LumberJocks

Handcrafted Wooden Rings

  • Advertise with us
Blog entry by FrankLad posted 05-05-2009 04:35 AM 55206 reads 124 times favorited 54 comments Add to Favorites Watch

I received a couple of comments with regards to how I build the wooden rings in my gallery, so I thought this would be a good place to share a bit about my process.

This will not be the best-worded blog entry. I’ll just kinda let my mind spill…

My very first rings were done in the bentwood style, which involves some trial-and-error, custom jigs, a great amount of patience and an even greater amount of time to achieve the contrast similar to the rings done in the layered style. (NOTE: Bentwood style rings are stronger, due to the grain running around the circumference of the ring, but the layered rings I’ll describe here give nice contrast with less work, and are still very strong themselves. “Everything is a tradeoff.”, my dad says.)

The basic idea in built-up / layered / laminated rings is to cut some thin squares of wood, and clamp them up with good glue and even pressure, with the grain running opposite between each layer. The concept with multiple pieces and alternating grain is to help prevent splitting, since a solid piece would be weak at one axis in the ring, and would break very easily.

(NOTE: There are a couple of rings I’ve built from single, solid pieces – Lignum Vitae, and African Blackwood. Those woods are dense and work quite well in this case.)

I started out making these rings with 2”x2” square pieces of native woods (oak, cypress, cedar) that I would sand down to different thicknesses – approx 1/8” for the outsides and close to 1/16” for the inner band. I used a belt sander for this, simply holding the squares against it. I don’t recommend doing that, but it’ll keep your fingernails short. LOL! I generally cut the two outside pieces from the same end of the wood, so that I can sorta bookmatch them on the outsides of the ring.

Lately I order my stock from a few different sources, already to 1/8” size, for the outer parts, and I get 1/16” veneers for the thin, contrasting layers. Sometimes I abrade the surface of the pieces a bit. This mostly depends on the wood. On smoother species, I like to give it a bit more tooth for the glue… or at least break the mill glaze.

With regards to glue… The requirement for me was something that was strong and waterproof. Weldbond is a no-go in the waterproof department. I wouldn’t even call it water resistant. I tried the regular white stuff and the Professional Wood Glue variation. Even after 48 hours of curing time, Weldbond would turn gummy within minutes of placing it in the water. Titebond III performed much better, but still became soft eventually. The winner for me was good ol’ Gorilla Glue. I’ve tried both the regular (dark) stuff and the White/Clear. I tested a couple of rings joined with Gorilla Glue by submerging them in water overnight. No problems at all as far as the glue was concerned. Plus, I find that the foaming action forces the glue into the pores. Really noticeable in woods like Wenge and Oak, where you can see the glue coming out the end grain when clamped. I know most wooden ring makers simply tell their customers to keep the rings out of water, and we tell our customers that as well, but I still wanted something that would hold up if you wore it in the shower or washed dishes with it on, etc. (Plus, it tests well on oily woods like teak.)

These wood “sandwiches” sit overnight and I begin the cutting process the next day. To bore the holes, I use forstner bits to get nice, clean cuts. (Spade/paddle bits are out of the question here.)

Boring

I’ll use a bit size just under the intended ring size, then sand the hole up to size the rest of the way. This process involves sanding, checking with a jeweler’s ring mandrel, sanding, checking, etc. I’ll usually start with a little drum sander attachment on the front of the drill motor…

Using drum sander bit

... and eventually get down to a piece of 120 grit paper wrapped around the fingertip. At this point I’ll sand out the “comfort fit” contour on the inside.

Refining inside

Once the inner size is reached, I begin cutting the outside. I use a little japanese pullsaw and more or less cut the corners and the bulk of the outside until it is mostly octagon shaped.

Cutting corners

I then use the belt sander to smooth around the outside, making sure to turn the ring by hand, never leaving it in one spot too long.

Rounding

To further refine the shape, I use a foam pad w/ velcro on bottom, and several grits of sandpaper. Usually I’ll start with 120 grit.

Smoothing

This is a pretty time-consuming part of the process, and it relies heavily on sighting down the ring, making sure it “looks” right. Once it looks OK, I’ll move to 220 grit, 320, and 400.

At this point I spray the whole thing with water to let the grain rise. I then sand again with 400 grit, spray again, and sand a final time. The idea here is to give the customer a ring that, even when encountered with water, will still feel smooth and comfortable.

Once the ring is totally dry (I typically leave them overnight to make sure) I apply the finish. If the customer wants the “wood feel”, I use Land Ark penetrating oil, initially submerging the ring for an hour or so, removing it, buffing dry, and letting it sit another day. Finally, I’ll buff over that with a Land Ark wax formula. This gives a satin / low-sheen finish.

Most folks, however, go for “glossy”. For that I have been using Waterlox, applied in 3 or 4 very thin layers, giving 24 hours of curing between. It has a somewhat “grippy” feel, however. Not gummy or anything, but just… not smooth enough for a ring in my opinion. It’s generally not a problem but in the case of tight-fitting rings, it can make it harder to remove. Even cutting the Waterlox with mineral spirits hasn’t helped much.

(NOTE: I’ll be trying Arm-R-Seal Gloss from General Finishes next. I’ve read nothing but good reviews on the stuff.)

Bloodwood and Maple - Tapered - 2

So that’s the story on how I build the layered wooden rings. It is a tad bit laborious (I can hear someone screaming “use a lathe!” Ha ha!) ... but I do enjoy it.

-- Frank, Mississippi, Handcrafted wooden rings - http://www.bentwoodrings.com



54 comments so far

View a1Jim's profile

a1Jim

112936 posts in 2330 days


#1 posted 05-05-2009 04:40 AM

wow that’s great any photos

-- http://artisticwoodstudio.com Custom furniture

View majeagle1's profile

majeagle1

1419 posts in 2249 days


#2 posted 05-05-2009 05:36 AM

Great description of your process, good details…......... but I also ask: ” Any photo’s of process”?

-- Gene, Majestic Eagle Woodworks, http://majesticeagleww.etsy.com/, http://www.flickr.com/photos/majesticeagle/

View Huckleberry's profile

Huckleberry

215 posts in 2606 days


#3 posted 05-05-2009 06:14 AM

Just made one to try it. Did it a little different but not bad for my first one.

-- I cut it twice and the damn thing is still too short!@#$%

View TopamaxSurvivor's profile

TopamaxSurvivor

15089 posts in 2429 days


#4 posted 05-05-2009 06:23 AM

Thanks for the tips on water proof gluing.

-- "some old things are lovely, warm still with life ... of the forgotten men who made them." - D.H. Lawrence

View Junji's profile

Junji

698 posts in 2135 days


#5 posted 05-05-2009 07:11 AM

Hey, thank you for your useful information, it must took you so long for you to figure these out, and I think it’s really nice of you to give us the info.

-- Junji Sugita from Japan, http://tetra.blog12.fc2.com/

View FrankLad's profile

FrankLad

270 posts in 2062 days


#6 posted 05-05-2009 04:09 PM

Thanks for the feedback, guys!

I’ll be cutting a few rings after work today, and will snap pictures of the process.

-- Frank, Mississippi, Handcrafted wooden rings - http://www.bentwoodrings.com

View FrankLad's profile

FrankLad

270 posts in 2062 days


#7 posted 05-06-2009 03:31 AM

I added pictures to the blog entry, from a Bloodwood & Oak ring I worked on today. The last pic is of a previously-completed ring cut with a taper, but the one in the process pics will look very close to that when completed.

-- Frank, Mississippi, Handcrafted wooden rings - http://www.bentwoodrings.com

View majeagle1's profile

majeagle1

1419 posts in 2249 days


#8 posted 05-06-2009 04:39 AM

Thanks for the photos…......... I see what you mean by time consuming. Beautiful job, love the ring.
Thanks for posting…........

-- Gene, Majestic Eagle Woodworks, http://majesticeagleww.etsy.com/, http://www.flickr.com/photos/majesticeagle/

View RobS's profile

RobS

1334 posts in 3059 days


#9 posted 05-06-2009 04:48 AM

Thanks for sharing. Your projects are awesome.

-- Rob (A) Waxahachie,TX

View Junji's profile

Junji

698 posts in 2135 days


#10 posted 05-06-2009 05:59 AM

Thanks again for the post, with the photos, I can see the details.

-- Junji Sugita from Japan, http://tetra.blog12.fc2.com/

View FrankLad's profile

FrankLad

270 posts in 2062 days


#11 posted 05-06-2009 03:06 PM

Thanks, RobS and Junji!

This is a great group of folks. Only been a member a few days, and feel extremely welcome.

-- Frank, Mississippi, Handcrafted wooden rings - http://www.bentwoodrings.com

View Junji's profile

Junji

698 posts in 2135 days


#12 posted 05-06-2009 04:31 PM

Frank,
No, no, I am the one who should thank you.
Today, I just made 2 rings inspired by you. Actually it’s just like the you made, though.
They are already posted in my “projects”. I don’t know if they are strong enough to last long, but at least my wife and daughter are happy to receive them.

-- Junji Sugita from Japan, http://tetra.blog12.fc2.com/

View cajunpen's profile

cajunpen

14432 posts in 2819 days


#13 posted 05-07-2009 05:29 AM

Great “Show & Tell” Frank. Thank you very much for sharing your process. It’s people like you that make this community so worthwhile.

-- Bill - "Suit yourself and let the rest be pleased." http://www.cajunpen.com/

View TopamaxSurvivor's profile

TopamaxSurvivor

15089 posts in 2429 days


#14 posted 05-07-2009 08:14 AM

I got some ring gauges off ebay. I had thought about making wooden rings before, but I thought they would be too bulky between the fingers. How thick are you leaving them?

-- "some old things are lovely, warm still with life ... of the forgotten men who made them." - D.H. Lawrence

View FrankLad's profile

FrankLad

270 posts in 2062 days


#15 posted 05-07-2009 03:45 PM

The band thickness is usually a minimum of 2mm. Sometimes it’ll be 3 or 4mm in the center, with the outside edges eased down to 2mm or below (with the comfort fit on the inside of the band, the outside edge runs less than 2mm). I like to keep it structural, but not so thick that it feels “clunky”.

Some customers – typically female – prefer the thicker rings.

For the widths... they average close to 1/4”. I sometimes get requests for narrow rings. Usually for folks who do manual labor work or use hand-tools. Those rings may run in the neighborhood of 5mm, or at least taper down to that. I find that a narrow taper on the bottom of a snug-fitting ring is great for folks who put the rings through lots of wear… since the skin folds tend to wrap around and the bottom of the ring in that case. ...and that’s the part that comes into contact with everything (like wrench handles, for instance).

-- Frank, Mississippi, Handcrafted wooden rings - http://www.bentwoodrings.com

showing 1 through 15 of 54 comments

Have your say...

You must be signed in to post the comments.

DISCLAIMER: Any posts on LJ are posted by individuals acting in their own right and do not necessarily reflect the views of LJ. LJ will not be held liable for the actions of any user.

Latest Projects | Latest Blog Entries | Latest Forum Topics

HomeRefurbers.com

Latest Projects | Latest Blog Entries | Latest Forum Topics

GardenTenders.com :: gardening showcase