Since I moved and my new shop is small, I decided to work on some small projects. I chose to work on a ring box to have one on hand when it became time to propose to my girlfriend. I wanted to use some techniques that I heard/read about a long time ago, so I decided that the box needed to be round. Like a ring.
Making a cylinder
I started off with a 2×2x12 block of Bloodwood. Just because I liked the color.
A friend of mine had told me a long time ago that I could use my router as a precision lathe. There are some jigs and special tools to consider on the market. Since this would be a one-off item, so I was looking for something easier. I remember my friend told me that I could do it with circles attached to the block of wood.
A Google search gave me enough info to start. I needed circles to attach to the ends of my block. While at the local craft store with my girlfriend, I found 3” circles made from thin plywood stock. I would have preferred thicker, but beggars can’t be choosers.
I did my best to find the center of the circle and the center of the block. Finding the exact middle isn’t critical. If you are too far off, it could cause problems. I drilled a large pilot hole as not to put too much pressure on the wood and attached the plywood circles with 1 ¼” drywall screws and hot glue (to keep the circles from turning).
I used a ¾” bottom-clearing router bit in my router table. The depth was set to just clip the corners.
The instructions I found for turning say to slide the piece back and forth and then turn the piece a little and slid it again. Sounded like a good way to get a multi-sided piece instead of a smooth cylinder. I turned the piece completely and then slid it down a little and turned it again. I had a stop block on the left that put the bit near the opposite end of the block and each time I moved the piece, I put a ½” block between the piece and the stop block. This allowed the router to push the piece against the stop block so I could concentrate on turning the piece. When I got a bit over half-way, I flipped the piece over and removed the ½” pieces and repeated it from the other end. I then raised the router by 1/16” (making the cylinder an ⅛” thinner in diameter). When I got near the end, I raised the router 1/64 at a time.
When I thought that I was finished, I found that the cylinder was thicker in the middle. After reviewing my setup, I found that my router lift had settled out of alignment from the router table. I re-aligned it and re-did the final cuts. I ended up with a cylinder that was 1 ¾” in diameter. Perfect.
Here’s a photo at this point.
I removed the plywood circles and cut off the square ends. I then spent some time hand sanding out the machine marks. There were a couple small chips near one end (the nice end, of course), so it took me three times as long as it would have.
I then cut the piece in two so I could have a practice piece and a final piece. I will only talk about the final piece from here on out.
Going back to the router table and moving the fence to put the bit towards the middle of the cylinder I cut a shoulder ⅛” deep 1 inch from one end. I should have used a smaller bottom clearing bit to let the grain flow better between the two pieces. I then cut the piece in half at one end of the shoulder.
Once separated, I drilled a 1½” hole it the top and a 1¼” hole in the bottom to about ¼” from going all the way through. In the bottom, I drilled a ⅜” hole through the bottom for the dowel assembly. The hole in the top had to be perfectly centered. I was close. I had to do some major sanding to line the sides up and the little maple plug insert at the seam is to keep the pieces properly aligned. I already have a better technique in mind for next time that will give me better results (at least I won’t have to do all that sanding) and more flexibility in the shape of the joint and to make it easier to sand the shoulder.
I attached curly maple on the ends and using an edge trimming bit shaped the ends to the cylinder. I then used a round-over bit on the top.
The dowel assembly is a ⅜” maple dowel base inset with a 3/16” dowel finger to hold the ring. In this piece I cut a slot and a notch for the ring similar to a clothespin.
I’m a relatively new woodworker, so I’m still learning about finishes. I did one layer of polyurethane (if I remember correctly) and it came out very rough and I didn’t like it at all. I sanded it smooth again and left it. Next time, I will try Boiled Linseed Oil.
I lined the top and bottom with some black fabric and then added the dowel assembly. Now it hides in a sock in my drawer until I get a ring.
-- Measure it with a micrometer, mark it with chalk, cut it with an axe.