Intro: Cutting Thin Stock Wood
I realize that there many application for thin wood but I use it for making earrings. I have been making earrings for years. Earrings requires thin stock. My designs generally use 3/32" thick stock. That requires either sanding down 1/8" stock or cutting my own. Another advantage her advantage is that you have so many different choices of wood. When on vacation I will come by small pieces of scrap wood at local craft establishments. People ask me to make earrings for wood that is special in their life. (Wood from Grandpa's barn. Olive wood from a visit to the Holy Land)
For this example I will be cutting thin stock to make some Mickey Earrings. My wife and I travel to Disney a lot and I have a tradition of taking my Mickey earrings to give out to the newlyweds on their honeymoon. I started in 2006 when Disney had their year of a million dreams. I had made earrings for my wife and had made an extra six pairs. So I gave them out to newlyweds and I called the trip the year of a million and six dreams. Since then I must have given out hundreds of pairs. If you or someone you know has ever received a pair I would love to hear from you.
Next week we will be going to Disney's Hawaiian Resort. I figure it will be chocked full of newlyweds so I am making this batch of earrings from koa. The steps are the same for any wood.
Step 1: Thin Kerf Saw Blade
Since the strips I cut are so thin, I want to cut them with a finish blade with a very thin kerf. This blade has a 7-1/4" diameter which allows me to cut wood up to 1-3/4" thick. The kerf is less than 1/16" so for 3/32" thick stock, the waste is less than 40%. (This may seem like a lot but a small piece of wood is going is going to cost way less the precut thin stock..... if you can find it.) The 60 teeth leave a nice cut that will require little sanding. Best of all the blade is available at you home center for around $20.
You can cut with a scroll saw or band saw. These will certainly have less kerf wastage but you will get a rougher finish that will take more time to smooth out.
Step 2: The Wood
I purchased a piece of Koa on Ebay that was 1-1/2" thick, 3-1/4" to 4" wide and 13" long on Ebay. With postage I paid $25.40. I have no idea if this was a good deal but I figure I will get enough thin strips to make well over 300 earrings or less the 17 cents a pair. The nice thing about making earrings is that they take such a small amount of wood, you can spurge on a really expensive piece of wood not pay much per each earring.
I start by ripping the wood into 3, 1-1/4" wide pieces. I then glue each piece to a scrap wood base. This base helps keep fingers away from the blade.
Step 3: Cut Strips
To get uniform strip without pushing very small strips of wood between the fence and the blade, I use a Rockler Thin Rip Tablesaw Fixture
With this fixture you can rip thin strips on the outside of the blade where there is less risk of binding or kickback. The knob locks it into the miter track and locks your setting at the same time. Ball bearing guide keeps your workpiece firmly against the fence for perfect repeatability. Use the graduated scale to fine-tune for extremely thin strips. After each cut just move the fence over till the wood barely touches the ball bearing.
Use a piece of scrap wood the set the bearing distance for the thickness you want. When you are happy with the thickness, cut your actual strips. In my case I got 22 strips and a couple less than perfect extra pieces.
Step 4: Epilogue
From all of these strips I was able to laser cut over 400 earrings. That works out to less the 13 cents per pair. The finding hardware to finish them will cost more than that.
My wife and I will be at the Aulani Resort on O'ahu from May 21st to May 28th. If you are there during that time, for your honeymoon or to get married, then look for me. Introduce yourself and I will give you a pair of earrings. Couples celebrating long term anniversaries, retired and active military couples are included.
Step 5: Follow Up
Just got back from Aulani and I gave away 50 pairs of earrings. There are a lot of Japanese couples that go to Hawaii to get married. Even with travel it is cheaper than a traditional Japanese ceremony and I think they know how good they look good dressed in white. I gave earrings out to newlyweds, anniversary couples, military couples, and employees. I give a set to the mother of a young girl with a chemo shaved head. The girl had pierced ears and I told the mother to give them to her when she thought she was old enough. I also gave the mom a pair so they could be twinsies. Got a nice smile from both and when back to dry my eyes. Sun was pretty strong that day.
I think the total price for 50 pairs of earring was about about 12 dollars and it was so much fun to bring that much spontaneous joy to so many people for such a small amount of money. Try it sometime.