This is how to make a wooden ring without power tools. It only takes seven steps, and you can make a beautiful ring on your first try. If you want to learn how to make a great looking ring, but don’t want to spend money on tools, this tutorial is for you.
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Making a Wooden Ring Without Power Tools
Most ring makers use at least some power tools in their process, so making a ring without any power at all can be a little bit if a challenge. However, since a ring is so small, the amount of time that a power tool can save you is made up by the fact that there is so little wood to work.
A ring is a very small object, but still a very fulfilling project for anyone. Even though the concepts can be learned quickly, ring making can provide a lifetime of fun as you make many different kinds.
My 9 Ways to Make a Better Wooden Ring is a good read after this one, because it will help you make better use of the materials that you already have, and produce better looking rings. This is my most popular post on ring making.
Step 1 – Buying the Right Material
The first thing you need to do if you are serious about not using power tools is to buy your wood already thinned to the size you need. This way, you only need to cut the pieces into smaller strips to start your lamination.
In the beginning, planing larger pieces of wood by hand is not easy. Not to mention that it requires buying tools if you do not have them. A good hand plane is now the stuff of nostalgia, so they can cost nearly as much as a power planer.
Look for pieces that are a couple inches wide, and several inches long. The pieces need to be anywhere from 1/8 inch to 1/4 inch in thickness. These are great for making layers, and gluing together a really nice looking blank.
Step 2 – Gluing up a Laminated Blank
Now, you need to make a laminated blank, which is made from a few layers of thin wood that are glued together. Select some nice looking pieces of wood and stack them up to see what they look like. Take a look at the side, and that will give you an idea of what the resulting ring will look like.
Cut yourself a few pieces from your larger boards that are at least a few inches long. A bigger blank is safer to handle, and you can also get more rings from it. This means you get more product for the same amount of work.
Layer the pieces on top of each other in the right order, and then apply some glue. My post about Wood Gluing Techniques can help you if you are new to gluing. Clamp the stack really well, and leave it to dry for several hours or better overnight.
Step 3 – Drilling the Hole
Here is where the plot thickens. Some of you are looking to build wooden rings by hand without many tools, because you don’t have them. Others of you are looking to make a ring using hand tools only. Depending on who you are, there are a couple ways to make the hole successfully.
The first step to making the hole is to know what size it needs to be. I have a nice chart in my post called Sizing a Wooden Ring, and it will help you pick out a drill bit to match a standard ring size.
Now, if you are a hand tool user, and you have a hand drill, simply use it to make the hole as close to the size as you can. Then, sand the opening to expand it for a perfect fit. It will take a little time, but you will be able to do it.
If you don’t have a drill at all, then either borrow one, or drill the hole with a Forstner bit, rotating the bit by hand. Forstner bits are very sharp when you buy a good one, and you can rotate it by hand or with a large tap wrench. Again, this does take a little time, but you can leave a really clean hole that requires very little sanding.
Step 4 – Saw off the Excess Wood
After you have your hole through the blank, you need to remove the excess wood before the sanding process can begin. All of those big corners and excess material come off really easily with a hand saw, and it will make the later steps a lot easier.
Clamp the ring to a flat surface with a piece of scrap under it. Saw through the blank, getting close to the thickness of the ring, but not going into it. Your goal is to hack off the corners and leave as little wood around the ring as you can.
Most rings are between 1/8 and 1/4 inch thick. Shoot for 1/4 as you rough out the ring with the saw, this way you don’t accidentally cut too deep and ruin the blank. Keep on cutting until you have a nice rough shape about 1/4 inch or a bit less all the way around.
Step 5 – Sand the Rough Shape
Once you are done sawing off all you can, it’s time to sand. This can be a combination of sanding and using a file to shape the ring. The goal here is to get the ring very close to final size, and smooth out the surface.
The saw is going to leave really rough markings, and you need to use an aggressive sandpaper to remove them. Start with 80 or 100 grit paper, and start working the ring and smoothing out the surface.
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Keep on going with this aggressive grit. The purpose here is to grind through the material and get you close to final size. The rougher grit will make the most progress in the least amount of time and sweat.
Feel free to clamp the ring in place as you sand and file. Clamping reduces the amount of energy that you have to use holding the piece still. It also ensures that more of the sanding or filing force goes into the ring.
Step 6 – Final Sanding the Wooden Ring
When you get to final size, it’s time to switch grits. Move into the next finer grit from where you are now, and sand the surface again. Once you get the wood to that grit level, move on to the next finer grit.
Keep on repeating this process until you get to 320 grit. This is a very smooth grit level, and will leave a very fine finish. Inspect your ring carefully, and address any areas that still need sanding after you think you are done.
This is where the patient woodworker wins. Most people are over the process by now, and they just want to have their ring. This is where they skip the last steps, and end up with a ring full of scratches. If you Slow Down, you will actually get done faster.
Go back now and look for scratches. When you find them, take them out with sandpaper, and inspect the ring again. Once you are completely scratch free down to 320 grit, you are ready to move to the next step.
Step 7 – Finishing the Wooden Ring
There are a lot of options for finishing your ring. The easiest are hand applied finishes that you wipe on. They are easy to use, can be found everywhere, and are also easy to repair when you need to down the road.
I recommend using Tru-Oil for your finish, and my Tru-Oil Finishing Guide will show you everything you need to know about applying it. The process is super easy, and you will look like an expert wood finisher. Also, the look is so amazing that you will want to pour it on every piece of wood you have in the shop.
Once you finish the ring, leave it to dry. You can put the ring on the end of a pencil or a pen, and hang it over the end of a desk. Use something heavy to hold the other end, and it will dry nicely.
Make a Ring Without Power Tools Wrap-Up
There you have it. The steps are easy to follow, and you can make a wooden ring without power tools pretty easily. The only struggle is going to be drilling the hole, but after that is done, you will be in good shape.
Make sure to buy wood that is already the thickness you need. These thin boards are commonly found in woodworking stores, and you can get your materials without having to mill them yourself.
Glue up your blank, drill, rough out and sand to make a flawless looking surface. Then, apply a nice looking hand finish to set off the natural colors of the wood. Let the ring cure, and you will have a beautiful wooden ring that you made yourself without any power tools.
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