Test Branding Soft and Hard Wood

Test Branding Soft and Hard Wood

Welcome to Branding Irons Unlimited! Today we are going to be test branding different species of woods with varying hardness using a range of different variables. Along the way we will note the settings that we use to develop a reference chart for heat settings and dwell times to compare results on different types of wood. We'll also be discussing a few common terms, questions and tips for branding wood to help you achieve the best marks possible on your pieces. Prefer to see this content in a video format? Watch on Youtube by clicking here! There are links to the test results for each type of wood and heat setting listed below if you want to skip ahead. 


Wood Species Tested (listed in order of Janka hardness)

White Pine
North American Cherry
Hard Maple
African Padauk


First a note about electric tools and heat up times. For these tests we'll be using our 200 watt Hakko heating tool and Smart Touch TCU. When using an electric heating tool it is best to also use a TCU (shorthand for Temperature Control Unit). With the TCU you can regulate the approximate amount of voltage that is delivered to the heating element.

This results in being able to roughly adjust the level of heat that the branding iron will produce. After connecting the iron to the TCU and then plugging the TCU into the wall socket, set your desired starting level on the TCU and allow at least 15 to 20 minutes for the iron to heat up and stabilize at the selected heating level.


Now let's talk about hardness. Wood is generally grouped into two categories, soft or hard wood. Similar to how minerals are rated on the Mohs scale of hardness, the hardness of wood species are measured on a range called the Janka scale.


This plays a role in the branding of wood as harder species generally will require more heat or a longer dwell time than softer wood species to make a mark of similar darkness.

You may be asking, "what do we mean by 'dwell time'?". This refers to the amount of time the heated surface of the branding iron is held against the wood. We'll test a range of dwell times with different settings on our temperature control unit.

Please note that the marks achieved with these settings and dwell times will only directly correspond to this specific branding head size, as the larger the size of the engraved branding head, the higher the setting will need to be to make a mark of similar darkness.

For these test marks we are using a branding head that is approximately 1/2" high x 2 1/2" wide, however the engraved text is smaller at around 1/8" character height.

Starting with a setting of 50 on the TCU we will make 4 marks on each species of wood, dwelling on the surface for increasing amounts of time. We will also be pausing for a minute after each mark to ensure that the branding head has had time to recharge.

After marking all of the species at the setting of 50, we will then increase the setting and repeat the process for the settings of 75 and 100. Although this particular Smart Touch TCU allows for fine control of 100 possible settings, we are using these three specific levels to show a rough range of branded marks at different dwell times.

This demonstrates the process that we recommend going through on your own to fine tune the performance of your heating tool and to practice branding your logo or text on the intended finished material. Each specific material has different characteristics, so it is important to do test markings on the same type of material as you intend on branding for the finished mark. This way you can confirm the heating level and dwell time needed to make the type of mark you are looking for. All right, time for the branding results!

Balsa Wood

Branded test marks on Balsa


White Pine

Branded test marks on White Pine


North American Cherry

Branded test marks on North American Cherry


Hard Maple

Branded test marks on hard Maple


African Padauk

Branded test marks on African Padauk


While your desired brand may be a different size, the marks above demonstrate that harder woods will require higher heat and/or dwell times in order to make a dark mark on the wood. Additionally, you can see how having a TCU allows for much greater control over the finished branded mark, as without one, you would only be able to consistently achieve marks that were at full power, which often doesn't yield the best results. 

Now just because some of these marks are too dark, doesn't mean they aren't able to be cleaned up! By sanding an over-branded mark you can lighten it up and improve the clarity and legibility of the design.


Another technique that can be helpful to minimize ghosting around the branded mark is to wet the area slightly where you will be branding. This helps to protect the adjacent areas of the wood grain next to where the hot iron is being applied.

When possible, it is always better to brand wood that is smooth and flat to ensure even application of your branded mark to the wood surface. When marking wood that is rough, or uneven, distortion or degradation of the branded mark can occur and will result in a loss of legibility.


We often get asked how large the branded mark should be. While this is mainly determined by your individual aesthetic preference, a few other factors can also play a part in the decision.

You should consider the size of the object you plan on marking, and the available flat smooth area that will be able to be branded. Additionally, you should consider if you want the branded mark to be large and the primary focus of a piece or a smaller brand that serves as identification for the woodwork you've produced.

The smaller the brand, the less fine complex details that can be achieved, and it may be harder to make a branded mark with sharp clarity. Also, the smaller the mark, the smaller the character size, which can affect the legibility of any text that is included with your design or logo.

The size of the branding head also affects the type of heating tools which it will be compatible with and, if choosing an electric tool, the wattage of tool required.

Small sizes are compatible with our light duty fire-resistant handle and electric heating tools that attach via a 3/8" tapped hole on the back of the branding head.



Large sizes instead require our heavy duty handle or electric heating tools that attach via a 5/8" threaded shank that is brazed to the back of the branding die. 



We also offer a heavy duty propane branding head that attaches to a propane burner for direct connection to your propane tank.

Thanks very much for stopping by! If you would like to design and purchase your branding iron online, Click Here. Alternatively if you would prefer to be contacted by one of our branding specialists, you can submit a contact form or quote request.

Prefer to talk directly with us? Give us a call at 818-576-1101, Monday through Friday from 8AM - 1PM and from 2PM - 4PM PST.

See you around the shop soon!

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