Introduction: Layered Wood Earrings
Finalist in the
Holiday Gifts Challenge
How to make wood earrings using under 20 dollars in materials and some basic woodworking tools. This project is fun and doesn't require a high degree of woodworking experience. If you can use a drill and sandpaper, you're good to go.
This project does, however, take some time. The key considerations are: Gluing - minimum 24 hours. Sanding - 3-5 hours. Finishing - if using oil, several days.
You will get the best results if you work patiently, particularly with the sanding. I spread it out over many days.
DISCLAIMER: Power tools are dangerous. If you haven't used a drill before, please ask someone knowledgeable to help you. Wear appropriate safety gear. I am not responsible for any injury or damage you incur while working on this project.
Still interested? Read on!
Step 1: 1.) Materials and Tools
These are the materials and tools I used. You can find more information about them in the other steps. I encourage you to try different wood types and/or jewelry fitting finishes (gold, silver, etc.).
- Glasses: Protect your sight. A pair of sunglasses is better than nothing, but I recommend something impact resistant (look for the "ANSI Z87" rating on the lens).
- Mask: A cheap dust mask works, but I recommend a dedicated sanding mask - these have a thicker filter, stiffer shape, and an exhale valve. They also last longer than the flimsy type and cost less than $4.
- Leather glove: Used for step 5.
- 24 x 3 x 1/8th inch piece of Cherry and Bubinga (one each): $7 each at Woodcraft.
- Wire and Ear Hooks: I used 20 gauge hematite coated wire and matching hooks which cost $5-8 at Michaels (most craft stores should have them). NOTE: Some people are allergic to common jewelry metals like nickel and gold. If the wearer is, look into "hypo allergenic surgical steel" earring hooks and wire.
- Wood Oil Finish: I used Watco Rejuvenating oil. I know it's for "rejuvenating," but I figure it's similar to any other oil finish.
- Glue: Any regular woodworking glue works. If you haven't used a your glue in a while, or stored it outside during winter, get a new bottle. Do not use "quick tack/setting".
- Wood saw and miter box
- Drill: I used a hand drill and got accurate results. A drill press may be used, but it's not necessary.
- Cheap hole-saw drill attachment: Use the type that has various cutting rings (see picture). It should be able to accept two cutting rings simultaneously. You could use two separate hole-saws, but it may be more challenging.
- 6 inch clamp: For layering wood. I only had one, and it worked fine, but there's no harm in using more.
- Brush: For glue application.
- Needlenose/ fishing pliers: For bending the earring wire.
- Various grit sandpapers. I used 100, 150, 200, and 320, because that's what I had.
Step 2: 2.) Cut Wood Pieces
First sand the wood lightly with 100 grit to prepare the surface for gluing.
I had two pieces of 24x3 inch 1/8th inch thick wood. Each was cut into eight 3x3 inch squares. Stacked together, they made a block 2 inches high. Plenty of wood for this project and a good material for future designs (matching pendant, cuff links, buttons, etc.). Your size may vary, just make sure you have enough excess wood to hold when drilling and sawing.
After cutting the wood, sand the rough edges.
The accuracy isn't that important for this step. The pieces will shift around when glued.
Step 3: 3.) Layer and Glue Wood Slices
I didn't take many pictures during this step. It should be done relatively quickly, as you don't want the glue to set before clamping.
Before you start gluing, set up the clamp. I cut two pieces of 1/2 inch plywood for each end, so that the pressure was applied evenly. Use newspaper to prevent the layered wood from sticking to the plywood end-blocks.
Gluing is fairly simple. Just apply glue liberally to one surface with a brush and place the next piece on top. Twist it around a little to spread the glue more. IMPORTANT: Make sure you align the grain the same way and alternate the wood-type. It's easy to mess up when everything is covered in glue.
More glue is better than less - it should squeeze out when you clamp.
Once all the pieces are glued together, place newspaper and clamp blocks on either side, and clamp as tightly as possible. Watch the stack for a few minutes as the pressure may push the pieces out of alignment.
Wait at least 24 hours before removing the clamp(s). An extra day or two wouldn't hurt.
Step 4: 4.) Cut Blanks From Layered Block
Before cutting the blanks, you need to cut the perpendicular surface flat so it will press firmly against the miter block. Then cut two blanks about 3/8ths of an inch thick (once cut out, the rings are easy to sand down to equal thickness).
You can test the strength of your layer block by taking the scrap cut-off and breaking it parallel to the grain. With a proper gluing, the joint should be stronger than the surrounding wood: The scrap should crack on the wood, not at the glue joint.
Step 5: 5.) Drill Rings Out of Blank
This is the most difficult, important, and dangerous step. Here are some tips:
- Wear eye protection at all times. I also wear a mask.
- Before drilling into the blanks, practice on some scrap wood.
- Hole-saws are prone to catching. For this reason, I chose to hold the blank down on a piece of wood (wearing a leather glove) rather than clamping it. This allows the blank to move when the hole-saw catches, instead of twisting the drill around.
- Go slow. Don't drill at high speeds (for safety - the saw WILL catch), and don't press hard (it will stress the cutting rings and drill motor).
- Drill from both sides of the blank when using the hole-saw. This prevents grain breakthrough.
Again, be safe. If you're not comfortable with this step, please ask someone to help.
Step 6: 6.) Sanding, Sanding, and More Sanding
Now that you have your rough rings, you need to shape and smooth them. This takes a lot of time and patience. I did all the sanding by hand, but you could use a dremel tool speed up the process. I suggest wearing a dust mask during this step.
I used 100 grit sandpaper for most of the shaping. Don't move onto a finer grit until the entire surface has been thoroughly sanded. Once you're satisfied with the surface, you can move onto 150, 200, and finer grit sandpapers. Again, make sure you've fully sanded every part with a particular grit before moving on, otherwise you will be left with scratches. Patience is key.
If you want to drill a hole in the ring for wire, do so after shaping. To keep the drill bit from walking around, make an indentation before drilling. I use a small wire nail (with the head clipped off) mounted in the drill to do this.
Step 7: 7.) Finishing
Depending on what finish you want to use, you should do the final sanding with different grits. Polyurethane cans usually instruct to sand no finer than 220 grit. If you plan on using and oil finish, you can sand down to 320.
Clean the sawdust off the rings with clean cloth. Follow instructions on the finish can.
Make sure you work in a clean, dust free environment.
I tested several finishes on the wood scraps and decided on the oil finish. Apply oil with a clean cloth (old cotton shirts work well), and wait a day. Then apply some more. The wood will continue to absorb it, and you will be left with a light, protective finish.
Depending on which finish and solvent you use, the application cloth may be susceptible to spontaneous ignition. Read the safety warnings and instructions on the cans.
Step 8: 8.) Wiring
I didn't know much about jewelry making before this project (and I still don't), but it's pretty simple to figure out. There are plenty of YouTube videos showing different ways to wire pendants and beads to earring-hooks. I ended up re-wiring the rings a few times before I got it right.
Length is kind of tricky and can depend on wearer preferences. Experiment. If you're giving them as a gift, ask a friend to try them on to see if they dangle the right amount, hang correctly, etc.
And you're done!
Thanks for reading! If you have any questions or suggestions on how I can improve this instructable, please comment and I'll get back to you as soon as I can.
Shout out to my sister, for editing, and my lady-friend, for being awesome.
Korber made it!
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