This project was an effort to provide a gift to my groomsmen that was personal and functional without involving hours upon hours of my time (as it was quite limited leading up to the wedding). I decided cuff links may be a easy solution. I was able to make 14 cuff links, or 7 pairs, in about 2 hours (drying time not included).
Tools + Materials required:
-1"x1" stock of wood, 10" long, species of your choosing
-Cuff link backings (I used a 15 or 16mm backing from Amazon.com, you get 20 for like 9 bucks).
-1/2" Roundover Router Bit
-Varying grits of sandpaper (Orbital sander if possible)
-Epoxy or Super Glue
-Wood Burner (optional)
-Wax or polyurethane finish
Step 1: Mill/Router the Wood Stock
I started with a piece of black walnut that was left over from a previous project, I used it because it was a nicer wood than all my other scraps but in retrospect the dark wood acts as a great contrast to a white shirt. This particular piece was already about 1"x1" (give or take- aesthetic projects offer a bit more character when the measurements aren't always precise I think) and about a foot long, I probably only used several inches but a longer piece made the router easier to work with.
After clamping the wood to a sawhorse, I used a 1/2" round over bit on each edge of the stock. This created a pretty decent "Black walnut dowel", the diameter of the dowel at this point was about 19mm (which is about as large as you'd want a cufflink to be). After milling the dowel with the router I sanded it a bit by hand but I don't think this was entirely necessary as their was a bit of tear out that required additional sanding before they were finished.
Step 2: Cut Each Cuff Link Off of the Wood Dowel
I used a radial arm saw with a fine tooth blade to cut each link off the dowel, but I think a nice band saw may have worked better and not been as cumbersome. I also wrapped the dowel in masking tape to minimize tear out (Don't think it worked much), and set up a back stop using scrap wood to ensure more uniform size to each link. I made each cuff link a little more than a 1/4 inch think. This was pretty arbitrary and was based on what I thought would look good without appearing to bulky.
Step 3: Gluing the Links to the Backing
Prior to gluing the hardware to the wood face, I cleaned the back of each bit of wood with a paint thinner to remove any dust/debris. Then, using a low grit sandpaper, I scuffed up the face of the metal backing to improve adherence to the polished metal. Next, using a 2 part clear epoxy, I applied a single drop of adhesive to the back of each wooden link. I used a very minimal amount of epoxy to avoid overflow dripping down the sides of the wood. I then placed the backing on top and let it dry according to the directions on the bottle.
Step 4: Sanding
Grasping the metal backing (the bit that hides under the shirt), I used a random orbital sander at increasingly fine bits to polish the wood face and sides. It doesn't take very long at this point, as the pieces are quite small.
*NOTE: I tried to sand the pieces before attaching the back but the wooden bits were so small that they were impossible to hold and gain any sort of traction on. Having a piece of hardware to use as a handle made the process much easier. I read about a way to 'tumble' small wooden pieces with a tumbling compound but I didn't have a tumbler let alone time to make one.
Step 5: Woodburning and Waxing
Obviously this step is optional and I think they looked pretty great in a modern and simplistic way without it, but as this was a gift for my groomsmen, I wanted to personalize it a bit by adding each of their initials to their corresponding cuff links. Using a 10 dollar woodburner I etched each of their initials in the face of each cuff link. Again, it was easier to do this after the backing is on as it gives you a much easier and safer handle to work with.
After the woodburning of the initials, (one could do a design, numbers, etc.) use a finish of your choice to really make it pop and to protect the wood. I used some Min-Wax to give it a nice satin finish which I think really enhanced the luster of the walnut.
As mentioned earlier, the whole process took about 2 hours. Making more cuff links didn't dramatically increase the amount of time spent on the project (as the orbital sander made quick work of sanding), so I'd recommend making some for your friends if your going to the trouble to make a set for yourself. I think that other woods with different finishes might look equally awesome and could be tailored to fit any occasion so I hope people post pictures if they decide to go a different route!