Intro: Recycled Gift Card Rings
In this instructable, I'm going to be showing you how to glue your fingers together, possibly cut yourself, breath noxious fumes, and get covered head to toe in plastic powder. At the end, you should have a neat little ring made out of a couple of old, preferably used, gift cards.
Step 1: Collect Your Tools and Materials
First things first. Collect your tools and materials. At the bare minimum, you will need: 2 gift cards (without raised numbers), cyanoacrylate (super glue), scissors, finger protection, a face mask and safety glasses, a well-ventilated area, a hobby knife, some rasps/files, and sandpaper. That is a bare minimum. You will find it very useful to also have: coveralls, a small craft drill and a rotary tool with a carving bit and a sanding bit.
Step 2: Clean the Cards, Then Make Smaller Pieces
Clean any foil or adhesive off the cards. Most gift cards have the scratch off pads on the back, or small adhesive strips. Get rid of these before you start. It will make a better surface for later, and won't weaken the structural integrity of the rings. I usually just use my thumb to rub the adhesive off the cards. I find it's better than having adhesive remover residue to compete with later on.
Now that they're clean, cut each gift card into 6 relatively equal pieces. Make one cut the long way, then cut each half into three pieces. You should end up with 6 vaguely squarish pieces. If you want to get precise about it, you can measure and mark and then make your cuts, but I find it's less time consuming to just eyeball it when I'm making a bunch. If you're making it for a big finger, you should measure and mark, to make sure you have enough material to fit the finger.
Step 3: Make Little Holes, Then Make Them Bigger
This is where you'll find the craft drill helpful. You don't need it, but you may find it easier for starting the holes. Start a small hole in the center of each piece, then use the craft knife to enlarge it. If you're using a rotary tool later, don't worry about making the hole too big, just yet. You just want it big enough so that, once they're all glued together, you can fit the carving bit into the center hole to enlarge it. If you're using a knife and files to shape your ring, take extra care in this step to make your holes as round as possible, and slightly smaller than the final size of the ring. It will save you much time later on.
At this point, you might be asking yourself, wouldn't it be easier to glue all the pieces together first, then just drill one hole? Excellent question! The answer, in short, is no. At least that's the case if you're using cyanoacrylate. I've found that the torque of the drill always shears the last 1 or two layers off the block once they're glued together, and there's not really a good way to clamp it all together, since you're removing most of the material from the center. I've tried starting with smaller holes and gradually working my up. Doesn't work for me with the tools and materials I have. So I cut them one at a time. Doesn't take that long, and saves a big headache and much cursing.
Step 4: Time to Glue Your Fingers Together!
Now that you've got all your perfectly round holes perfectly centerd on each piece, glue them together! And to your fingers! You'll likely find you've glued your fingers to the ring and/or each other unintentionally, so don't go out of your way to do that part. It's generally unpleasant.
I prefer the gel type of cyanoacrylate. It's much easier to control, and I can use the nozzle to smear it around to make sure it covers the whole face.
Basically, I glue half of them together colored sides down, the other half the same. Then flip one half over and glue the backsides together so that the colored parts of the cards face the outside of the ring, with the dividing line right down the middle. I find it gives the final product a more uniform and defined grain.
Step 5: Caution! Warning! Alert!
Gift cards are usually made of PVC. Heating/melting PVC releases some really nasty chemicals. You seriously don't want to breathe it. And it burns like hell if you get it in your eyes. Plus you're about to create a whole bunch of tiny little plastic particles. If you've got a garage or workshop or something that is really well ventilated, I would recommend going there for the next step. Wear goggles, a dust mask, cover your head with a bandana, if you've got coveralls, put them on now. You're about to make a mess. If you have to do it outside, please clean up afterward.
Step 6: Evening It Out
If you don't have a rotary tool, you can carefully cut and file the ring until it's finished. The first one I made was entirely shaped with a knife and rasp and files. It takes a while. A rotary tool it much faster. If you do have to shape it with rasps and files, always with the "grain," never across it. Then you won't have to glue it back together!
The first part you want to carve is the center hole. Using whatever tools you have, even it out. If you don't have a rotary tool, use the knife to even out and enlarge the hole to whatever the final size should be. Since the holes likely aren't the exact same size, and you likely haven't glued them together perfectly aligned, make them even now. If you don't have a rotary tool, use the knife to cut away the excess and carefully enlarge the hole until it reaches the desired size and shape (preferably round). If you have a rotary tool, use the carving bit to enlarge the hole just enough to fit the sanding drum inside.
Then use the carving bit to even the outer edge of the ring. You're not doing any real shaping just yet, you just want to even out the edges to see how much material you have to work with.
If you have a rotary tool, use the sanding drum to enlarge the hole. It should be fairly easy to keep the hole round. Check the size frequently. Luckily, my pinky is the same size as my girlfriend's ring finger, so that part's easy for me.
Make sure you get the size right now. Or if you need to resize it later, use sandpaper only. Once you've finished the ring, the band will be fairly thin, and trying to resize it with a rotary tool will heat the plastic enough that the ring will deform. Then you've got to start all over.
Step 7: Shaping the Ring
I usually pick the part with the most material as the head of the ring.
Once you've determined which corner that is, sand/rasp/file down the others.
For these, I think a nice flat top with some gentle curves looks good, so that's what I'm making in the following pictures. I generally taper the band down about 3 layers so the band is narrower than the head, but not too narrow. If you're using a rotary tool, and it has variable speeds, turn it down to it's slowest setting if you're worried about taking off too much material, then gradually turn it up until you're comfortable with what's happening.
You'll also be refining the design with the files in the next step, so feel free to leave extra material, and don't worry too much about making mistakes. Mistakes give the ring character. Or something.
Step 8: Final Shaping
Always with the grain, never across it!
Use the files to refine the curves and take off the rest of whatever image or logo was on the front of the gift card. File down any raised areas and use it to shape the "grain" of the ring.
Step 9: Final Stage! Sanding!
Give the ring a quick once over with a couple different grades of sand paper. I usually use 3, actually. 150, 220, then 400 for a nice smooth finish.
Step 10: Check Your Work
Check it closely for anything wrong. Go over every surface carefully with your fingers and feel for any deformities, especially snags. If you find anything, go over it again with the sandpaper.
If you're happy with how it turned out, you're done!
If not, don't blame me, you made the thing.
Seriously though, if you or whoever you gave it to feels it coming apart anywhere, don't wait. Squeeze some glue between the layers and reattach them. Then go over them with sandpaper again until smooth.
Step 11: Bonus Stage!
Spend the next couple hours/days peeling the glue off your fingers.