A while back someone asked a forum question about what everyone does with their scrap wood and cutoffs. The overwhelming response was for inlay pieces, or firewood. I also do the same thing, but last fall I gathered up some scrap and made up bookmarks for gifts at Christmas. While doing this I sort of got carried away with it.
Making bookmarks are like making cutting boards. It’s not difficult and its fun experimenting with different designs and wood types. With glued up blocks, it’s just a matter of slicing the strips on the bandsaw, run them through the drum sander, and put on a clear finish. I can usually crank out 50-75 a day. My original intention last December was to make up about 20, but they ending up being so easy and fun that I ended up with 100 after a couple of days. I gave away some and just put the others in a plastic zip lock bag and set them off to the side, not knowing what to do with all of them.
These were the first ones:
I did my first 2009 show in March. While I was packing the trailer the day before the show, I tossed in the bag of bookmarks as an afterthought. After everything was setup at the show I decided to put out some of the bookmarks on the table and set a $5 price on each one. An hour later they were all gone, so I dumped the whole bag on the table and all day long, bookmarks were moving out the door. Now I prefer to see sales of $50-$100 cutting boards, but $5 items add up to large numbers when they are selling quickly. I had one small show this year where I didn’t sell one cutting board, but I still turned a small profit because of bookmarks. I have now added bookmarks as a regular item to my booth and expanded them into exotic woods and more complex patterns.
My wife had a gaggle of girlfriends over to our house for desert and coffee a few weeks ago. I tend to take the safe approach and disappear to the basement to watch a blood and guts action movie when this happens. However, this time I waited until they were all in the dining room and I walked in and dumped all my latest bookmarks in front of them. In a room full of women, it only takes one to pull the checkbook out and, not to be outdone, the rest will follow. This was a quick way to sell 30 bookmarks and I didn’t even have to set up a tent. Most bought multiples for their kids to give as gifts for their teachers since school was almost out for the summer.
The first ones I made last Christmas were out of maple, cherry, walnut, padauk, and jatoba. I was in Rockler one day on an unrelated mission and noticed that they had a 20% off sale on all their turning squares. I am not a turner and don’t own a lathe, but after browsing the squares the light bulb came on. I picked up some black palm, imbuia, kingwood, and tamboti. These were 1.5” square by 6” and were the perfect size for my glue ups, and less than $20 total. Since then, I have found even better deals on Ebay for olivewood, Oregon myrtle, red palm, and cocobolo.
These are from the Rockler turning squares. On the left is Imbuia with Jotoba, the middle is black palm and zebrawood, and the right one is tamboti and jotoba.
I mostly buy 1.5 to 2” squares, but I have also found some real nice pen blank stock. I can get around 7 bookmarks from 7/8” pen blanks or 14 from 2” squares. I aim for a finished bookmark size of 1.5” x 6”. I glue up the wood with contrasting strips into a block, then cut strips on my bandsaw to about .075”. This leaves me enough meat to thickness sand them on the drum sander to about .065” and a final ROS sanding to remove drum sander marks. My finished target is .06” thick. I dip the bookmarks in General Finishes Arm-R-Seal, drain and wipe off the excess, and set them out to dry. The next day I lightly sand them with 600 grit and dip them again. After the second coat dries, I hit them again with 600 grit and they are done. It sounds like a lot of processes, but I can do about 60 a day without breaking a sweat. You just need to make sure the wood is dry. I did some olivewood one day and the wood apparently had too high a moisture content, so once the oil finish dried, the bookmarks twisted horribly. However, after clamping them between two pieces of wood for a couple of days, they finally straightened out.
My high-tech clamping jig:
Current batch drying after the clear coat. These are cocobolo, birdseye maple, oregon myrtle, olivewood, and some that I cut at 60 degrees and flipped. The birdseye maple ones came from 7/8” square pen blanks. All of these are 1.5”x6”. The cocobolo was just too pretty to add accent pieces.
I use a carrier to move the thin strips through the drum sander
Whether you sell them or just give them as gifts, everyone seems to like wood bookmarks because they are out of the ordinary compared to the run of the mill paper ones.
-- I don't make mistakes, only design changes....www.dgmwoodworks.com