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Branding information
Hot branding
Hot branding irons can be made of iron, copper, carbon steel, or any other metal that can absorb and transfer heat. The most common branding material is iron, which distributes the heat fairly evenly.
 
The ideal iron width is 3/8 inch. If the surface of the iron is too narrow, the brand won't be legible and/or may cut through the hide of the animal. On the other hand, if the surface of the iron is too wide, it is apt to blotch. It is also harder to hold a wide iron in position. The wider the branding edge, the greater the chances the iron will slip and blur the brand.
 
When building a hot iron, leave at least 3/4 inch between parallel lines and other non-connecting characters. Leave a small break between intersecting lines or elements for venting. The gap for two right angles should be at least 1/8 inch. The gap for a sharp angle, as at the top of an "A" should be 1/4 inch. Some characters, such as an "L" can be made without a break by bending the iron into a curve. To prevent blotching, the angle of the "L" should be greater than 45 degrees.
 
If your design includes a circle, make the inside diameter of the circle at least 1 3/4 inch to keep it from burning together. Make the circle even larger if your design includes an object within the circle
 
Heat source- The best heat source is a propane burner or stove that will stay at the desired temperature and deliver a constant source of heat. When electricity is available, electric irons are also very efficient.
 
Probably the least desirable heat source is an open fire because the heat is not constant. If you choose to use a fire, use sound, dry wood. Start the fire about a half hour before you plan to brand. Build a larger fire than needed and let it burn down to a bed of glowing coals. Place the irons in the fire, near the coals, not the flames. Add wood regularly to keep a steady bed of coals.
 
Iron temperature- Getting the right iron temperature is critical in obtaining a good brand. An iron heated to a black color is too cold. It may be hot enough to singe the hair, but not hot enough to leave a permanent mark. A red-hot iron is too hot. It could cause the hair on the hide to burst into flames. This not only makes branding more difficult, but the mark will be slow to heal.
 
Ideally, the iron should be heated to an ash-gray color. A copper branding iron will not appear gray, but will show its natural dull copper color when hot. It will look darker when cold.
 
Moisture- Don't brand on a rainy or snowy day. Wet weather and soggy animal hair combine to make it extremely difficult to maintain a constant branding temperature. The result is often a poor brand.
 
The animal's hair doesn't have to be completely dry to achieve a good brand, but branding is much harder in wet weather.
 
Application and timing- With a large brand, five or six inches in size, it is often necessary to use a rocking motion rather than a single-stamping action when applying the brand. The rocking motion varies the pressure and the result is a more even brand.
 
Hold the iron on the hide long enough to make a permanent brand. The number of seconds it will take to achieve a good brand depends on many factors including the animal's age, sex, breed and length of hair.
 
Test a new brand by rubbing it briskly with light pressure to remove charred hair. If the animal has been properly branded, a deep brown color the shade of well-worn saddle leather will appear. If the iron isn't hot enough, only the hair will be burned. If the iron is too hot or is held on too long, it will burn through the hide, revealing the white tissue beneath the hide.

Freeze branding
In this process, branding irons are placed in liquid nitrogen until the irons are cold enough to freeze a mark on an animal's hide. Before branding, clip the hair in the area you intend to brand, then dampen the area. The new hair will grow in white. Freeze branding irons should be made of copper or bronze alloy. Solid copper is best but is most expensive. Steel irons work but are more likely to result in an unreadable brand. The alloy irons have a larger mass which retains and transfers cold more rapidly than steel.
 
If you make your own freeze-branding iron, don't file it smooth. Instead, leave the face of the iron rough, which will allow more uniform transfer of cold from the iron to the animals skin. Hold the freeze iron on the hide for 15 to 30 seconds.