Denim micarta is a fun material to work with and super easy to make and it's a very durable material! So I decided to take a crack at a Blue Jean Pocket watch!
Teachers! Did you use this instructable in your classroom?
Add a Teacher Note to share how you incorporated it into your lesson.
Step 1: Getting Started
What is micarta? Micarta is the general term for a material that is made from layers of cloth or paper glued together with resin. It's a very strong and durable material! it's very popular with knife makers, but I find as a wood turner it's perfect for working with lathe tools!
I started with a pair of jeans from a stranger. I didn't have any pairs near death so I visited the Goodwill and got a cheap pair with a nice deep blue dye. They were washed....several times...
Next, I cut them up into 2" squares. Nothing too precise as I will be turning this on the lathe.
NOTE: I didn't need ANYWHERE near this many squares or for them to be this large. A much smaller batch of micarta would have sufficed. I appear to have Italian grandmother syndrome, I cannot make a small portion of anything resin to save my life...
This is an old plastic food container. It makes for a great mold. I give it a couple sprays of mold release and set it aside as it needs to dry before we pour the resin.
Step 2: Making Micarta
The resin I'm using is called Total Boat. It's a marine epoxy primarily used for fiber-glassing boats but I've had good luck with this type of resin for making micarta. One of the reasons why I like it is the ease of dispensing it.
This particular system is a 3:1 mix of resin to hardener but with the pumps provided I just have to do one pump from each. I started with 3oz as wasn't sure how much this would require. About 2/3 of the way through I needed more so I mixed up another 2oz. Easy.
As for the process, it is simple and goes quickly. Add a few squares of fabric, then some resin. I press then it down with my gloved fingers and repeat. In about 5 mins or so I've used 30 squares and 5oz of resin. Again. WAY MORE THAN NEEDED. (You'll see the object size at the end)
I don't clamp it. The voids add interest stand the resin will more than hold. If anything delaminates, you can always brush on some more resin for a patch.
Step 3: Prepping for Turning
24 hours later it was ready to be machined. The micarta is super hard but works easy with woodworking tools.
It's really odd when you first de-mold it. Nothing looks different than before. It appears to be a wet block of jeans. BUT it's very heavy and hard as a ROCK. I cut it flat on the band saw (probably unneeded) and then took it to the drill press where I bored out a hole.
I used a 1 3/8 forstner bit to drill out a recess. This hole serves two purposes.
1. It will be used for mounting the blank on my wood lathe
2. It matches with the clock insert that I purchased
Step 4: Turning the Shop Blue
I'm using my 4 jaw chuck to hold the block on the lathe. It has jaws that fit inside the recess and then expand out for hold it steady. I then bring up my tailstock for extra stability.
Once the jean block is mounted on the lathe, I use my roughing gouge to turn it into round. Sharp tools make short work of the jean material and it really works very nicely. You'll get long shaving and a dusting of blue denim all over you.
At this point, the lathe station is in full 1986 mode. I'm singing "Electric Blue" by Icehouse and working on my mullet.
I round over the back with a scraper and lightly sand the watch cover to 120 grit. It doesn't need much in my opinion.
Step 5: Managing My Expectations
I'm quite pleased as I take it off the lathe, but once I test fit the timepiece OK.
That looks ridiculous. The field of blue is huge. I've never seen a pocket watch that looks like that! Obliviously I need to turn it down a bit more...
And so I do. As you can see from the final dimension I lot less resin and denim could have been used to get here.
Step 6: Finishing Touches
The clock movement fits in the recess with a satisfying click but can still be easily removed to replace the battery or adjust the time.
I drill a small hole in the least safe manner. (oh the joys of getting a good camera angle) This is where a small silver eye hook will screw in and then I added a chain on.
No finish for this piece. You can add a finish, like lacquer or poly but I really like the feel of the jean.
I then took a couple of glamor shots! Thanks for looking!