People near and dear to me really like wearing earrings that are made from feathers. I think feathers are very pretty, but so is wood. This Instructable combines two of life's pleasures into one wearable beautiful item - wooden feather earrings.
The earrings are made from laminated veneers of maple, walnut and paduk. Vector based illustrations of feathers that I found online were modified and then sent to a laser cutter. The laser cutter then cuts the earring out of the wood veneer sheet. Mount the wood to some earring hooks and Bob's your uncle.
The earrings are lightweight for their size because the veneer is so thin, of course, they are not quite as light as feathers.
Step 1: Acquire Wood Veneer
Acquire wood veneers in varieties of your choosing. Macbeath Hardwood in Berkeley sells a wide range of 1 sq. ft. veneers very cheaply at the front desk. These small pieces of veneer are perfect for small projects like this when you don't want to spend money on a whole sheet.
There are many sources of veneer online and at other local plywood and lumber retailers. The main thing to remember is to buy thin, paper-backed veneers. Try to stay away from a phenolic backed veneer since it will show more of black line on it's edge.
Step 2: Glue Veneer Together
Cut sheets in half using an exacto knife. Spread a thin and even coat of wood glue on the back of the two piece of veneer.
Sandwich the veneer together, wood facing out, and clamp together for 1 hour between two pieces of plywood.
Step 3: Sand Smooth
Using a 180 grit and then 220 grit sand paper, sand the sheets of veneer smooth. The layer of wood on the veneer is usually very thin - be careful not to sand too much.
Step 4: Prep Files
I found vector images of feathers online just by doing some quick searching. As usual, most of the best stuff has a download fee. With a little bit of digging I was able to find a free .eps file that I liked.
Using a program like Illustrator or Inkscape draw a small hole in the end of the feather that you are going to laser cut. The hardware that turns a wood feather into an earring attaches there.
Step 5: Painters Tape for Protection
Some lasers can leave a marks on the top and bottom surfaces of the cut material. To be sure the wood won't get any stains or marks from the cut, cover the wood veneer on both sides with blue painters tape.
Step 6: Laser Cut
Make some test cuts on the laser to dial in your settings and cut away. I'm using a Full Spectrum Laser laser cutter below to make the cut. It's got a few alignment issues but it gets the job done. Settings vary on a case by case basis with this machine. Since the veneer is pretty thin stuff, you should be able to cut at a pretty high speed and at a reasonable power setting.
Pay two seconds of attention to the orientation of the grain in your sheets of veneer when you place it into the laser cutter. The stiffness and strength of the earring is directly related to the direction that the wood grain is running in the earring. One option would be to glue the two pieces of veneer together in step 2 with opposing grain directions, that way, no matter which way you put the veneer into the laser cutter it would have equal strength.
Step 7: Remove Tape
Peel off the tape to reveal the wood cut out.
Step 8: Apply Finish
I applied a quick coat of wipe on, wipe off gel varnish called Good Stuff. It results in a low key satin finish, while still managing to bring out some of the luster of these beautiful woods.
Step 9: Hardware
There are all different kinds of earring hardware out there. I picked up an assortment of brass, copper and silver earring hooks and jump rings from my local bead shop and matched different hooks to the different varieties of wood depending on what looked best.
Step 10: Enjoy
These earrings were given as a gift to my sister Emily, known on the site as SuperLefty
, creator of the Mega Pop Pop
She's been wearing feather earrings for years. Hopefully she'll enjoy wearing these just as much as I enjoyed making them.