Wooden Feather Earings




About: I've worked for Instructables off and on since 2006 building and documenting just about everything I enjoy doing. I am now the Creative Programs founder and manager for Autodesk and just finished building o...

People near and dear to me really like wearing earrings that are made from feathers.  I think feathers are very pretty, but so is wood.  This Instructable combines two of life's pleasures into one wearable beautiful item - wooden feather earrings.

The earrings are made from laminated veneers of maple, walnut and paduk.  Vector based illustrations of feathers that I found online were modified and then sent to a laser cutter.  The laser cutter then cuts the earring out of the wood veneer sheet.  Mount the wood to some earring hooks and Bob's your uncle.  

The earrings are lightweight for their size because the veneer is so thin, of course, they are not quite as light as feathers.

Step 1: Acquire Wood Veneer

Acquire wood veneers in varieties of your choosing.  Macbeath Hardwood in Berkeley sells a wide range of 1 sq. ft. veneers very cheaply at the front desk.  These small pieces of veneer are perfect for small projects like this when you don't want to spend money on a whole sheet.

There are many sources of veneer online and at other local plywood and lumber retailers.  The main thing to remember is to buy thin, paper-backed veneers.  Try to stay away from a phenolic backed veneer since it will show more of black line on it's edge.

Step 2: Glue Veneer Together

Cut sheets in half using an exacto knife.  Spread a thin and even coat of wood glue on the back of the two piece of veneer.

Sandwich the veneer together, wood facing out, and clamp together for 1 hour between two pieces of plywood. 

Step 3: Sand Smooth

Using a 180 grit and then 220 grit sand paper, sand the sheets of veneer smooth.  The layer of wood on the veneer is usually very thin - be careful not to sand too much.

Step 4: Prep Files

I found vector images of feathers online just by doing some quick searching.  As usual, most of the best stuff has a download fee.  With a little bit of digging I was able to find a free .eps file that I liked.

Using a program like Illustrator or Inkscape draw a small hole in the end of the feather that you are going to laser cut.  The hardware that turns a wood feather into an earring attaches there.

Step 5: Painters Tape for Protection

Some lasers can leave a marks on the top and bottom surfaces of the cut material.  To be sure the wood won't get any stains or marks from the cut, cover the wood veneer on both sides with blue painters tape.

Step 6: Laser Cut

Make some test cuts on the laser to dial in your settings and cut away.  I'm using a Full Spectrum Laser laser cutter below to make the cut.  It's got a few alignment issues but it gets the job done.  Settings vary on a case by case basis with this machine.  Since the veneer is pretty thin stuff, you should be able to cut at a pretty high speed and at a reasonable power setting.

Pay two seconds of attention to the orientation of the grain in your sheets of veneer when you place it into the laser cutter.  The stiffness and strength of the earring is directly related to the direction that the wood grain is running in the earring.  One option would be to glue the two pieces of veneer together in step 2 with opposing grain directions, that way, no matter which way you put the veneer into the laser cutter it would have equal strength.

Step 7: Remove Tape

Peel off the tape to reveal the wood cut out.

Step 8: Apply Finish

I applied a quick coat of wipe on, wipe off gel varnish called Good Stuff.  It results in a low key satin finish, while still managing to bring out some of the luster of these beautiful woods.

Step 9: Hardware

There are all different kinds of earring hardware out there.  I picked up an assortment of brass, copper and silver earring hooks and jump rings from my local bead shop and matched different hooks to the different varieties of wood depending on what looked best.

Step 10: Enjoy

These earrings were given as a gift to my sister Emily, known on the site as SuperLefty, creator of the Mega Pop Pop.

She's been wearing feather earrings for years.  Hopefully she'll enjoy wearing these just as much as I enjoyed making them.



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    10 Discussions


    3 years ago

    Very nice. Definitely will have to try this for my wife and daughter! I'm going to change it up a bit and use a scrollsaw since I don't have a laser.


    6 years ago on Introduction

    Beautiful end product. Could you give us a recommendation of your thoughts for a decent yet affordable laser cutter? Thanks! :-)

    2 replies

    Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

    My recommendation depends largely on your budget and the size of the things that you'd like to cut. There are some more affordable models in the $2-3k range like the Full Spectrum Laser 40W Hobby Model (pictured in the Instructable above), but they take some hand holding to reach their full potential. At $7k the Epilog Zing is a more reliable machine because it has fixed reflecting mirrors which solves a lot of alignment issues that I've had in the past. Above $7k the laser just get bigger and more powerful. I'd be happy to discuss the finer points but first it's useful to know how much you were thinking about investing in the tool since the options are quite different depending on cost.

    Thanks for your comment sauwen.


    Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

    Can you send me the templates just as pictures? Send me a message if you can and I'll give you my email.


    6 years ago on Introduction

    How would I do that cut in the middle? My dad doesn't have stuff like that, and I have to do the outside cuts in wood shop. Would maybe my dremel work?


    6 years ago on Introduction

    Thanks for the idea, I did this with a scroll saw and gave them out as christmas presents!


    6 years ago on Introduction

    I don't have a laser cutter and I don't know if I ever will, but I bet this is possible on a scroll saw which I am going to try.


    6 years ago on Introduction

    What goreous earings!! Wish I had a laser cutter....