Introduction: Wooden Earrings (with Minimal Tools!)
Salutations, fellow robots! This is a pair of "inlaid" earrings I made for my woman for our two-year anniversary. As these were made from spare wood I had lying around in the garage and I'm not good with identifying woods, I'm not completely sure what wood I used. I believe the darker outside wood is oak, and the lighter inside one may be either spruce or pine. If anyone can identify these and tell me what I used, I would be forever grateful.
These are the first earrings I've ever made, so I am quite happy with the results. There are also a bunch of failed attempts before these were completed, but I shan't waste your time with those. If anybody happens to be interested, I shall post them on my website, CreationsOfMyMind.com, hopefully sometime in the near future. Classes take too much time!
Step 1: Design
I took a bunch of time to decide what shape I wanted these to have. The picture shows some of the final shapes I was choosing from. Ultimately, I decided to make the teardrop shape purely for aesthetic reasons. Now let's get making!
Step 2: Make the Negative, or "Female" Piece
Since I was not trained in the proper terminology for woodworking or anything, really, I shall be naming stuff with my own terms. This part shall be named the female part, cool!
I began by drilling a hole in a small piece of 1/2" oak with my dad's old half-working drill. After widening it by torquing the drill around, I used a small round and half round file to remove the rest of the middle hole thing. Files are quickly becoming my favorite tools. They force me to work slowly so that I don't rush around and kill my project, yet they're STILL SO USEFUL. Anyway...
Step 3: Make the Positive, or "Male" Piece
This is the male piece, made from a small block of pine or spruce or whatever. I'll call it pine from now on. I wanted the end grain to show in the middle of the earrings because you can see a nice contrast of colors in the end grain.
I started by tracing the hole from the female piece onto the end of the pine with my trusty two-ended Sharpie. Then I used a hacksaw (because I do not own a proper wood saw) to carefully cut closely to the sketch. The cut has to be a little deeper than the width of the female piece so that there is some overhanging when I stuff the it into the female. I used my handy little puny vise to regulate how far I cut.
To get the shape to round out nicely, I cut off the corners and then shaped the rest with files. Files are the best! For now, until I acquire a bandsaw or something.
Step 4: Fit the Male and Female
The male was still a tad too big and the female a tad too small, so I fitted them together by filing a little bit from both and trying to fit them together. It worked eventually!
Once they fit snugly, I covered the sides of the male piece with wood glue, fit the pieces together, and left it. After a nice long cure time, I cut off the excess parts of the male piece hanging over the faces of the female. Very nice!
Step 5: One Becomes Two
Since the now-joined single piece was a half-inch deep, which I thought was way too big to make an earring, cutting it in half would do nicely. I found the halfway point and made as straight a cut as I could muster. I think it turned out pretty goodly.
The way I cut it (clamped in the vise) forced me to cut from two directions, which resulted in a line where the cuts don't quite join too well. Because I'm not a robot. To get rid of that and smooth out the surface, I taped a piece of 60 grit sandpaper to a table and scrubbed the two pieces against it. The surface of the table ensures that the pieces end up being flat. Smart, right?
Step 6: Cutting the Final Shape
I ran into a hiccup here. Honestly, I hadn't expected to get this far with this method, so I hadn't planned this far. Luckily, I saw somewhere a trick where you glue the pieces back together in a certain way so that cutting the final shape gets rid of all the glue. That's what I did here.
Since the corners would get cut off, I glued the pieces together by the corners. I used my highest-precision tool (my index finger) to get the smallest dollop of glue possible on the corners. Then comes another night of curing!
Once the glue is nice and set, I used the nice and worn out hacksaw to cut along the lines I drew. Same concept as cutting out the male piece. At this point the pieces looked super ugly and slightly off center, so I used the sandpaper on the table to shape them again so that they looked nice.
Step 7: Final Shaping, Finishing, and Setting Hooks
These final steps all happened in one day of work, and kind of intertwined, so the only way I'm okay with describing them is all together; here we go!
Armed with the opinions of my roommates and others, I shaped the front face of the earrings by rounding the sharp edges off with a half round file. Not too much to do here, just slowly and carefully eyeing the two pieces to make they stay symmetrical.
This is when I began thinking about how the hooks that I bought would attach to the pendants. This is also when I made the dumb mistake to drill holes into the faces of the pendants. To cover up the tragic eyesore, I sanded down some brass rod by holding it in the electric drill and holding it against sandpaper and running the drill. I then stuffed them into the holes and sanded them down flush with the face. The girlfriend actually liked how it looked, so I got pretty lucky with this one.
Next, I used some craft wire that my roommate's woman let me use. Eternally grateful, unnamed roommate's woman! I created some small loops with a pair of needle-nosed pliers for the hooks to connect to.
For the wire loops to insert into the earrings, I needed to drill small holes at the top of the teardrop shape. I had to be careful not to create another set of eyesores, so I filed the top edge flat first. After that, a quick drilling job finished the shape of the pendants.
To finish the wood surface, I sanded with progressively finer grits of sandpaper. I used 220, 400, 600, 1000 and 2200. The surface of the pendants felt amazingly smooth to touch after that. The finishing agent I used was Howard's natural colored paste wax. It smells like citrus and a crisp fall day. After a thorough buff with some crappy Kirkland boxer briefs that I don't wear anymore because they give me constant wedgies, finishing is done. WE'RE ON THE HOME STRETCH.
Remember those holes I drilled at the top? I had to use some wire to scrape out some residual wax from inside the holes before fitting the loops in. I was paranoid about how my method would work, so I tested multiple times on a scrap piece of wood. It turns out that the loops fit in there pretty snugly, so I stuffed the loops in with a drop of super glue. I also found that the loops could keep a considerable amount of shear stress before pulling out of the holes; I actually bent the hooks connected to them before they pulled out. The super glue was just as a safeguard.
Step 8: Thoughts, Aftermath and Mess-Ups
1. I think this turned out well for the amount of firsts this project entails for me. First time doing a fake inlay, first time making earrings, first time forcing myself to slow down and work carefully... I think that last one definitely helped this turn out well.
2. I messed up on how the male piece fit into the female piece in the back of one earring. It didn't fit perfectly, so there's a shallow crevice where the glue didn't quite fill in. Good thing I could choose which side is the front or back!
3. I want more files. They're becoming an addiction. They're just so versatile! Working with files is pretty therapeutic for me. But I'm a tool geek so disregard me.
4. The box was a modification to a template I found online; I'd be happy to link anybody who's interested. Just drawn onto graph paper and cut out of the roommate's cardstock.
5. Above all, the important thing is that she liked them. Or at least that's what she told me...
Thanks for looking, wonderful people!