Friday, July 10, 2009

Project 6: Rings

For many years, one of the things I have envied about women is that they can wear jewelry.  While women can use jewelry to accentuate their style, outfit, hair, what have you, men's jewelry frequently seems to be some sort of boast or status symbol instead of an accessory for the sake of style.  I have been thinking a lot about potential designs that might look good on men, and rings are the frontrunners of my thoughts.  In the meantime, though, I have been making rings for close female friends.

With these projects, I started doing a lot of new things.  They mark my first forays into the world of hardwood, the first times that I have custom-made an item for someone, and also the first time that I have tried varnishing.

The first ring was to be made out of ebony - a very expensive (more than $1 per cubic inch) and strange wood.  As I carved it, the wood behaved more like charcoal or a soft stone than wood.  It flaked, crumbled, and dusted away, rather than the usual peeling tendency along the grain.  It dulled my knives frequently; I found that I had to resharpen after about 15 minutes of steady carving.  I was worried that I would break off too much in a stroke, leaving a gap in the band or fracturing the ring altogether.

Shortly after starting out.

But the wood behaved well enough, and I made steady progress.  I thought that carving out the hole of the ring would be the most difficult.  I instead found that this was the easiest part - all I had to do was poke a small hole in the middle of the ring-block and start twisting the knife.  The hole got larger and larger as I held the knife still and made the ring rotate around its sharp, grinding edge.  Carving out the entire finger hole only took me about 30 minutes.  

Beginning to carve out the finger hole.

Finger hole complete, the ring only needs to be thinned and sanded.

I made the second ring out of canary wood.  This wood was easier than the ebony.  It is a nice goldenrod color, a pigment not quite captured correctly by the photo below.  For the canary wood ring, I decided to try varnishing for the first time.  I put 4 coats on it.  It ended up with a nice shine that brought out the color of the wood, deepening it and adding some iridescence.  I later found out that varnish is probably not good for rings as it wears off quickly when exposed to the normal wear-and-tear of daily hand activity.  So it looks like my jewelry, or my rings at least, will remain unvarnished.  

Completed canary wood ring.

The ebony ring took me about 5 hours, the canary wood ring about the same amount of time including varnishing.

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