Dragon's Tail Carved Bracelet




About: Engineer by trade, amateur woodworker and author in the off-hours. Most commonly, I build flag boxes for retiring military members and occasionally gifts and furniture when the opportunities arise. Outside o...

This one began as a modification of the Celtic knot pendent I put together a few weeks ago. While sketching the pendent, I kept thinking about new ways to change the bands as they wrapped around the carving. For this project, if you started with the old carving, drove your hand through the center and spread the bands apart, you'd end up with something that resembles the thorns/tail project we'll be tackling next.

Instead of the padauk, I used walnut for the bracelet since I wanted something a little darker. It came with its own challenges, as you'll see shortly.

I consider the bracelet to be more difficult than the pendent because it involves a few more tools, has more surface area and requires a more delicate touch to keep from breaking. If you've tried the pendent and would like a bigger challenge, let's get started.

Step 1: Planning

Measure your hand/wrist or another bracelet to find the inner diameter you'll need to hit in order to be able to slip the carving on. Use a compass to mark this on a 1-1.25" board, add another inch to the radius, and mark another circle to represent the outer reach of the carving.

Use the radius of the compass to mark out a hexagon and add the spines which are located around the outside.

I found it useful to draw the bands in multiple colors. The elements towards the top of the block, mark in red and transition them to green at the bottom. Use black or blue to draw the transitions and the crossovers.

Step 2: Rough Shaping

Since the entire center needs to be removed, you can use either a scrollsaw or drill press. I set a fly cutter into the press and used it to bore out the central circle as well as mark an indentation on the outside to guide the rest of the removal. With the inside removed, move to the scrollsaw or bandsaw to cut away the outside. I also used the bandsaw to notch out the spines (to be honest, I should have left more space).

You now have a torus.

Go back to the colored markers and sketch the movement of the bands around the outside edge. There will be three sections where the bands run parallel, separated by the areas where they cross over each other. I went so far as to add similar lines on the inside so I wouldn't mistakenly carve a band in reverse.

Once you can look at the block and trace where each band runs, move on to carving.

Begin by marking and cutting notches above and below the crossovers, since those help guide the rest of the project. Follow up by using a Dremel to plunge-cut between the parallel sections. You can go all the way through but don't get too close to the crossovers.

Step 3: Medium Shaping

Following the lines you marked before, carve into the bracelet to push the crossovers to the inside/outside, depending on which angle you're working at. With each operation, try to stay at the same level of progress all the way around or you'll end up with very weak sections prone to breaking.

Switch between mid-size burrs and coarse sanding drums as needed and continue to shape the bands. When they are nearing the final size, use a small burr to carve a V beneath the crossovers in both directions and separate the two pieces. Be extremely careful, as the bracelet has now lost some integrity. Carefully round over the transition and...

Step 4: *Snap*

You broke it, didn't you?

Well, don't feel bad. So did I and I saw it coming. One of the problems with walnut is that it's a little coarse and has a tendency to grab carving burrs if you hold them the wrong way.

In any case, don't despair; we have glue for times like this. But since it's in pieces, use it to your advantage and shape all of the pieces you couldn't reach before. Get away from the rough transitions and sand down to the final diameter of each band.

Step 5: Final Shaping

With the bracelet still in pieces (if you're unlucky like me), sharpen the points of the spines and round over the edges to each side. I also tried to make the parallel spines point outwards and follow the bands as they wrapped around.

Once you're happy with the shape, use a wood burner to torch the spines black and add scales around the body. I opted for parallel lines on the inside and angled hashes on the outside. After adding the rest of the details, glue the bracelet back together and head to the finishing room.

Bracelet Challenge

Runner Up in the
Bracelet Challenge



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    10 Discussions


    4 years ago on Introduction

    Beautiful! I will have to attempt this project. What other wood for a beginner, other than fragile walnut, would you recommend?

    1 reply

    Reply 4 years ago on Introduction


    A wood with a closed grain like cherry or hard maple would carve a bit easier. To practice, make the bands a little thicker so they're less prone to breaking.

    Once you're ready to move up, there are a lot of exotic species like purpleheart, bloodwood, wenge and ironwood that are much harder but are more expensive and slower to cut. Small bowl turning blanks could be a place to start for that. A commentator on my Pendant mentioned finishing the carving with raw linseed oil for extra strength, although that takes a week or so to dry.

    Good luck! Let me know how it turns out.


    4 years ago

    Had a bit of a blonde moment here when I read the name of your project. Thought to myself "Why would someone make a bracelet for a dragon?? And where did they find one?"". Hehe. Beautiful work! I love it.


    4 years ago

    this looks really cool. When I first saw it I though, "that is going to break." Too bad thin wood is so fragile. Great work though.

    1 reply

    Thanks! Yes, it ended up being a little too thin for walnut. Something a little thicker/denser would have worked much better.


    4 years ago on Introduction

    Congratulations for the happy way you deal with snaps! ^^