At present, all my irons are externally heated (usually via propane torch). I’ve been on the hunt for an electric element that meets the following requirements:
1. Heats my thick brass heads quickly
2. Made in the US
3. High quality and safe
4. Affordable to hobby woodworkers
The most common electric branding irons take upwards of 30 to 45 minutes to heat a thin brass head. My irons are as much as triple that thickness and would take even longer. Contrast that with a propane torch bringing even my largest irons up to temperature within 2 minutes.
Another factor, which I believe is both a quality and a safety issue, is temperature control. The majority of the electric irons out there have nothing to stop them going too hot. For a very small iron, too hot can make the iron impossible to use because you’d have to be so quick with the press time.
My (obviously biased) view on the matter is that a heat time of over 30 minutes could be easily forgotten and with no temperature control I would worry about safety in that case. Using a torch, your focus is on that task the entire time and it’s for a very short time span.
I can see electric elements being advantageous in a production setting where hundreds of pressings are needed at a time. Those elements do exist. They mount in a drill press and work great but they cost over $300.
It’s a tall order, but when I do find an element that meets the above requirements, I will definitely ensure any iron I’ve ever sold will mount to it.