In 2014 I created my first wooden ring. Like many good things it came out of necessity rather than a desire to create a beautiful and unique wooden ring. I had began developing carpal tunnel symptoms in my left hand, and my traditional white gold ring began to feel cold and heavy, so I stopped wearing it and eventually decided to create a simple ring out of wood. It was a fairly straight-forward process that I wrote an article about on Wolf & Iron, another passion of mine. The next day people started asking me about my unique wood ring. They had never seen anything like it. It was then that I knew I was on to something good.
I realized that if I wanted to create rings to sell they would need to be much stronger than simply drilling a hole in a piece of wood; I would need to use the bentwood technique.
A bentwood ring is created by using a thin strip of flexible wood and wrapping it around a dowel near the intended ring size. As the wood is being wrapped, a fast drying epoxy is used to bond layer to layer. The result is an extremely strong, beautiful wood ring.
Nearly all bentwood rings I have seen are created using veneers; thin and somewhat flexible sheets of wood. The veneer is cut into strips and then boiled to make them more pliable. They are then bent over a dowel and dried before creating a ring. For me, this process was not going to work.
I knew from the start that I wanted to use wood that had some historical or symbolic meaning. I wanted to know where the wood came from and its history, which meant I couldn't use veneers. Coming from a background as a software developer, I am always looking for more efficient means of doing things and knew there had to be a better way to make rings from wood.
Historic woods, like this teak wood from the deck of the USS North Carolina Battleship is what I'm about. I love to bring history and symbolism together to create something meaningful.
Before launching Rustic and Main I tried a few different techniques for creating super strong rings that would last a lifetime and then some. While trying to create my own veneer by hand, I used a hand plane to shave down a piece of wood. The shavings from the hand plane were close to what I needed, but they would often break. I decided to invest in a good Stanley 60 1/2" Low Angle Block Plane. After sharpening the blade, this thing shaved down wood like a dream. The resulting curls of wood were exactly what I had been looking for. No need to boil them, they were ready to go.
I soon found there was another benefit to using shavings over traditional wood veneers. The shavings are ~50% thinner than veneer. This means more layers are used to create the ring and the epoxy permeates the layers to create a very strong, solid ring, preserving the wood for years to come.
As Rustic and Main grows we hope to make Shaving Day a special day in the shop dedicated to creating shavings from our favorite woods.
The Stanley after a hard day's work. That'll do Stanley, that'll do.
Once the rings are bent and shaped, the true finishing working begins. Using a lathe (which spins the wood) and a system to secure the rings, I sand down and polish the rings. 14+ grades of sandpaper are used multiple times to smooth the wood to a seamless finish. A coating of boiled linseed oil brings out the character of the wood grain before apply the final coats of epoxy finish. Six or more coats of epoxy are applied to the inside and outside of the ring, sanded down again to a gloss and inspected for size and imperfections before shipping.
Spinning a teak and whiskey barrel ring on the lathe. A special chuck holds the ring in place so I can work the inside. This part is a bit dangerous and I do by best to keep my fingers out of the way!
The final product is pretty awesome and surprisingly strong.