Introduction: Custom Aluminum Ring

Picture of Custom Aluminum Ring

I wanted a ring that was simple yet unique. I have really small fingers for a guy (size 7) and unfortunately every time I found a nice ring, it was too large. So I decided to make a pair of matching rings (one for me, the other for my girlfriend) out of a solid block of aluminum and the most basic of tools that almost anybody has at their disposal.

Overal Cost: $0.00

Step 1: Cutting Down Your Block

Picture of Cutting Down Your Block

I looked many places for an aluminum block that was small enough to not cost a fortune yet big enough to make a ring out of. After exhausting my options, I decided to ask the machine shop down the street from my house. Three minutes later I left the shop with the perfect block of aluminum -- for free. So as long as you ask the right people, these rings will be completely free (but they are a fair amount of hard work).

So the first thing to do when you get your block is to cut it down into a more manageable size. I used rectangular stock because that was all I had access to; however, round stock would obviously save a lot of time.

Step 2: Initial Shaping

Picture of Initial Shaping

Now that the block was cut down, you essentially have a small cube. Since the goal is a round ring, the corners must be cut off. I eyeballed the size ring I wanted and marked the corners. This way I knew what to cut off and what to leave.

I first tried cutting off the corners using the same hack saw I used to cut the block down; however, holding such a small cube still while cutting with a large saw proved unsuccessful. Next I tried my Dremel with a cut-off wheel; however, it walked entirely too much and the block became way to hot to handle. The method I finally ended up using (and by far the fastest) was to use my X-Acto saws that came with a little miter box setup. The fine teeth of the saws allowed them to cut through the aluminum with ease. I just place the cube in my vice and cut the corners off, rotating as I went.

Step 3: More Shaping

Picture of More Shaping

After cutting off the corners, the block now resembles a stop sign. In order to round off the corners, I used a large file that used to be my grandfather's (we actually have an entire drawer of files). I placed the block in the vice and filed, rotating as a I went to eventually create a round object. Don't rush the rounding shaping stages as they will take a long time, but the reward is worth the effort.

Step 4: Drilling the Rings

Picture of Drilling the Rings

Now we have a fairly round chunk of aluminum that needs to be drilled out so it will fit over somebody's finger. Before it can be drilled however, it needs to be cut in half length-wise to that we get two similarly sized pieces. I wrapped the chunk in masking tape prior to cutting -- I've found this helps to prevent the saw blade from sliding around on a smooth surface. After cutting it in half, I used my class ring as reference and found a drill bit that was just smaller than the ID of my class ring, in my case a 21/32" bit. I wanted something that was slightly smaller so that i could carefully enlarge it later to ensure that the ring would fit.

Using a drill press with the a special vice made for the base of the press, I began to drill out the hole. I used cutting oil to keep the temperature low and reduce the amount of aluminum shavings scattered around. The small holes in the center had another intention in mind (see comments), but they proved to be useful as pilot holes after all. So i would suggest drilling a small hole in the center first prior to drilling the larger hole.

Step 5: Shaping, Shaping, Shaping

Picture of Shaping, Shaping, Shaping

As you could see in the last picture, the chunks that I thought were round were not quite so round. I actually created a lot more work for myself by overestimating the thickness that I wanted for the rings and had to actually do the final shaping process twice...try not to make the same mistake as me. The mistake I made was that i thought the rings should be much thicker than they really should be. In the first couple of pictures, the red marker shows how much I intended to file off, and you can see that the ring would have been massive if I didn't make a second pass later. To ensure that the thickness is uniform all the way around I used a vernier caliper to constantly check the wall thickness.

Step 6: Enlarging the Opening

Picture of Enlarging the Opening

When I drilled out the rings, I intentionally drilled them slightly undersized. My reason for doing so was so that I could carefully enlarge the opening by hand to guarantee that the rings would fit (and that my hard work wasn't for nothing). To enlarge the opening, I searched through my drawer of files and found a round file that fit nicely into the opening (by nicely I mean that it was large enough that it could fit into the ring and file the entire inside uniformly). Then I just held on to the ring and began filing it back and forth, checking every few strokes, until it fit. There was a point when it would just fit over my knuckle, but was still tight, so I carefully and lightly filed it a little more and it was a perfect fit.

Step 7: Shaping, Shaping, Shaping, Get the Idea

Picture of Shaping, Shaping, Shaping, Get the Idea

As I had said, I made the wall thickness entirely too large, so I had to make a second grueling pass to shave off most of the thickness to create a comfortable ring. This took a lot of time and effort as filing by hand is not the most expedient of processes. Sure I could have used a grinder, but I felt like the rings would have more value and meaning if I did as much of it by hand as I could.

As I already mentioned, wielding a large file and monotonously filing for over an hour only to realize you did it wrong lowers both your moral and your strength (its a hell of an upper body workout actually). So for my second (or third...or fourth?) round of shaping, I decided to have the file be stationary and scare the rings along it. As you will notice, I have my fingers wrapped in masking tape...why you ask? Well, as it turns out, filing a tiny object on a course file does have its complications....such as the ring stopping while my hand continues forward and my fingers scrape. After about 10 bad scrapes (its over a month ago I made these rings and my thumb nail still has the gouges in it), I decided I had to do something. I tried gloves but they were too loose at the finger tips and I only ended up filing the fingers off the gloves rather than the aluminum from the ring. I still had the roll of masking tape out so I tried worked amazingly. My fingers would still slip off, but the tape would protect me from getting cut up any further.

Once I got the walls of the ring to a uniform thickness that I liked (checking consistently with the vernier caliper of course), I lad the rings on end and filed the ends flat. Even though it was 3:00AM and I was exhausted, I was so close that I had to finish the rings that day.

Step 8: Finishing

Picture of Finishing

The final step in making the rings was to use a sponge-style sanding block with a medium grid paper to polish up the edges. The filing process left unique indentations in the ring that I found attractive, so I only sanded it lightly to make it smooth. Sand the outside and inside (be careful not to sand too much from the inside or else it maybe not fit correctly anymore). After the sanding was complete, I washed the rings with soap and water, dried it, and put it on my finger.

All in all, I made two of these rings in the course of one day while working on many other things...I'd say maybe 5 hours to make two rings. As I said, the effort is certainly worth the reward of such an original and pretty ring. Feel free to comment or ask any questions about the process of making the rings. Best of luck and enjoy!


chubby8 (author)2015-05-15

This is the aluminium ring I made last night. it has a gems stone inlayed for cutting and shaping gemstones, a high speed dremel with a small diamond covered disk is great. I like to just work by eye and not do any mesuremants really. Luckly it fits my partners little finger really well, any way nice work !

Tobz1122 (author)2011-03-07

Actually, We see aluminium as aluminium oxide, or AlO. Because it is reactive (above zinc and carbon but below magnesium) it will react with the air on its own, and it is very difficult to stop. Fortunately it does not have many bad effects on the aluminium.

chubby8 (author)Tobz11222015-05-15

well when polished and shiny, we do see the "metal", however due to its reactivity it will dull quite quickly if the surface is not sealed or coated. the dulling is fie to the oxidation of the aluminium forming Al2O3

dscholten made it! (author)2015-03-02

Nice! Made mine from a solid aluminum rod and hollowed it out with a tiny Dremel mill... 3 hours of milling but a nice result :) Used leather for the shine

nerd12 (author)2013-01-08

i was trying to make these out of some aluminum i salvaged from a hard drive, but i have only a drill and a coping saw, which will take me only a few years to cut through the aluminum. any suggestions?

curvy77 (author)2012-09-28

wow! thats a huge block of aluminum! you so lucky, i have to make mine from scratch. though my way more fun cause i use fire. (hehe fire, BURN BURN!!) about how long did it actually take u to fashion the rings?

drive-everything (author)2010-11-25

i make my own rings and they are easy. find a bit of aluminum pipe that fits your finger.then i cut it 8mm wide. but it can be thicker or thinner on what you want. then i file the sides with a file then fine sandpaper.then i sand the inside. then the outside.then sand all the corners and make them smooth.then if you want you can shine it. the left ring is shined and the right is not

How did you shine it, and do you know any links for how to anodize aluminum, or copper plate it without cyanide?
Much obliged.

They look great!!

chainsawz (author)2011-01-30

You should anodize it, i plan to make an instructable soon showing how to anodize aluminium at home.....

paqrat (author)chainsawz2011-11-17

I look forward to your instructable on anodizing aluminum at home.

snowluck2345 (author)2011-03-08

hey in step 2 picture 5 is that an lg dare I spot?

j626no (author)snowluck23452011-05-22

Yes, that is an LG Dare. Loved that phone for its high speed video option.

theexpert (author)2011-01-29

nice hole haha

Achan20 (author)2010-11-06

does the ring bend easy?

sarah_ashley4113 (author)Achan202010-11-29

No, It's very strong.

Achan20 (author)sarah_ashley41132010-11-30

thanks :-)

old n grumpy (author)2010-02-18

Aluminum is  very prone to corrosion so I'm curious as to what you will use to prevent any corrosion damage to your rings.

Phade (author)old n grumpy2010-03-12

Aluminum is actually very corrosion resistant.

sarah_ashley4113 (author)Phade2010-03-13

Actually my ring is corroded.  We had sent it to get some coating put on it to prevent this but it did not work.  Right now mine looks completely different than the pictures he has posted.  It has been over a year since he has made these, but my skin does corrode the aluminum. 

cre8ev (author)sarah_ashley41132010-10-10

It is not corrosion it is referred to as oxidation. In order to stop this process you need to either powder coat or anodize the aluminum. Either process is safe for your skin and both processes offer a million different colors.

sarah_ashley4113 (author)cre8ev2010-10-21

It's both. On the inside you can see small holes, and can see how it's changed slightly in ishape.

This probably happened because the powder coating or anodizing came after it started to oxodize
Having worked with aluminum in various forms in a custom metal shop, I can tell you that if it is anodized very soon after its made, then you wont have issues, but if its oxidized already, the oxidization has to be removed completly, probably making your ring too large to wear.

This is why the second (engagement ring) he made it so I was not allowed to wear it, until after the anodizing. Thought it didn't do much difference. It lasted awhile. It's holding up it's shape well though. The first one however, has started to lose it's shape and has become just a tad bit too big for me to wear.

Robotrix (author)2008-10-24

what did your final wall thickness turn out to be in the end? They look pretty hefty, but i bet the aluminum doesn't weigh too much. Very nice looking set in the end! Do you have problems with the finish getting marked very easily?

j626no (author)Robotrix2008-10-24

wall thickness is about 2-2.5 mm. real light. and its weird....aluminum is very reactive, but aluminum oxide prevents it from completely oxidizing. my ring has the same sheen that it's had from day one...maybe even shinier from brushing against clothing and stuff. The weird thing is that my girlfriends ring is almost black, as if it's oxidized. i dont understand why since (to the best of my knowledge) aluminum only oxidizes in the presence of mercury (in any form) and bases. so my thoughts were her shampoo? or maybe just the salts from perspiration. but like i said, i'm not entirely sure.

Oscelot (author)j626no2009-02-19

I work in chainmaille, and my preferred metal is aluminum.. whenever I get my bright aluminum rings in, I clean them by putting them in a bath of lemon juice and sticking them in the fridge for a few hours, being sure to mix them up every once in a while to make sure everything gets clean. Just thought it might be a useful tip. _

j626no (author)Oscelot2009-02-19

Alright...I'll have to give that a try with my girlfriend's ring. Currently we need to clean it every other week because it gets so black. Do you know of anything I could coat it in to prevent this from happing?

paqrat (author)j626no2010-09-08

I've used clear fingernail polish to mask off the inside of certain metals. I am really surprised to hear that her aluminum ring is turning black. That sounds a lot more like some other metals. My understanding, perhaps mistaken, is that aluminum oxidizes, forming a coating that prevents further oxidazation. This oxide coating is, for the most part, clear. The ring should look a bit like pewter after it has oxided for awhile but black sounds llike something else is going on. Hope this helps.

Black Cat (author)j626no2009-04-10

happens to me too with an ali ring i got once in singapore. has something to do with acid levels in someones skin i think...or something along those lines anyway...DO NO laquer it watever u do. that just makes it go black un-uniformly as the laquer wears and harder to clean n such...

j626no (author)Black Cat2009-04-10

Thanks for the advice...I actually contacted an industrial metal coating company and got them to clear anodize the rings as a "trial" batch. haven't turned black since, hardly noticeable (the anodizing that is)

Shadowfury (author)j626no2009-02-19

Well, mercury and gallium. Oxidizing acids have a way of oxidizing aluminium as well.

Women have a lower skin surface Ph level than men. I made my own ring too, except I have a lathe ;-)

leed (author)2010-07-25

If you're wanting to prevent your skin from corroding the aluminum, you can paint nail-polish around the inside (thin layers for good results) and it should help. This is also a common trick for people who are allergic to nickle but want to wear it anyways. The other, option, of course, is anodizing, but for such small items is not quite worth the amount that it will cost. The aesthetics on the outer surface will wear quite fast, too, with aluminum.

sarah_ashley4113 (author)leed2010-07-25

Well it's not as much as the inside as it is the outside. Though I have just recently cleaned it and put clear nail polish on it. Hoping this will stop it.

dansan101 (author)2010-02-18

 Great work, do you think it would be easier to make from a piece of aluminium pipe?

Rufda Camen (author)2010-02-18

Very pretty work, but it is a time of time and of resources (aluminum thrown to the garbage and without recycling ...: () for that you did not do it with a piece of pipe since they come in all kinds of size and thickness?


P.D.: sorry for my English...

Patented (author)2009-12-16

Nice ! I like plain rings!

NetReaper (author)2009-12-12

seems like you could just start with an aluminum tube

Kaiven (author)2009-10-05

Those look really nice! But I think it would be easier to build a forge and make some molds for multiple rings cast out of aluminium :P

j626no (author)Kaiven2009-10-05

that is true, but I liked that it was actually crafted from my own two hands. I made another one since that i actually used my dremel with a polishing wheel and it gave it a perfectly smooth mirror finish. it was a gorgeous ring -- looked like a wedding band and only took 3 hours to make.

craftxxchick (author)j626no2009-10-08

that's really sweet. was the wedding band for your girlfriend?

Kaiven (author)j626no2009-10-05

Nice. I might look into doing one of these! (I want to build a forge first :D)

Nautilus34 (author)2009-04-25

i've taken on way too many tasks lately...but i love this idea. i just collected a bunch of over-sized aluminum rings from some old hard drives (another instructable) they fit my thumb, but i want to find a way to bring it down a few sizes. any ideas?

xproplayer (author)2009-04-04

sp what are the right words and people to say them to to get a block of aluminum?

j626no (author)xproplayer2009-04-05

i just went to a local mechanic and asked if they had a small block of aluminum lying around....if you are friendly enough, you can usually get a small "scrap" piece for free

wats-a-username (author)2008-11-25

no man ur not alone in thinking that

sarah_ashley4113 (author)2008-10-26

Need I say more? =D

Scammah (author)2008-10-24

This reminds me of making rings out of quarters. Great job.

Hands Without Shadows (author)2008-10-24

Using your tools I would have drilled the hole first and cut around it. That way you end up with a centered hole and its easy to keep the wall thickness consistant.

About This Instructable




Bio: I am a senior this year at Drexel University in Philadelphia, PA. I expect to graduate with a degree in Mechanical Engineering in ... More »
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