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CRAFT: Crafting with Nature
Wooden Jewels for the Novice
Make intricate wood-inlay jewelry with the simplest of skills.
By Diane Gilleland

You don’t need any woodworking skills to make this fancy-looking wooden jewelry. The secret is inlay strips, which are sold pre-made as decorative elements for fine woodworking projects. They’re beautiful and easy to cut, and have lots of craft applications.
Here, with just a little glue and varnish, we’ll make an inlay pendant, earrings, and zipper pull.

gilleland_inlay_jewelry_pendant_300dpi.jpg gilleland_inlay_jewelry_earrings_300dpi.jpg gilleland_inlay_jewelry_zipper_300dpi.jpg

MATERIALS

Inlay strips of wood veneer (2) Try inlays.com, where short scraps 3"–5" long are inexpensive in bundles of 50.
Basswood:
3/16"×1" sheet, 1 ⅝" long
⅛"×½" stick, 1¼" long
Sold in 24" lengths at misterart.com.
Craft glue such as Aleene’s or Elmer’s
Table vise
Small coping saw
Fine-grit sandpaper or emery board
Metal straightedge
Mechanical pencil
Utility knife
Black acrylic paint (optional)
Water-based satin varnish
Small paintbrush
Jewelry findings:

Small screw eye, 8mm jump ring, chain or neck wire for the pendant
Small screw eye, 5mm jump ring for the zipper pull
Fold-over bail, 5mm jump ring, earring finding for the earring
I buy findings at firemountaingems.com.
Safety pin
Needlenose pliers
E-6000 adhesive
eclecticproducts.com

1. Cut and sand the basswood.

Place a length of basswood in a table vise to hold it steady. Use a coping saw to cut a base piece for the pendant or zipper pull. (You won’t need any basswood for the earrings.) For the pendant, I cut a 1⅝" length of 3/16"×1" basswood sheet. For the zipper pull, I cut a 1¼" length of ⅛"×½" basswood stick.
inlay_jewelry_b_300dpi.jpg
Sand any rough edges. If you don’t have sandpaper, an emery board works well.
inlay_jewelry_c_300dpi.jpg

2. Cut the inlay strips.

I used 2 inlay strips here: inlay A, ½" wide; and inlay B, ¼" wide. Cut as many pieces as you need: for the pendant, I cut 2 lengths of inlay A and 6 of inlay B; for the zipper pull, I cut 2 lengths each of A and B; and for the earrings, I cut two 1⅛" lengths of inlay B, as shown below.
inlay_jewelry_f_300dpi.jpg
Measure your inlay strip so that it covers the length of the basswood, and draw a line across the strip. This material is easy to cut with a utility knife. Using a metal straightedge as a guide, draw the knife blade lightly over the inlay several times.
inlay_jewelry_d_300dpi.jpg
This creates a deep score, which you can use to cleanly break the material.
inlay_jewelry_e_300dpi.jpg

3. Glue the pieces together.

Apply a thin layer of glue to one side of the basswood and press the inlay pieces into the glue. When this side is completely covered with inlay, put the whole thing in the vise. Tighten the vise gently until you see glue begin to ooze out between the pieces.
inlay_jewelry_h_300dpi.jpg
Remove the piece from the vise and wipe away any excess glue. Allow the glue to dry for 5-10 minutes before proceeding to the next side.
Repeat this process to glue inlay to the other 3 sides of the basswood (you won’t bother with the top and bottom). Place the finished piece back in the vise to dry completely.

4. Paint (optional) and varnish.

For a more finished look (optional), paint black any remaining exposed areas of basswood, and allow it to dry. This looked nice with my inlays because of their dark edges. To protect the inlay, brush on 2 coats of satin varnish, allowing it to dry completely between coats.
inlay_jewelry_i_300dpi.jpg

5. Add jewelry findings.

To make the pendant, add a screw eye finding to the top of the pendant.
inlay_jewelry_k_300dpi.jpg
Then add an 8mm jump ring and a chain or neck wire.
inlay_jewelry_l_300dpi.jpg
NOTE: To add a screw eye, poke a small hole in the wood with a safety pin and then twist the screw eye into place.
inlay_jewelry_j_300dpi.jpg
To make a zipper pull, add a screw eye to the top of the pull, then add a 5mm jump ring, and attach it to a zipper.
inlay_jewelry_m_300dpi.jpg
inlay_jewelry_n_300dpi.jpg
To make earrings, use E-6000 adhesive to attach a fold-over bail to the inlay strip.
inlay_jewelry_o_300dpi.jpg
inlay_jewelry_p_300dpi.jpg
Add a 5mm jump ring, and attach an earring finding.
inlay_jewelry_q_300dpi.jpg
About the Author:
author_dianegilleland.jpg
Diane Gilleland produces CraftyPod, a blog and podcast about making stuff.

Goli Mohammadi

I’m senior editor at MAKE and have worked on MAKE magazine since the first issue. I’m a word nerd who particularly loves to geek out on how emerging technology affects the lexicon as a whole. When not fawning over perfect word choices, I can be found on the nearest mountain, looking for the ideal alpine lake or hunting for snow to feed my inner snowboard addict.

The maker movement provides me with endless inspiration, and I love shining light on the incredible makers in our community. The specific beat I cover is art, and I’m a huge proponent of STEAM (as opposed to STEM). After all, the first thing most of us ever made was art.

Contact me at goli (at) makermedia (dot) com.


Related

Comments

  1. tatiana says:

    These look amazing but I’m having no luck finding inlay strips. The site suggested for 24″ strips doesn’t have any results for inlay or veneer that are useful and every place I’ve asked denies all knowledge.
    I’m envisioning you crafting these up in a fully-loaded wordorking studio and cackling evilly at the thought of sending people off to search for stuff that doesn’t really exist. Given how awesome these are, I totally wouldn’t put it past you.

  2. Diane Gilleland says:

    Tatiana, I found a wide variety of inlay strips for sale on this page of the Inlays.com website: http://inlays.com/wood_inlay_strips.asp . If your city has a Rockler store, they’ll have it too.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Nice!
    now how about printer-friendly pages guys…

  4. m says:

    Very nice. I googled wood veneer inlays and found a number of options.

  5. Dave Wickham says:

    Hi,
    I am trying to get into wooden jewlery making, I have yet located a source for the fittings or findings.
    Can you suggest one.
    thanks in advance
    Dave