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.