Introduction: Turk's Head Engagement Ring

About: I've been a software developer my whole life, studied computer science with a focus on 3D graphics in college, was an effects artist for Dreamworks Animation and have taught technology to kids and adults here…

When I decided to ask my wife to marry me, I started looking for the perfect ring. My sister pointed me to The rings featured there are Turk's head knots made by Loren Damewood. They are beautiful but I wanted a ring with a diamond. I really liked the Turk's head idea, though, as knot tying is a hobby of mine. It occurred to me, that I could make the ring and that would make it all the more special. My knot hobby at that point consisted mostly of writing programs to generate instructions for how to tie knots, rather than actually tying them, but I had tied a few, so I gave it a shot. After many months of learning and experimenting, I was able to create the ring above. In this instructable, I'll go through the steps that I took to make it! I want to stress that I'm not a jeweler, and this is the only real piece of jewelry that I've made by hand. You could count the 20 or so practice rings that I made while I was figuring how I wanted the ring to look, but if you're going to tackle this project, I think you're going to have to do the same. It definitely takes practice, patience and some experimenting!

I'll start by explaining how to tie the band in steps 1-7. It will take practice to get it right, so once you've mastered those steps, we'll move on to tying the basket which will surround the diamond and how to weave that in with the band. Then finally, I'll show you how to reinforce the knot with a 3D printed gold band, which the diamond setting will also be attached to.

Step 1: What You'll Need

1. A print out of the knot we're going to tie. I'll show you how to get this in the next step.

2. Any kind of clear tape.

3. 3/64" drill bit. The hardware stores I checked only stocked bits down to 1/8". You can find these on amazon:

4. Wire cutters.

5. Jewelry pliers. These are needle nose pliers with round tips.

6. Ring sizer. Any local craft store should have one of these. This actually isn't absolutely necessary, but it can be handy.

7. Wire. I used 28 gauge, 18K dead soft gold wire. Make sure you get dead soft wire, or you'll be surprised how stiff it is! To practice you'll want to pick up some beading wire from your local craft store. I experimented with many different gauges ranging from 20 down to 32. 32 was a bit too tiny for my taste, and 24 and above makes for pretty rings without needing any reinforcement (you'll notice a gold band reinforcing the ring I made). Make sure to get plenty of practice before moving to gold wire, which you can find on etsy. Many of pictures I'll show will be of the beading wire. I was pretty focused when I was using real gold wire and didn't take many pictures.

8. T-pins. You can pick these up at any office supply store or steal them from work like I did.

9. A drill or dremel. If you use a drill you may need a chuck to fit your 3/64" bit. I got mine on amazon.

10. A hammer, this is only necessary if you get the ring stretcher that requires it (see #12).

11. A small diameter dowel. Anything 1/8" diameter or below. A skewer or strong toothpick would work. We'll use it to tie the basket around.

12. A ring stretcher. Again, amazon is great.

13. A pool cue. Get the cheapest one you can find. I went to a local billiards store and asked the owner for a cheap cue that I wouldn't even be using to play pool and he went in the back and came out with this. He didn't even charge me.

Step 2: Printing Out Your Knot

The band will be a 4 part 11 bight Turk's head. First, save the image with the A1-11 and B1-11 at the top and bottom. Just right click on it and click Save As... Now we need to print it at 300 DPI (dots per inch). If you know how to do that in a program you already have, then go for it. I'll be showing you how to do it using the GIMP, which is a poor man's version of Photoshop (open source and free). You can download the GIMP here:

Once you have it installed, open the image you saved. Make sure it's 558 x 85 pixels (it should say it in the title bar). Then go to File, Print... Click the Image Settings tab and change the X and Y resolution to 300. Print it out and cut it as pictured.

If you need a differently sized knot, you can use this program to generate the image for it:

My wife's ring is actually a 4 part 19 bight Turk's head, but the knot above is a bit more spread out and easier to photograph. You'll have to experiment with what works for you, but the tool linked above can tie any sized Turk's head.

Step 3: Setting Up Your Mandrel

The pool cue will serve as our mandrel to tie our knot around. We'll be drilling holes where the pins will be going. To know where to drill the holes we'll take our printed image of the knot, tape it around our pool cue and then drill holes under each bight. The pins should fit snuggly.

Step 4: Tie the Knot

In this step, you'll just follow the knot around. Make sure to go over and under as the paper shows. You'll probably want to do this several times to get it right. Eventually, once you have the motions down you'll want to remove the paper and tape before starting to tie your knot. The wire will eventually wear away at it, and you may get paper and and tape stuck in between your wires. You'll want to cut a piece of wire about 2 feet long while practicing. Once you make the move to gold, you may want to make a more accurate measurement of the wire you'll need.

Some things to keep in mind:

* You'll want as few pins in as possible, just to keep your sanity. You'll always want the pin that you're coming from and the pin you're going to and enough pins elsewhere to keep the knot from moving too much.

* With this specific knot, you'll always be skipping a single pin as you go from top to bottom or from bottom to top.

* A spare T-pin is great for lifting up a wire that you need to go under.

* You never want the wire to kink, so be slow and deliberate when pulling the wire under another and if it does start to kink, pull the kink open to form a more open loop that will slip through more easily.

* If you're used to tying Turk's heads with rope, you may be used to going through and removing slack from the knot at the end. That doesn't work with wire, so try to keep everything as clean as possible while tying it. We do snug everything up at the end by stretching the knot, but the cleaner it is before stretching, the better.

* This is a 4 part knot, which means you'll be going around the mandrel 4 times before coming back to the beginning.

* Starting half way through your wire is a good idea. Every time you pull a wire under another you're bending it, which works the metal. If you work the metal enough, it will get stiff and eventually break (like bending a piece of wire back and forth over and over). If you start in the middle and tie half the knot one way, you'll be using unworked wire when you go back around the other way with the other half. We'll be doubling up the knot, so we'll tie a complete knot with half the wire, and then double it up with the other half, going back the other direction.

Step 5: Double Up the Knot

Once you return to the beginning, you'll want to go around again to double up the knot. If you followed my tips you started half way through your wire, so you can take the other half and go back around the opposite direction to double it up. While you're going around again, make sure not to cross your wires. You always want to stay parallel to the wire you're following.

When you're done with the second pass, you can even go a third or fourth time if you like, but you'll likely need to cut a bigger piece of wire in the beginning to do so. We'll just be doing two passes here, so once you complete the second pass, you can take it off the mandrel. 

Step 6: Stretch the Knot

Begin to stretch the knot by simply pushing it further down the pool cue. My ring stretcher is too big for the ring until I manually stretch it out on the pool cue. Be careful once you start hammering the stretcher (especially if you've made the switch to gold), as it can easily break if you hit it too hard. If you aren't able to get your ring big enough, then you'll need to make a bigger knot grid image, print it out again, tape it to the pool cue further down and drill new holes.

If you're making the ring for someone else, this is where your ring sizer will come in handy. My wife's finger happens to be the same size as my pinky, but if you don't have such an easy way to measure, you can use a ring sizer to see if it's right. Keep in mind that we're going to be adding a reinforcing band as well, so you'll have to stretch the knot about 2 sizes larger than you want the ring to actually be.

Step 7: Snip the Ends

Now that the ring is stretched, you can snip the ends and then you're done. Once you have steps 1-7 down, you can move on to the next steps which show how to tie the basket which will surround the diamond and how to weave that in with the rest of the knot.

Step 8: Practice Tying the Basket With Rope

We'll be tying a 5 part 4 bight Turk's head as the basket. You'll want to be able to tie this knot without looking at any instructions and without a mandrel, so practice it many times with rope before moving to wire. I outline the steps for a 5x4 Turk's head in the images above, in the next step I'll do it with wire. The steps are:

1. Wrap around and cross Over.

2. Come back around and again cross Over.

3. On the back side cross Under, Over.

4. On the front side cross Under, Over.

5. Go around and near the bottom go Over, Under, Over.

6. At the top go Over, Under, Over.

7. Then back around to the bottom and go Under, Over, Under, Over.

8. You should be back at the beginning so go Under to start following the knot around again.

9. Follow the whole knot around again. In the next step we'll be doing 3 passes with wire.

Images can be a bit hard to follow, so I've also put together a video of how to tie it:

Before moving on, make sure you can tie this from memory. Once you start using wire, it's easy to get lost. A good way to memorize it is to remember the 7 over/under sequences, which are 1) Over 2) Over 3) Under, Over 4) Under, Over 5) Over, Under, Over 6) Over, Under, Over 7) Under, Over, Under, Over. Notice that except for the last step, each step is repeated twice, so it's really only remembering 4 things.

Step 9: Wire Basket

This is the same as the previous step, except now we're working with wire! Instead of your fingers, tie the knot around a small diameter dowel.

So again:

1. Over
2. Over
3. Under, Over
4. Under, Over
5. Over, Under, Over
6. Over, Under, Over
7. Under, Over, Under, Over
8. Double up the knot

At this point the knot may look pretty messy. With pliers you can stretch it out a bit to straighten everything out. You'll want to go around one more time to give it a third pass. Then you'll have your basket!

Step 10: Weave in the Basket

Now we'll be redoing steps 4-7, but this time we'll be incorporating the basket into the weave. To make room for the basket we'll be adding two extra pin holes that are further apart than the others. Then as we tie the band and are crossing between those two pins we'll also weave the wire through two of the bights of the basket. I've drawn in some wires on the original grid to illustrate where the bights of the basket should be. When you're done weaving the band into the basket, you'll stretch it just as you did in step 6. It should look something like the last image, which is the actual knot on my wife's ring.

Step 11: Reinforcing the Knot

Since I used such a tiny gauge wire, I needed to reinforce it with another band. For my wife's ring, I actually just let a jeweler handle it. But I'll show you what they did. They first modeled a band with a channel in it, where the knot would sit. They modeled it in two pieces, so that the knot could be slid on and then the two pieces could be soldered together. They had the model 3D printed in wax and then cast in 14K gold. I generated the images above to demonstrate. I've also included the model that I used to generate these images (it's not the actual one used for my wife's ring, though I did try to take some measurements to approximate it). Services such as Kraftwurx and i.materialise can print models in gold on demand (Kraftwurx does 10K white and yellow gold, i.materialise does 14K white, yellow and rose gold).

Step 12: Setting the Diamond

The last step is to set the diamond. Again, I let a jeweler handle that for me. I was able to use a diamond from my Grandma's necklace. The jeweler set it with a 14K white gold, four prong setting. The four prong setting works well with the four bights of the basket.

Step 13: Finished Product

These are close ups of the final ring, as well as many shots of the practice rings that I made before I felt confident enough to make the switch to gold. You can see that some of them didn't look all that great, but with practice I was able to make the perfect ring for my wife!

This project inspired me to develop an app which can generate 3D models of Turk's head knots which can be 3D printed and used as rings, pendants, earrings and more! The app is still in its early stages and a 3D printer would be a huge help while developing it. Please consider voting for my instructable to help me win one! To see examples of what my app will be able to create, check out this instructable: You can also check out my Facebook page:

UPDATE: I've released the first version of my app, which can design Turk's head rings for 3D printing! It uses Shapeways to handle the 3D printing so you don't need a 3D printer to use it. You can try it out here:

I hope you enjoyed this instructable! I'll be putting together more instructables of knots that I've tied soon. Follow me to stay tuned!

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