Custom Branding Irons – Made Locally

“…having your own ranch brand can be useful and fun even for the armchair cowboy.”

A good brand is one that is simple in design and easily applied.  While branding irons serve an important role in the cattle industry, having your own ranch brand can be useful and fun even for the armchair cowboy.  With your initials, they can be purchased pre-fab, but the option exists to create your own logo and have a custom brand created by local craftsman Jim Hilderbrandt.  A custom brand can be used tomark wood, saddle leather, ranch related equipment – even steaks.  The possibilities are endless. The branding iron consists of an iron rod with a simple symbol or mark which is heated in a fire. After the branding iron turns red-hot, the cowhand presses the branding iron against the hide of the cow. The unique brand means that cattle owned by multiple owners can graze freely together on the open range.  Cowboys separate the cattle at roundup time for driving to the cattle to market.  The process of separating cows is still called Sorting or Cutting.

Jim begins with a sample provided by a customer.  In this case, the logo had already been created before the ranch was purchased, even though there are no cattle on this ranch.  The logo is floating wings inside a circle.  I thought trying to have a floating component inside a circle would be challenging, but you can see in the picture how a simple plate welded to the back created the desired effect.

Jim starts the process by an outline drawing of the brand on the welding table. Then he duplicates the drawing by cutting pieces of one-inch steel to match the drawing.  Jim says, “After all the metal has been cut and it looks like the drawing, is when the real fun begins, welding all the pieces together.” 

If you are familiar with welding you know that the tip of the gun is about an inch in diameter, so how do you weld something 1/8” apart?   The work is done from the inside out.  Jim said, “I had to weld the wings together first.  Then weld the wings to what I call the backing plate, and then finish with welding the outer ring to the backing plate.  Last but not least, it’s time to attach the handle which is 25” long.”  The finished product included two branding irons – one about 1 ½” in diameter, and one about 3” in diameter as specified by the customer.  

The history of branding is tied to the history of using animals as a commodity.  The act of marking livestock with fire-heated marks to identify ownership began with the ancient Egyptians.  Later the Romans branded their slaves.  With colonialism, many cattle branding traditions and techniques were spread from the Spanish to The Americas.  The branding system in the New England Colonies spread with the US western expansion.

If having your own brand appeals to you, give Jim Hilderbrandt a call.  For about the price of pre-fab branding irons, you too, can have your own custom branding iron.