I like to make things when I’m home for the holidays. After a year of helping digital things come to life, it helps me feel connected to something natural, something real, something pre-digital.
In years past, I’d made ping-pong paddles, but they’re a bit mentally taxing and require lots of gluing, waiting, and most annoyingly, precision.
This year I made wooden rings. They’re crazy-simple to make if you’ve got a belt sander, a drill press, and some sort of saw. I’m not really a jewelry person, but I do feel rad wearing a ring of my own making, and one that’s made out of wood. So if you’ve got a half-hour and the desire, I’ve got the directions.
Get a piece of dense, tightly grained hardwood, sustainably grown, if possible. 1/4″-thick pieces should work fine. It doesn’t need to be planed flat or especially perfect. Use a Forstner bit in a drill press that’s a little smaller than the size of your finger, and drill the hole about 1/4″ from the edge of the wood. Then cut around the hole with a bandsaw, leaving equal margins all around.
I used Rosewood for most of the rings I made, and it seemed to work well. The rings are durable and if I may, exceptionally lustrous. The pictures here are of Ebony.
Pop a little drum sander into the drill press and sand away the inside of the ring to size. When you’re testing the ring for fit, be aware of the heat that builds up in the wood during sanding. Finger burns are no fun. This job can be done with a Dremel, by hand, or with an oscillating sander. But if you have an oscillating sander, you can stop reading now, because you’re wayyy too fancy a woodworker to be reading this post.
Now you’ve got a wooden block that fits your finger. Using some sort of sanding implement – I jury-rigged a belt sander to do this job – gradually work the ring down to a thickness that feels suitable. Remember that the wood gets hot during sanding, and to avoid sanding down your fingers. Use a rough-grained sandpaper to get the size close, and then work down to a finishing paper to avoid major gouge marks. Don’t worry about getting it very round or even; it’s wood, and you’re not using a lathe, so don’t sweat perfection.
Soon you’ll have a ring that’s a bit wide (good for man-hands, but can be taken down a bit by sanding the flat sides) and in need of a bit of finishing. From here on out, do the deed by hand: fine-grained sandpaper, followed by steel wool, tung oil and polishing with a soft cloth, and you’ll have a piece of jewelry that actually feels pretty bad-ass.
Here are two finished Rosewood rings. Big one, again, for dude-hands. Small one for lady-hands.
There are some downsides to wooden rings. They can swell, they need some upkeep, and they can break. But for coolness and simplicity (and handmadeness), they really can’t be beat.