12/73

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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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Measuring Details in Logo Designs

Cursor showing line in branding iron design is thick enough.

The answer to the question: “How do I know if my design can be made?”

On this site you’ll find guidance for what the limits are for minimum line thickness and minimum sized gaps (like holes in letters). That’s great, but how does one go about measuring things in an image to see if they are too small? I do all of this when I work on a branding iron for you, but if you are going “DIY”, this can be a a useful guide. Feel free to contact me for help.

The easiest thing I have found for quickly gauging the “inch measurement” of something in a logo is to open it in a program called “gimp.” It is an open source, no spyware, free photo editing tool you can get from here https://www.gimp.org

After installing it use the menu in the upper left hand corner to

File -> Open

browse to your file.

Then click

Image -> Properties

Note the LARGER of the two measurements in Pixels.

Now that we know how many pixels make up the longest side of our image, we can look that number up in a table to see how many pixels the minimum line thickness can be in an image.

This google sheets document has the below chart in it. Find the number of pixels your image is in the left column then go right until you are below the number of inches wide your iron is. The intersection of those two columns is the minimum number of pixels a line can be and still turn out well as a branding iron. Example: 1100 pixel wide image going onto a 2 inch iron: 5 pixel wide line minimum.

Now what?

Now we grab the “paint brush” tool in gimp and set the diameter of it to the number of pixels we got from the table. This will give us a cursor the minimum size any line can be so we can hove it over various parts of the image to see if they are smaller than the minimum size.

Tools -> Pencil

Now we set the brush type to a “hard circle”

Then we set the brush diameter to size we are comparing to: 5 pixels.

Now hover the brush over parts of your image to see if they meet the minimum line thickness requirements.

The same thing is then repeated for checking gap sizes. In this case an 1150 pixel image on a 2″ iron need 14 pixels of gap.

Setting the brush to 14 pixels we now hover the brush over various areas to make sure they meet the minimum gap size. Areas that often cause trouble the holes in the letters e, a, R, q, etc. In the below image, we see the brush fits inside the A, so the gap there is at least 14 pixels. This gap is cuttable and meets the minimum requirements for being made into a branding iron. Note the word minimum — A little larger wouldn’t hurt, but this will work.

So there you have it — Use the table to pick a brush size, zoom in with your mouse wheel, and scoot around the image making sure your design has spots the cutter can get into and lines that are thick enough to do a good job.

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Branded Wedding Coaster Ideas

T+R Branding Iron for Wedding Coasters 2

My customers have the most clever ideas. One that I really like is both useful and memorable. Over the past several years, I’ve made a lot of irons that people use to brand tree slices or more elaborate coasters for commemorating their weddings or keeping their businesses in front of their customers. Here is a sampling of the nice looking designs I have collaborated with my customers on. If you have interest in working with me on making one of these for you, use the form at https://www.yeltrowshopllc.com/index.php/contact-us/ to reach out. It is easy to use a custom wood branding iron to make these unique coasters.

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State Outline Branding Irons

Arkansas State Outline Branding Iron for Backwoods Designs T-R

I love it when I pick up an item and it tells me a little bit of its story. Who made it? Where did it came from? How old is it? Are there more like it? I’m proud that my irons are made in the USA and the state of Ohio and mark them as such. If you want to share some of your work’s story a state outline branding iron is a classy way to do it. I have outlines of all 50 states and I’m happy to help you create a design. Please note that some of the below irons were designed by the customer themselves and may not be used as a template. They are just shown here as an example of what’s possible.

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YST002-How I make branding irons and why sizes matter.

PJP Custom Branding Iron. Made in USA from Aluminum. Square border. A wood burning stamp.

If you look at one of the branding irons I make, you’ll see that the part that does the branding is raised and the parts that are unbranded are cut back from it.

I have done experiments to determine what works and what doesn’t. The below image is a test burn I made with my “torture test” iron. It is designed to figure out exactly how where something becomes so small it won’t work anymore.

To make an iron, I have various sizes of cutter that plunge into the metal and cut it away. When I make something like the J in the photo, the profile of it looks like shown below:

Lines in my designs can only be so thin before there isn’t enough metal left to heat the wood. This absolute minimum line thickness is 0.006” If you take the number of pixels across your image (say 800) and divide by the number of inches the iron is wide (say 2) you can get the pixels per inch. For this example 800 pixels/2 inches = 400 pixels per inch, or 400 dots per inch (dpi). You can determine how big a line is by zooming in and counting the pixels and dividing by the pixels per inch. Example 12 pixels wide/400 pixels/inch = 0.030” I often set a brush to the size of my minimum line thickness and hover it over my image to gauge if a line meets this minimum requirement. The same “hovering” can be done with the gaps in the drawing, although those need to be bigger. Below is an image illustrating how the tiny cutter is pulled up and can cut an narrower groove.

Gaps and White Spaces in the Design

To make a narrow gap (white line) in a design, the cutter has to be pulled back to use just the very tip of it. Gaps in my designs can only be so narrow before the gap is so shallow and narrow that the wood in the little gap gets baked by all the hot metal around it. 0.023” is about the minimum size gap that can be guaranteed to exist in the metal and have a chance of not getting blackened. 0.012” is the smallest gap that can be made at all. Gasps that small often fill in during branding. Sometimes that’s fine. Two letter O’s merging together where they get close are perfectly legible. Two long parallel lines that merge into one aren’t usually okay.

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Photographing Signatures and Logos

Image showing how a camera lens should be centerd on the image instead of the body of a phone when taking a photo of a logo.

Yes, you can just snap a photo of a signature and email it in and we’ll make it into a branding iron. —BUT— There are some things you can do to save design time so you get your iron faster and with better fidelity.

Camera Position: Take the Photo with the Lens straight up from the Signature

I frequently forget that the camera lens is not in the middle of my cell phone body/screen. It is off to the left of center the way I normally like to hold it. That’s fine for family photos and trips to the beach, but not documents.

How to Know if you got a good straight shot?

If the edges of your document are parallel to the edges of the photo, you have done a great job. If the document has some “wedge shape” to it, you might want to try it again.

BAD: The edges of the document in the below image do not follow the edges of the document.

GOOD: The below image shows the edges of the document are parallel and follow the edges of the image:

Lighting Position

Anyone that has taken a blurry photo in a poorly lit room knows lighting matters. When photographing a document, it REALLY MATTERS.

Lights create glare spots like the sun on the hood of a car. If one makes sure that the light is off to the side of the document being photographed, the glare will be off the side of your document instead of blowing out the middle of it.

Keep lights off to the side of your document.

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Creating Handwritten Signature Branding Irons

A really popular way to put a unique mark on a piece is to make a signature branding ion. These are really easy for you to create:

  • Take a straight-on photo of a signature [ See our guide here for some tips ]
  • Use our contact form to tell us you would like an iron made. We’ll send you an email address to send attachments to.
  • Place an order (for a 2″ or larger iron) if you want a proof image made. We use “placed orders” to prioritize our work so we can keep up. (Don’t worry — If you aren’t happy with the proofs and don’t feel it is working out, I will quickly refund your order without any hassle. I’m in the happy people business).
  • 2″ or larger iron are generally required to get the level of detail required for a “signature iron.”

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