Whether you create woodworking projects as a hobby or a full time profession you have probably contemplated having either a branding iron or rubber stamp made. Branding or stamping your work solidifies where it was created and in some eyes makes the overall project a little more professional. The downside to branding irons and stamps is not only the price but also you are limited to the exact design and shape that the branding iron or stamp was made. I’m going to show you a simple technique that will save you money and also allow flexibility to customize your message or logo however you want and as many times as you want.
The concept is simple. Toner is what is used in laser printers. It is fused to the paper by heat. Have you ever waited to print a piece of paper because the printer was “warming up”? Probably so. What I’m going to show you here is basically the same thing. We’re warming the toner back up and this time transferring it from the paper to the wood. I originally got this idea from John Heisz at ibuildit.ca when he showed us how to transfer the image with lacquer thinner or some other similar chemicals. His method works as well but I wanted results without the chemicals. The image, message, or logo that you choose needs to be printed in reverse. The reason being is when it is applied to the wood it is reversed again, back to normal. When designing your image note that no image transfer is 100% perfect. You can use whatever font you wan but remember that it generally looks better if you use a font that has a not-so-perfect appearance. For example, my logo has a slightly fuzzy, irregular font. Here it is blown up so you can see. When printing also make sure that you change the toner darkness setting to as dark as it will go. This may vary from computer to computer. You may not have this access if you are using a public printer such as at a library which is still OK. It just helps with more toner on the paper. Regular, everyday, blank printer paper works fine. The heat source I am using is a cheap wood burning kit. The exact kit I’m using can be found here (affiliate link). This has a couple more advantages than using a designated branding iron. I can use the same kit to do actual decorative wood burning if necessary. The kit comes with several different tips but the only one I am interested in is the flat, nickle sized “image transfer” tip. My kit came with a 25w iron which will get too hot to use at idle. After the wood burner is plugged in for about 5 minutes it has reached it’s maximum temperature which is actually too hot to put on paper. To cool it I use a scrap piece of pine 2×4 (see video). This will transfer some of the heat out of the tip. A good temperature is reached when you can move the tip slowly on the wood and it will only slightly darken it. Anything more will just burn the paper. I tape the image on one side when transferring. This allows me to peel up the lose side and check my progress. If I happened to miss a spot I can put it back down in the same spot and reapply the heat. Start applying heat from the taped side and moving away. The paper will expand slightly when heated up and may cause alignment issues if done from the non taped side going toward the taped side. You can peel back the paper after a couple slow passes to check your progress. If you find an area that didn’t get transferred properly than simply put the image back down and apply more heat. If the image starts to stick to the wood when peeling the paper you need to apply more heat. The paper will tear if pulled off when cool. Always make sure you test this out on a scrap piece of wood before you try it on your finished project. You can seal a successful transfer with any type of clear spray finish such as spray lacquer or spray polyurethane. I would advise against brushing any type of solvent based finish on top. I have had good results with brushing a layer of ModPodge on though. At the end of the video you can see that this works with high contrast portrait images as well. I have also had good results by applying this transfer on a stained piece of wood as you can see in my trash can project. Again, practice on a test piece first though as your mileage may vary.