Introduction: Steel Nut to Signet Ring
I have always liked wearing rings but as I spend most of my day in a workshop I know that I will destroy a precious metal ring, also they cost a fortune. So the simple solution is to make a hard-wearing ring from stainless steel. After messing with the idea for a while the ideal supply of such metal are the large nuts that occupy the corners of most workshops. Also if you are going to make a ring why not make a signet seeing as the face is already present on the nut?
This project started with looking around at some others who have made signet rings from nuts such as the one done by Nathan Sanders (https://www.instructables.com/id/Signet-Ring-From-...
I originally wanted to test out polishing metal to a mirror shine using my new Dremel but once I had it done I felt it was missing that special something that makes a signet ring so interesting, The Crest! So after my first version I started playing around with electro etching and seeing how it all comes out.
This Instructable looks at first making a mirror finish Signet ring and then how to etch an symbol. To make the ring only takes a morning with an angle grinder and sandpaper so it really is a quick project and to do the etching also only takes a couple hours to complete. So for half a days effort you can up-cycle a spare stainless steel nut into a one-of-a-kind ring to impress your friends.
Step 1: Tools and Materials
Everything needed to make your ring should already be available in your workshop and nothing too special is needed. One thing to be aware of is that you are using power tools so care should be taken to always wear safety glasses and ear protection as you spend a good amount of time with the angle grinder.
Materials that you need for the ring:
- Stainless steel nut in the desired size, I used M16 nuts.
- Sand paper in various grits, (220 up to 1200 for a mirror finish).
- Angle grinder cutting blade.
- Angle grinder flap disk, this saves some time on the first round of sanding.
- Safety glasses, gloves and ear protection.
- First Aid kit, you should always have one in the workshop somewhere.
- Polishing compound.
Tools you need for the ring:
- Angle Grinder
- Dremel with bits for clearing metal and polishing.
- Half a day to do everything.
For the etching steps you need:
- A small 12V 0.5A Power supply (think of toy trains and such).
- Small jar or beaker.
- Sticky Tape.
- Sharp craft knife
- Salt water.
- Some wire.
Step 2: Initial Shaping
So here we turn our nut into a rough signet ring shape. Before starting this you should have a good idea of what you want your ring to look like as once you have taken metal off you can't put it back. I wanted a ring that has a clear face with a thin band, I find having a thin band is more comfortable to wear.
If you want to etch a symbol into the face of the ring I would suggest doing it first before shaping the ring, as you have a couple chances to get your etch right on a nut while you only get one chance on your finished ring. Also play around with doing the etch as I messed up a few times before I was happy with the final product. So skip to the etching step and check it out quick.
To shape the ring you do a stock removal from the nut. This involves grinding down the edges, metal removal from the band and removing the threading so it fits your finger. When cutting the ring have some water handy as it heats up fast. When I made my ring I drilled out the thread with a bit slightly smaller than my finger but you can do it just as easily with a Dremel later on.
So as a pictures worth a thousand words you can see my steps in the collage.
- Decide which side it going to be the face of your ring and colour it in so it's easy to tell as you work.
- Cut away material using a cutting disk starting from the top and bottom of the face towards the band.
- Cut awake the corners so you get a round ring.
- Grind down the band as it leave the rings face until you get a shape you are happy with.
- Leave some excess material as more material will still be removed during sanding.
- Use a dremel to remove the threading and make the ring fit onto your desired finger.
Step 3: Sanding and Polishing
Here you take your rough ring and turn it into something refined.
For the first set of sanding I used a flap disk with a 220 grit to get the shape more or less fixed before doing hand sanding with wet sand paper. Use a flat backing or piece of wood when you sand the face so that you don't round the edges and you keep a flat face. When sanding the inside of the ring a piece of piping that fits inside helps a lot.
I used 220, 400, 800, and 1200 grit sand papers. After 400 grit sanding the ring had a cool brushed steel look. At 800 grit it had the beginning of the mirror finish but you still can see the scratches from the sanding. At 1200 grit the face is really mirrored and the scratches are hard to see. After 1200 grit I used my dremel with some polishing compound to get to a near perfect mirror surface.
Step 4: Electro Etching the Face
Part of what makes a signet ring so special is the ability to stamp your wax seal onto letters and gifts. The simplest method of getting this in place is to selectively etch the symbol of choice into the face. I would recommend doing this before you grind your ring into shape as you can have a couple dud batches.
To etch the face what you do is cover the ring in an insulating layer then expose the pattern you want to an electric current in a salt solution so that the exposed metal is "eaten away".
You can see how Pricklysauce does etching in his Instructable and video on etch at: https://www.instructables.com/id/Branding-Nails . The first time I tried doing the etch I used black insulation tape and a cotton bud to etch the surface but I found the ring warmed up and the tape shifted messing up the pattern. Next I tried sticky tape and suspending the ring in the solution and I found it works perfectly as you can check on the etch as you go (no oxide collects blocking the view) and you don't have to hold it.
So the Steps to etch are as follows:
- Come up with your design. Make it quite thin as it will get fatter as the etch goes deeper.
- Sand the face of the ring so it is smooth and make sure it is clean and free from oil or dirt.
- Draw the pattern onto the face with a pen.
- Cover in sticky tape.
- Cut out the pattern carefully.
- Set up the circuit. Using a 12V 0.5A power supply connect the ring to the positive terminal and the negative to the salt solution.
- Make sure the rest of your ring is wrapped up tightly so no other areas are etched, I use insulation tape for this.
- Suspend the ring in the solution. You should see bubbles coming of the negative terminal in the solution, if they come from your ring you have the poles connected the wrong way.
- Leave the ring to etch for about 20 minutes, the higher the amps on your power supply the faster it will etch so check on it every couple minutes. You can pull out the ring and check on the etch to see how deep it is.
- Once you are happy with it turn the power supply off and clean up your now etched ring/nut.
- Get some sealing wax and see how it looks.
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