Introduction: Art Deco Wood Necklace
I made this necklace for my lovely wife. She wanted a "Big, bold, art deco statement necklace".
It's made from small pieces of highly polished wood, threaded on embroidery thread, with an antiqued brass chain.
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Step 1: Materials
A good way to find small pieces of unusual wood for jewelery is to look for "pen blanks", which are used make ball point pens (pen making or "pen turning" is a very popular hobby). A typical pen blank is about 5" long, and about 3/4 inch thick. For jewlery makers, a little wood can go a long way. You could easily make this necklace with a single pen blank. Pen blanks range from a few cents each, up to a few dollars each. Even the very rarest woods are less than $10 per blank. Go ahead and google "exotic wood pen blanks" and you'll find lots of woods you've probably never heard of.
I used two kinds of wood; Tulipwood and Kingwood. They are very hard, dense woods which take a very fine polish. They are also naturally colored. I used no stains or dyes. Tulipwood has an orange color with pink streaks, and kingwood has a purplish brown color, with black streaks.
Tulipwood and Kingwood are both rare woods that grow in Brazil, so you may want to use locally grown woods, or wood from sustainable sources. All the exotic wood I use is reclaimed wood found at estate sales.
The rest of the materials are easy to find at any hobby shop that sells jewelery making supplies. waxed cord or embroidery thread. about a foot of necklace chain, a few "Jump rings", and a necklace clasp. You can buy starter kits with enough supplies to make a bunch of necklaces.
Step 2: Designing the Necklace
I designed my necklace by cutting little bits of paper and arranging them until they looked right. I wanted a smoothly tapered transition from short pieces at the ends, to long pieces in the middle.
The exact shape isn't critical, but it is important for the necklace to be symmetrical.
The way I made mine symmetrical was to make paper templates for one half, and just cut identical pieces for the two sides.
These paper pieces will be used as templates to mark the wood pieces we will cut in the next step, so once you get a set of templates that look right, save them. Use more durable paper if you think you will make more than one necklace.
Step 3: Cut and Shape Your Pieces
Each pen blank will be cut lengthwise into long sticks, which will then be cut into segments of varying sizes, using the paper templates you made in the previous step. You can use a band saw or scroll saw for this.
You can get at least 4 long, square sticks out of each pen blank, but those would be a bit too thick. I recommend cutting the pen blank into 6 strips (cut in thirds one way, and in half the other way). Or you can thin the strips by sanding them down after you cut them (but that's a bit wasteful, since you'll end up losing wood as saw dust).
The Kingwood pieces were cut into a wedge shape, narrower at the top. Just cut a regular piece in half, at an angle, with your saw.
After you've cut the pieces, you will have to smooth the rough edges left by the saw. Use a sanding wheel or glue some coarse sand paper to a flat surface.
Be careful when cutting. These are small pieces of wood, and you'll have to put your fingers a bit close to the blade. A scroll saw would be safer than a band saw.
Also, saw dust is harmful to breathe. And many of the tropical exotic woods are extremely irritating or even toxic. Wear a dust mask and eye protection when cutting and sanding wood. You only get one pair of lungs and eyes.
Step 4: Drill and Sand
Once you have the pieces cut, you can drill the holes for the cord or thread.
If you don't have a drill press, your best bet is a hand drill, and nerves of steel.
clamp the pieces to a solid surface that you don't mind putting holes in.
Step 5: Sanding!
You'll be spending a lot of time sanding. So you might as well put on a movie to watch.
REMEMBER: wear a dust mask. you'll be producing a lot of very fine saw dust. You don't want it in your lungs.
I used regular sand paper for the lower grits, up to 320. For the fine sanding, I used something called "Micromesh". It's very fine sandpaper on a thin foam pad. you can sand all the way up to 12,000 grit which is almost a mirror finish.A set of micromesh pads like the one I got costs around $20, but they last a very long time if you wash them in soapy water.
Tape the pieces to a flat surface, and rub the wood over the sand paper. This will keep the edges nice and flat. Be sure to round over the corners just a bit. The lowest grits take a little while, but once you have the surfaces flat and have removed the saw marks you can move up through the higher grits pretty quickly. Don't skip grits.
Hold it up to a light and observe the reflection in the wood to check for scratches. Be sure you've removed all the scratches from the previous sand paper before you move to the next grit. Any scratches you leave will become more obvious as you move up to the higher grits.
If you use a very dense hardwood like tulipwood or kingwood or ebony, you may not need a finish at all, but a finish will really bring out the color and beauty of most woods. I wiped on a thin coat of non-toxic "salad bowl finish", allowed it to dry, and then added a little paste wax, and buffed each piece with a soft rag.
Thread waxed cord through the holes you drilled in the wooden pieces. You can use the cord itself as a necklace by adding clasps directly to the ends of the cord. Just follow the directions that come with the clasps. Each one is slightly different.
I added about 6 inches of chain to each end, but that's optional. Cord is probably more comfortable, and it's certainly easier. Adding the chain is a bit tricky, because it involves soldering jump rings.
To add chain, tie the cord in a tight knot around a jump ring at each end and seal the knot with a dot of superglue. Then link the jump ring to the chain, and solder or superglue the jump ring closed. Attach the clasps to the ends of the chain by connecting with jump rings and soldering or supergluing the jumprings closed. It's a fairly heavy necklace, so I highly recommend closing any chain links or jump rings with solder or superglue.
When I solder jump rings. I just hang the jump ring right on the tip of the soldering iron, with the seam side up, to let it heat up. Then I touch the seam with the solder. Just be sure not to accidentally burn your wood or thread. Or better yet, tie the thread on after you've soldered the jump ring.
CAUTION: The soldering iron is extremely hot, and can burn or melt anything it touches that is flammable. It can start a fire if left unattended.