We needed a wedding gift for our friend's daughter. I didn't want to purchase one, so why not make something meaningful. The couple are both horse people, so I decided to make a horseshoe with their names and wedding date to display to all.
Step 1: Materials
Wood of your choice - I had oak & walnut available
Paper or cardboard to lay out a design & template
Pen or pencil
Band saw or jig saw - either would work
Sandpaper - various grits 100 - 220
Glue or epoxy for strength
Router with engraving bit & round-over bit
Picture hanging clips
Chisel & hammer
Step 2: Design & Layout
First was to determine the size of horseshoe I wanted to make. I drew several different sizes on paper and held them up to compare. I wanted something large enough to be seen across a room and not too small that I would have difficulty getting the names on it. I finally decided on a horseshoe about 8" wide and 11" tall. The thickness was determined by the size of the oak board I already had buy could be anywhere from 3/4" to 1 1/2". This size could be modified to suit your needs.
I cut out my template. I could not make a template that looked good on both sides, so I opted to use only one half of my template by cutting it down the middle at the bottom of the horseshoe. I could then reverse the template to get a mirror image for the other side of the horseshoe.
Later I decided to add the heart to the front of the horseshoe and the smaller heart on the backside too. You could draw out these shapes on the boards now as well.
Step 3: Start Cutting
My oak board was not large enough to cut out the whole horseshoe in one piece. I had to cut one side out of the board which I did by taping the template to the wood. After cutting out the first side with my band saw, a jig saw would work too, I removed the template and reversed it and taped it to the same board to cut out the other side.
Then cut out the heart shapes. The larger heart I cut it down the middle to make it thinner as I did not want a thick piece of wood glued to the front of the horseshoe. The smaller heart, I used walnut for contrasting color, may need to be thinner as well depending on the thickness of the walnut board you have available.
Step 4: Sanding & Smoothing
Now the fun part, sanding. Sand the edges down to uniformity. You could tape or glue both sides together now to ensure that both sides will be exactly the same. When cutting out the pieces, I left some material near the outline of the parts to allow for sanding later. Now you will just need to sand up to your line using it for a reverence.
After the sanding is complete, you can separate the two pieces of wood. Then you will want to smooth over the edges with a router and a round over bit. This can also be accomplished by sanding over the edges or using a small hand plane to remove the sharp edges. If using a router, be sure to clamp your pieces to a solid work surface to keep it from moving while using the router.
Step 5: Gluing Together
Now comes the tricky part, gluing the two pieces together. What makes it difficult is that there isn't really a flat surface to use when clamping the two pieces to hold them while the glue dries. The first time I attempted to glue I used regular wood glue. It didn't hold well since I was using a butt joint and the vibration of the router separated the two pieces. This is why I chose to include the router in the previous step.
For the second attempt, I used Dap Rapid Fuse wood glue, more like a superglue for wood. You could also use epoxy, it would be your choice. While clamping, it would also be wise to use the offcuts to place against the edges to give a better surface to use when clamping them together.
After the glue has had plenty of time to dry, remove any excess glue with a knife or sandpaper being cautious not to harm the surface of your work.
Because I used a butt joint, I chose to glue a heart on the front of the bottom to give it more holding power to the jointed pieces. I didn't want this thing to come apart. (I should note that it would be best to glue this on later, after routering out the names) For the same reason, I added the smaller heart to the backside by tracing around the piece of walnut heart then chiseling out the shape to allow the small heart to slide into the hole. Once that glue set up, I gave the whole piece a good sanding.
Step 6: Design Layout
Here I toyed around with the name placement and design. For the font, I found one on the computer I liked and printed the names out. I used this printout to trace or use as a guideline for putting the names on the horseshoe. This can be a trial & error situation, work it out in pencil until you are confident with the placement.
Now your ready for the router. If you are uncomfortable with using a router, you could use a dremel tool or paint the names onto the horseshoe. This is really a personal preference. To keep my router level with the horseshoe, I use the offcutts to give the router more surface area to rest on to keep it from tipping over since I was working with a narrow piece of wood. An alternative would be to use the router before cutting the shapes out of the original workpiece, again, it's personal preference.
After I was done with the router, I lightly sanded the lettering then painted the grooves to make them stand out better. Now is the time to glue on the larger heart which is where I included the couple's wedding date. Once all the glue and paint is dry, it's ready for a clearcoat.
Step 7: Finishing Up
I chose to spray a clear coat on the horseshoe. I like seeing the grains highlighted and a nice shine on the work when the light hits it just right.
While the clearcoat dries, I found some small twine my wife had. She helped me braid it into a thicker rope, only about a foot long. I tied off one end and determined the length I wanted before tying off the other end and cutting off the remainder. This will be used to hang the horseshoe for display on a wall. To attach it to the horseshoe, I used two small triangle wire loops that can be screwed into the wood. First, I drilled pilot holes. I didn't want the wood to split after all this work. After attaching the hangers, I tied the twine rope to them. Now I can call this project complete. I wrapped it up and my wife sent it off to the newlyweds; we weren't able to attend the wedding. Now this new couple have a memento to display which is a constant reminder of the day they wed each other.