This simple earring display is made from a piece of antique coral and is mounted on a small scrap of Robusta (a type of eucalyptus tree) base. The coral provides all kinds of interesting nooks and crannies to hang the earings on. A small slot in the base was routed out to create an area where rings and studs could also be kept. While this doesn't display all of one's earings, it's a great way to showcase the ones that are worn most often.
Embedded within this project is actually a process that warrants it's own Instructable. That is "How to make custom patterns for a router using a laser cutter" covered in steps 1, 2 , 3 ,4 ,5 and 8. Look for that Instructable coming soon.
Note - this project details some basic wood working processes that require some previous wood working experience. To simplify this project once could easily just glue the coral onto the base using epoxy and use a bit of quarter round molding from Home Depot to make a well for the smaller earrings and thus avoid several of the more challenging wood working steps.
Step 1: Scan Coral
Once you've found a suitable piece of natural beauty to hang your earrings on, the first step is to scan the base using a flatbed scanner.
It's ok to leave the over open while you scan, it will still work fine.
Scan the image in greyscale and at a suitable resolution, like 300DPI.
Step 2: Adjust Brightness and Contrast in Photoshop
The resulting image will need to have it's brightness and contrast tweaked as well being converted to black and white.
Try and get the image to be as crisp as possible so that the edge of the coral is clearly defined.
Step 3: Trace and Vectorize in Illustrator
Once you've prepped your image it's time to do a Live Trace in Illustrator or some other vector editing program. Follow instructions for how to do a live trace and keep only the resulting outline path. No fills are necessary.
Step 4: Calculate Offset
Now the pattern bushing that I own for the router doesn't make an exact copy of the template, instead it drops the router bit just slightly inside of whatever the pattern is.
To know exactly where the bit land you need to calculate how much to offset the path in Illustrator so that the router will actually cut in the correct place.
Measure the diameter of the router bit.
Measure the diameter of the outside of the bushing.
Subtract the router bit diameter from the bushing diameter and divide by 2.
Offset = (D bushing - D router bit) / 2
Take this number and Path-->Offset in illustrator by this amount (plus a tenth of an inch for clearance purposes).
You should now see a larger path outside of your original path. Delete the original path, save the offset path as a file type that your laser cutter can read, in my case an .svg and send to the laser cutter.
Step 5: Laser Cut Pattern
Laser cut the path in a piece of acrylic. I'm using 1/8" clear acrylic.
Step 6: Route Rabbit in Base
Put the pattern aside for a moment and select a base. We're using a small piece of Robusta, a eucalyptus tree normall grown in Hawaii that has a really nice figured grain pattern to it.
Set up two stop blocks on the router table, plunge the wood onto the router bit and route a rabbit (woodworking term for groove) into the base along the front edge.
Drilling two holes that define the start and end of your rabbit using the drill press and a forstner bit is a good idea whenever you are routing a groove that doesn't pass completely through the piece of wood. The holes allow the router to have a starting point and make starting and ending your cut much easier - the router simply "connects the two dots" so to speak.
The width and depth of the rabbit is of course up to you. We chose 3/4" wide by about 1/4" deep. Make several passes so as not to remove too much material with any one pass on the router table. A feather board applying pressure down can help keep the board flat.
Step 7: Make Well for Studs
We made another circular cut out in the wood to lay small stud backed earrings into.
This was done using a large diameter forstner bit in the drill press and drilling down to the same level as the rabbit.
Step 8: Route Pattern Into Wood
Back to the pattern.
Use painters tape to affix the acrylic pattern onto the base so it stays put and clamp the entire assembly down to the workbench.
Using the straight bit and pattern bushing that you previously based your calculations on plunge the router into the wood and follow the pattern. Make several strokes to remove all of the material.
Make shallow passes increasing in depth until you reach the depth cutout that you desire. The one below is around 3/16" - just deep enough to lock the coral in place.
Step 9: Sand
Sand the surface of the base using a random orbital sander.
Use a thin wood block and a scrap of sand paper to get inside the recessed features.
Start with 120 and then finish with 220 grit paper.
Step 10: Finish
Apply a finish of your choosing. In this case we decided to use a wipe-on polyurethane to see if we could bring out some of the luster of that figured grain.
Step 11: Place Coral in Base and Populate
Once the finish is dry set the coral in place, populate it with earrings and enjoy.