I've intended to do a miniature version of my glowing mushroom night light for a long time. Life kept getting in the way.
Finally, a ring contest gave me an excuse to spend a few hours working on a project late at night (while the kids were asleep and I was too groggy to focus on all the paperwork I need to finish). I haven't created anything for fun in a long time.
Materials I used:
Maple burl with some bark attached
A finger light (containing an LED and three tiny batteries)
Clay softener & liquid polymer clay
Strontium Aluminate glow powder
Step 1: Cut the Wood
I had a few different sketches of wood with mushrooms growing out of it in a ring, but I decided it was best to find a piece with bark attached. That would make the carving much less intensive. A place near us had a nice chunk of maple burl for really cheap, and the bark was firmly attached. There were other types of wood with interesting patterns, but the bark was flakier and less likely to stay intact through the ring making process.
I used a bandsaw to cut the slice of wood, then traced a ring that fit my finger to get the rough shape of the circle.
I soaked the bark with superglue before cutting, in order to prevent it from falling off the wood.
Please use safety precautions if you use a bandsaw, and keep your fingers far away from the cutting blade.
Step 2: Drill Holes
I used a forstner bit to drill the center hole in the ring. Burl can be weak in certain areas, so go slowly here. If you press too hard with the drill bit, the friction might heat up the wood enough to cause stress cracks.
Step 3: Choose Glow Stuff
I needed to choose between a white and a blue finger light, so I grabbed one of our vials of glow powder, which happened to be green. The blue light left a brighter glow in the powder than the white light, so I opted to use that LED for my ring.
I decided to also use blue glow powder with the blue LED.
I carefully pried open the finger light to get the batteries and LED out, also salvaging a scrap of metal to help connect the batteries in the ring (as you'll see in step 6).
Step 4: Carve Shape
Carving the outside shape of the ring is fun. I just used a couple different dremel bits to carve a freeform abstract shape in the top of the ring.
The inside cavity was a pain. I didn't want to cut the ring into more than one piece of wood, so I had to work at an angle, drilling a divet at first, then using a carving tip to hollow out enough space to fit the LED and batteries. I could've made the thing deeper to completely obscure the batteries, but that would've taken a whole lot more fussing than I cared to do, and the batteries aren't visible when I wear the ring.
Step 5: Drill Mushroom Holes
I used a small drill bit to drill holes in the top of the ring to mark where the mushrooms will go. I needed the light from the LED to shine through some translucent clay and hit the glow powder to really light it up.
I also sanded down the LED to make it fit in the hollow a bit better, and to diffuse the light.
Step 6: Fit the Insides
Do not bake batteries. That's dangerous.
I made a cylinder the size of the three batteries out of scrap polymer clay. I then filled the cavity of the ring with some translucent polymer clay. I bent the wires of the LED around the battery-sized cylinder so it would be able to make contact with the terminals, then baked the ring at 250 degrees F for about 15 minutes. I carefully pried out the cylinder of clay, then put the batteries in to make sure it lit up. One of the LED wires wasn't making very good contact, so I slipped in a small piece of metal I'd snipped from the original finger light, making sure it firmly touched the battery and the wire from the LED, then secured the edges of that with more clay before baking it again (without batteries).
If I were making this ring for someone other than me, I'd have added an actual switch and covered the batteries. For personal use, though, I just pry the batteries out when I'm done wearing the ring.
Step 7: Finish the Wood
I found one of our smoother dremel bits and got rid of the deeper scratches from carving the ring. I used sandpaper and then micromesh sanding pads on the main part of the ring. Nice wood like burl deserves high grit sandpaper.
I rubbed on a little shellac to bring out the natural sheen of the wood.
Step 8: Add the Mushrooms
Liquid polymer clay makes this part much easier. So do baby wipes. Surfaces should be clean when you're working with polymer clay (it picks up dust you can't see until it's covered in gray), and the water from the baby wipes helps keep it from sticking to surfaces and tools.
I squeezed a tiny drop of liquid clay into each of the holes in the ring. That allows the clay mushrooms to adhere much more easily, and helps them stay in place on the ring in case it gets bumped while you wear it.
I used blue strontium aluminate glow powder and translucent polymer clay for the glowing parts of the mushroom. A drop of clay softener made it easier to mix in the glow powder. At first I layered some other colors with the glowing translucent clay to make tan colored mushrooms, but I then decided I preferred bluish, unnatural looking mushrooms.
I layered some mica shift green and aqua polymer clay with the translucent clay, added some blue pigment, and flattened it to make striations. That was probably unnecessary, since the striations are really too small to see, especially with all the glow powder. I used Josh's UV flashlight to make sure the translucent clay had enough glow powder for my liking.
I made the mushrooms by rolling out a thin log of clay, cutting a short cylinder, then using a thin tool to make a pinched hourglass shape in the short cylinder. Then, I cut the hourglass at the thin part and used each half to make a mushroom. The flat, wide part of the cone became the top of the mushroom, and the point became the tapered growth underneath. I used a small ball tipped tool to make small creases in the stem part of the mushroom where it attaches to the bark. Eventually, I had to use some clay to prop up the ring while adding mushrooms, so I wouldn't crush the ones I'd already attached.
I wedged the ring into the oven upright using some foil to keep the mushrooms from being smooshed, then baked it at 275 degrees F for 20 minutes.
It might not be practical for everyday use, and I have to take it off to wash my hands, but I like having an offbeat accessory to remind me that no matter what else is going on, life can still have fun and silly moments. Thanks for reading!