The 91 Brand and Watt Ranch

91 Watt Ranch custom brand

Back in 1969, the Watt family bought a ranch just north of Kamloops, BC along the North Thompson River in Barriere. The story goes, that the ranch was 91 miles south of Blue River by rail. The brand itself is actually described as an inverted J and a 1, for 91.

Brands are part of the rich history and tradition of ranching. Ranchers use a brand to mark their livestock to easily identify them out on range, or if they are lost, or even stolen.

Hot brands and electric brands, are typically made from steel, while freeze brands are usually made from brass or copper. When a freeze brand is applied, it will actually change the color of the animal’s hair to white. If it’s a white or grey horse, it may be more of a dark grey. You will more often see freeze brands on horses.

Figuring out how to decipher and understand a brand is an artform in itself. Brand offices and inspectors understand the language of ‘lazy’, ‘hanging’, ‘flying’, ‘running’ and are the officials when it comes to deciphering a brand.

When we branded our calves in early spring we would test the heat of the brand on a nearby fence board. This board is now the center board on our dining table.

91 watt ranch brand

91 Brand – Watt Ranch

Brian and I no longer have the home ranch. We live happily together on our beautiful property east of Kamloops with our horses, and dogs. We continue to hold the registration on the 91 brand. You just never know when things might change and you need your brand again!

We have a small hot iron brand that was made by a local farrier/blacksmith that we’ve used to brand some of our work. Early in 2023, we discovered and ordered our own custom 91 brand. It’s super handy! It attaches to a soldering iron so that we can easily and precisely mark our barnwood and leather products with our 91 brand.

custom branding iron, 91 watt ranch

Custom barnwood tray, laser engraved

custom barnwood tray

Are you looking for that special gift for someone who has ‘everything’? Or maybe your Club wants to put together an awesome prize package for your year-end Finals? Check out this custom-branded barnwood tray. Make it special with your own personal message, or brand it with a logo or special graphic.

We collect and gather up rustic boards from old barns and fences. The weathered boards are perfectly imperfect for our barnwood pieces. For this project, we will transform a few plain old barnwood boards into a beautiful custom-branded serving tray.

Brian has the finished product in mind when he selects the boards. He inspects for rot, knots and imperfections. The wood rot is cut away, leaving a ‘clean’ board, ready to go. The wood knots and weathered grain are what make each hand-crafted piece so unique.

Making the cuts in the wood shop

Sometimes we run them through the planer to clean them up. But for this one, we went straight to the table saw. Selecting the ‘best side’, which will be the top or face of the finished tray, he cuts the boards on the table saw.

Even though he measures and re-measures every piece along the way, sometimes these old barnwood boards have a mind of their own and just don’t lay level or cut straight.

barnwood board cut on table saw

Next, Brian moves on to the chop saw and cuts the pieces to the exact measurements. He’ll measure twice, to be sure that the side and end boards are exact so that they all fit together perfectly.

barnwood boards cut on chop saw

The sanders are the next step. Depending on the wood, he may use belt and sheet sanders to smooth off some of the rough wood. Then finish up with the orbital or palm sander.

Putting the pieces together

Brian uses a biscuit cutter when he needs to join boards together, he’s careful to mark each one so he’ll know how to fit them all together later, it’s just like a puzzle.

That about does it for the cuts in the workshop. He’ll gather up the pieces and head to the finishing room where he’ll layout the boards and check them all again for fit and alignment.

For this tray, we’ll be doing a custom brand (literally) for Seven O Ranches onto the center board of this serving tray. Working from the photo sent, I’ll Photoshop and manipulate the image to turn it into a vector graphic that we can use on the machines.

Using the Cricut machine we’ll size it and cut a stencil of the brand and place it on the wood to be sure we like the size and placement. Sometimes this takes a few goes just to get it exactly right.

Laser engraving the brand

Then, we’re ready to place it on the xTool Laser machine. We’ve already run a pile of tests on old barnwood pieces so we know the exact settings to get the look we’re after.

This is the fun part! We put the board in place, turn on the fan, put on the safety glasses and let ‘er burn!

laser engraving brand on barnwood

For this tray, we are placing rope handles on each side. We measure and burn the ropes to the right length. They slip into the drilled holes and are secured through the wood with screws so that they can hold the weight of a heavy tray with a full load of drinks and food.

Finished custom-branded barnwood tray

Now to finish up. Brian puts all the pieces together, using wood glue, biscuits, and clamps. He taps and squeezes them all together very carefully to ensure the joins and corners line up. Once it’s just right, he leaves it to let it all settle and for the glue to dry.

To finish up, he removes the clamps, a bit of sanding to smooth the edges, and applies a varathane to seal the wood. Your custom barnwood tray is ready to go!

 Have a look through the WattRanch Shop to add some rustic charm to your farmhouse or ranch home decor.

finished custom barnwood tray with engraved brand and rope handles

Rope Bowls | It’s All About the Ropes

western lariat rope bowls

I love getting creative with these old ropes. It’s the ultimate upcycle. Sometimes called western ropes or cowboy ropes, these retired lariat and team ropes are transformed into beautiful rope bowls, handy rope baskets, and big rope bowls and buckets.

As a fruit bowl on your kitchen table, or use a rope bowl to catch your keys and phones at the door. Use a big bucket or bowl to gather up your towels or hold your wood kindling by the fireplace. These rope bowls add a rustic charm and a unique ranch style to your home decor. Each one is different and has its own character and functionality.

 Have a look through the WattRanch Shop to add some rustic charm to your farmhouse or ranch home decor.

It all starts with a rope.

Ropers have a lot of factors to consider when choosing a rope. Typically, these ropes are 30-35 feet long, made of nylon and/or poly, and sometimes a blend. There are lots of name brands and different types of ropes, depending on their job. Head & heel ropes for team ropers, calf ropes for the tie-down ropers, breakaway ropes, ranch ropes, and the list goes on.

The ropes are retired when the fibers break down, get twisted, lay the ‘wrong way’, or are just plain tired and no longer doing their job for the roper. That’s when they are ready for a new life.

gather up old lariat ropes and retired team ropes

Each rope has a story of their life lived. Some bear the black burn of a long dally, running out over the rubber on the saddle horn. For some, their original color is still fresh while others are weathered and frayed from a long life.

After a good cleaning and scrubbing, sometimes several times over, they are hung to dry. I’ll pick through the ropes and choose which ones to leave in their original rope color, usually a soft and subtle shade of the original.

While others may get hand-dyed to add some color into their new life as a rope bowl or bucket. Maybe it’s a contrasting dyed color to add interest. Or I may dye the rope the same color as the original, to add depth and vibrancy to the original color.

Ropes of many colors.

It’s all a matter of choice when I start out with my ropes on the workbench. It just depends on the look I’m going for. Sometimes it’s a combination of the two, original and hand-dyed ropes. If you’d like your own custom bowl, you may have a specific color in mind. If you’re just not sure, browsing through the variety of shapes, styles, and colors of our rope bowls, baskets, and buckets in our Ropes Gallery is a good place to look for inspiration.

original colors of lariat ropes

original rope colors (above)

hand-dyed lariat rope colors

hand-dyed rope colors (above)

Red on red rope bucket.

The original red rope on the left (below) has lots of character. The original red color is well-worn and weathered to a soft red. 

But, for this particular custom order, my client has a vibrant red color in mind, perfect for her kitchen. So, I hand-dyed a red rope… RED. You can still see the black burn from the rubber on the saddle horn as the cowboy dallied his rope. It has added some interest at the bottom of this finished rope bucket. 

hand-dyed red rope bucket

Each rope bowl is custom by design.

I start out with the basic size and shape in mind. But I never really know how it’s going to look when it’s finished. Sometimes the rope is intentionally run through the honda (eye of the rope), sometimes it’s pulled out before I start. If the ‘tail’ of the rope is in good condition, I may weave that into the design. Overlapping and layering the ropes to add interest to the design is all part of the creative process.

custom rope bowl made with hand-dyed and original rope colors

 Have a look through the WattRanch Shop to add some rustic charm to your farmhouse or ranch home decor.

Have a Seat on a Barnwood Bench

barnwood bench

Brian has been busy with the saws and sanders, working on a very special project for the Provincial Winter Fair in Kamloops.  He hand-crafted these barnwood benches for the PWF Awards for the beef and sheep categories. We were so honoured to be a part of this special event this year. This Fair has been running since 1939, showcasing local livestock and 4-H projects. Such a great family event for everyone!

In the wood shop.

Gathering up the wood and prepping for the project is how it all begins. Everything starts with a vision of what the finished piece will look like. Brian crafts his plan to make the best use of the wood. Every cut counts when you are working with old barn and fence boards. No two are alike, with their unique weathered patina, sometimes with old nail holes and even bits of hair from a cow having a good scratch along the fence.

The bench legs are made from 2×6 old fir with a special circle or keyhole cut to prevent the wood from cracking. The seat is made from two pieces that are biscuit-joined together. This barnwood has endured years of all weather conditions and is ready for more. Leave it outside as a handy seat to pull your boots on, or bring it into your home to add some country charm.

Congratulations to the winners! We hope you really enjoy these benches! 

barnwood rustic farmhouse bench