March 2010

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This is the 9th set from a collection of 185 photographs taken during the 1910-1911 deployment of S.M.S. Gneisenau to the Far East. S.M.S. Gneisenau was an armored cruiser of the Kaiserliche Marine, or German Imperial Navy. For the main catalog page of this archive, including the ports and dates visited, see SMS Gneisenau Far East Photo Collection, 1910-1911.

This is the 8th set from a collection of 185 photographs taken during the 1910-1911 deployment of S.M.S. Gneisenau to the Far East. S.M.S. Gneisenau was an armored cruiser of the Kaiserliche Marine, or German Imperial Navy. For the main catalog page of this archive, including the ports and dates visited, see SMS Gneisenau Far East Photo Collection, 1910-1911.

Warning: One photo in this set (“Improvisiertes Seebad an Bord”) contains some nudity. The English translation for this photo’s title is “Improvised Swimming Pool on Board.”

In the A $6 Custom Branding Iron post, I showed off a branding iron I had “printed” in stainless steel by Shapeways.com for US$6, after using the free vector image editor Inkscape, and parametric modeling software Alibre Design, which also has a free version called Alibre Design Xpress.

This tutorial requires a working knowledge of Alibre Design (or other 3D parametric modeling software) and Inkscape (or other vector graphics editing software).

$6 branding iron

$6 branding iron

Here are the steps I took to make it happen: (I’ll add more detail over time.)

  • Design in Inkscape
    1. Convert all text objects to paths (Path > Object to path)
    2. Convert all stroked lines to paths (Path > Stroke to path)
    3. Ungroup all objects
    4. Union all objects (Path > Union)
    5. Select object
    6. Save As… Type Desktop Cutting Plotter (R13) (*.dfx) – Output will be in mm
  • Import into Alibre Design (File > Import, type DXF)
    1. Select mm for file units
    2. (It imports into a drawing)
    3. Select everything and Explode (Edit > Explode Symbol)
    4. Activate the sketch
    5. Analyze (Sketch > Analyze…)
    6. Heal all problems
    7. While activated, select the figures
  • Copy to a Alibre Design Part
    1. Open a new part
    2. Activate a design plane and Paste (the figure may appear far from center)
    3. Select the curves, shift-left-click to drag to better location
  • Model the branding iron
    1. Extrude sketch 1.25mm — this is the depth of the brand.
    2. Select *top* face and insert a plane. (right-click > Insert Plane…)
    3. Select the new plane, Project to Sketch (if necessary), to create a foundation for the brand.
    4. Extrude 2mm for foundation
    5. Insert another plane on the back of the foundation
    6. Extrude a mounting hole, 4.9mm is 0.1375mm larger than 3/16″
    7. Cut a set screw hole in an accessible location if necessary. 3.048mm is 0.12″, the tap size for #6-40 set screw.
  • Export & Upload
    1. Export as *.STL file
    2. Upload to Shapeways.com
    3. Order in stainless steel
  • Finish
    1. Tap the mounting flange for a 10-32 screw
    2. Thread a 3/8″ steel rod with 10-32 die or use a 10-32 screw
    3. Build a handle
    4. Sand down the surface of the branding iron to make it nice and flat

Some woodworkers like to leave their mark on their work using a branding iron, but at roughly $190 per iron, it can really be quite an investment. I took a less expensive route, using some free software, and a genius 3D printing service  called Shapeways.com.

I started by drawing up a couple of logo ideas in Inkscape, a free vector graphics application. I exported by design from Inkscape and imported it into Alibre Design, which is a fantastic parametric 3D modeling application that happens to be available for free in a feature-limited version. Once I was satisfied with the 3D model, I exported again, uploaded the file to Shapeways, and “printed” it in stainless steel. The total cost for the “AF” design was $6, and only $7.40 for the larger name logo.

I tapped the back of the iron and threaded a short section of 3/16″ steel rod, and inserted it into a little handle that I turned out of some scrap cherry. After a couple of test burns, I was pretty happy with the result. Next I’ll try sanding it down a bit to see if I can make it even cleaner.

Update: I’ve added a step-by-step tutorial on how I made these: Making the $6 Branding Iron, Step-by-Step. There’s also a video on how to use it here: Using the Custom Branding Irons.