9 Great Ways to Make Better Wooden Rings


Wooden rings are very popular, and they are a fun project for any woodworker. What I am going to show you here is how to make better wooden rings. There are several things you can incorporate into your designs that will make your wooden rings stand out. Focus on a few of them in the beginning, and then branch out into the others as your technique develops.

9 Ways to Make Better Wooden Rings

  • Wood Selection. The more you know about available wood, the more choice you have.
  • Grain Direction. Paying attention to the grain gives you more design options.
  • Using Veneer. Any time you need a thin line of color, veneer is a great option.
  • Different Shapes. Rings don’t always need to be round.
  • Lamination Techniques. Making several different woods work together.
  • Inlays. Inlaying a wooden ring is easy, and adds a nice touch.
  • Metal Cores. To make a truly long lasting ring, a metal core can’t be beat.
  • Different Looks. Size norms can be challenged, and a beautiful ring can result.
  • Alternative Materials. Try out a different medium, or combine it with wood.

Wood Selection for Wooden Rings

wooden ring makingWood is the standard medium for wooden rings, for obvious reasons. When you decide to make better rings, you really need to start with the basics. There are hundreds of species of wood in the world, and yet most woodworkers are really only familiar with around a dozen.

If you want to make better rings, you need to become familiar with more types of wood.

The hardware store is not the best place to learn about wood. A great resource is a woodworking store or a hardwood store. If that is not an option, then a good book on wood identification is another great step. Look for one with color photos, which is a great way to see what is available in the world. The internet is also another great resource, and you can see the results right on your screen.

Do a search for exotic wood, and see what comes back. Look at the types that you like, and then find out their names. Once you know that, you can search their names and see if they have the right properties for building with. Most wood is perfectly fine for ring making in at least some capacity. Finally, after you find a couple new species that will work, buy a piece of each to begin working with.

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wooden ring makingOne way that I have learned more about the types of wood available is through researching projects that I have made. I learned about Mahogany, East Indian Rosewood, and Goncalo Alves from making acoustic guitars. Then, I learned about Briar and Cherry from making tobacco pipes. I was working on making wooden rings when I learned about Ebony, Wenge, and Kauri, which are all a pleasure to work with.

Spend some time reading and learning about wood. It’s the most basic medium for making wooden rings, and thankfully it’s very diverse. You can find wood in many different colors, even red, purple, yellow, green, and black. You can also find wood with many different types of figure, like flame, quilt, curl, and burl. The variety is just about endless, and you will always find something that looks interesting to work with.

I wrote about 5 great woods for ring making, which will introduce you to several fun and exciting species. This will get you on the path right away, and hopefully make you more curious about wood types.

Grain Direction for Ring Design

Paying attention to the grain direction when making wooden rings is an often overlooked design element by woodworkers. Most woodworkers pay attention to the grain direction when they are laminating a ring, but it’s more from the strength aspect than the design aspect. If you really want to make better wooden rings, start looking a little deeper at the woods you use. This includes the grain direction.

wooden ring makingThe grain direction is the general pattern of the grain, and how it appears to travel across a piece of wood. For most pieces, a clear grain direction can be easily seen. Some are a little less obvious, and some look like clear lines that you could see from outer space. Either way, the grain direction can be used as a design element.

I have a Cocobolo ring that I made a while ago, and I have featured it a couple times before on my website. The piece I used for the center of the ring was straight grained, and tightly lined, which looked great in between the Olive Wood faces.

Had the grain ran in the same direction as the Olive Wood,which was kind of a swirl, it would not have looked as nice. On this ring, the grain runs up and down, giving the piece a different look. It’s more than a difference in color that makes this wooden ring stand out.

complex laminated ringHad a different piece been used, the color arrangement would have been identical. However, the look would have been somewhat less.

The fact that you see bold straight grain lines running in a different than expected direction makes this ring stand out.

For more about grain direction, I wrote about it at length and show examples of how paying attention to grain direction on a wooden ring is a good technique. It can take a simple piece of wood and make it more interesting. It’s also an easy thing to incorporate in your designs.

my wooden ring making book

Using Veneer for Your Handmade Rings

wooden ring makingWood veneer for wooden rings is a huge design helper. Many times, you really just need a thin line of color. A piece of veneer is perfect for this. Whether you are breaking up two similar looking species, or making an entire lamination from veneer, the versatility of wood veneer cannot be overlooked.

Veneer is a thin sheet of wood that is sold in most woodworking stores. They come in just about every species, and are sold in small packs. One of the best things you can do is get a veneer variety pack, or a wood identification pack, which will instantly give you several different colors to choose from.

When you are working with veneer, it’s really not meant for the faces of the ring. The place where veneer shines is when it’s hidden inside a lamination. A simple three piece lamination takes on a new look when you add a couple layers of veneer. It’s only a simple addition, but it makes a visual difference.

Working with veneer is pretty easy, and your wood lamination rings can have more detail and dimension to them. Use wood veneer to break up two similar looking species of wood, which provides a heavier boundary. If you are making a Maple and Kauri ring, you can add a slice of Walnut veneer in between, and you instantly create a boundary between the two woods. You also show their differences more clearly, even though they are similar in color and grain type.

I show a nice example of using veneer for more than layering in another article. Veneer is a great material, and gives you more design options.

Different Shapes For Wooden Rings

Wooden rings don’t always have to be round. Sometimes, different is better. A way to make better rings is to not become trapped in what you have been told a ring looks like. There are far more shapes you can make than circles, and each one presents its own challenges.

wooden ring makingOne of the easiest ways for you to make a different shape is to try a flat top ring. This shape does not deviate from the standard too much, and that makes it an easy transition for most wooden ring makers. Simply create a round ring with a little extra space at the top. This space becomes a flat area, and changes the shape of the ring.

Flat top wooden rings are not the only shape out there. You can try geometrical shapes like octagons, squares, and hexagons. There are wooden rings made for three fingers at once, and they are only a little more difficult to make. If you look at the different shapes that you can see online, you will find inspiration, and you will be on the way to making better wooden rings.

My Ebony and Briar ring is an example of changing the standard shape. I made this from scraps that I have left over after making a tobacco pipe. The Ebony was from an acoustic guitar bridge, and they went perfectly together.

Lamination Techniques for Better Rings

kauri woodWood is the primary medium for making wooden rings, and one way to increase your design options and make better rings is to laminate your blanks first. Many woods look great all by themselves, but a well made lamination is a real treat to look at and wear.

Making the laminated blank is easy. After that, the turning or carving process is largely the same as with a single species.

Lamination is the technique of gluing several pieces of thin wood together to make one thicker piece. It can be as simple as two layers of wood, or as complex as 10 layers. Most wooden rings are laminated from three to five layers, and a large piece is laminated at once so that several blanks can be cut from the one piece.

I recommend that you make a lamination worth your time. Laminate a small block that is at least a few inches by a few inches. Or you can do something wide enough to make a single ring, but long enough to get several. This way, you have quick access to the same lamination the next time you need it.

There is no limit to your imagination when it comes to laminating wooden rings. I tell people to pick up several thinner pieces of wood in a few different species. Then, play around with them and see how they go together. If you have a thickness planer available, you can mill your own thin stock, and use any species you like for your ring.

If you do not have a thickness planer, it’s ok. Look for pieces already thinned down from a wood store. They are a little more expensive, but they will give up many wooden rings since such a small piece is used for each one.

grain directionLastly, pay attention to color agreement when you are laminating wood. Most good designs have lighter and darker pieces next to each other. This contrast makes it easy to identify the layers in the ring. If you used Maple/Ash/Maple in a ring, it may be hard to tell. However, if you used Maple/Cocobolo/Maple, it would be very easy.

I show how to make a laminated wooden ring in another article, and it explains the process well for someone that has never done it before. Once you start working with lamination, your design options will expand. It’s a fun process, and it makes better rings.

Using Inlays for Better Wooden Rings

Another way to make great wooden rings is to use inlays. Inlaying is the act of cutting an opening, and then making a piece fit inside. The surface is sanded flush, and the inlay is complete. If you incorporate basic inlays into your work, you will make better looking rings.

wooden ring makingInlaying can be a very complex exercise. There are woodworkers that spend their entire careers getting very good at making extremely intricate designs. Thankfully, if you want to work on basic inlays, it’s easy to learn.

The easiest inlay type is a round inlay. All you need is a drill bit of the same diameter as your inlay material, and you can do the inlay. For example, if you are inlaying a 1/8″ diameter round brass dot, all you need is a 1/8″ diameter drill bit.

First you drill the hole in the part of the ring that will be inlaid. Then, you cut a small piece from the end of your brass rod. Next, you apply a little two part epoxy in the hole. Finally, insert the brass into the hole, and let it dry. Once the epoxy has cured, sand the brass flush to the surface of the wood.

how to make fret dotsThe same thing can be done for larger round inlays, and with almost any material. Plastic, Brass, Copper, and Aluminum rods are available in hardware stores and online. They come in many different diameters, and are inexpensive. Pick up a few of these, and make sure you have the corresponding drill bits.

Practice the inlays on scraps. Once you get the hang of it, then try it out for real on one of your rings. You will be surprised at how much better your wooden rings will look with this one simple technique.

I cover making exotic wood fret dots in another article, and even though it has to do with guitar making, the inlay method is the same. I have inlaid fret dots on rings before, and they give the look of a large center stone.

Using Metal Cores inside Your Wooden Rings

Even the strongest pieces of wood are no match in durability for metal. Metal just has a strength that wood does not, and it’s a limitation that wooden rings have. Thankfully, there is a way to overcome that limitation. By combining materials, a wooden ring can be given a better chance at making it through a lifetime of use.

wooden ring makingPlain metal bands are very inexpensive. Found online, they can range in price from as little as $1, and up to around $20 depending on the material. They come in several types, including titanium, stainless steel, and other cheaper metals. They also come in Tungsten Carbide, but it’s too hard to shape on the lathe, so avoid buying that material.

If you have access to a lathe, then buy any simple band. Once you get it home, you will turn the outside diameter flat, and then epoxy wood over it.

If you do not have a lathe, or do not want to turn your own ring, then look for a ring with a flat outside profile. Also, look for one that is a little thinner, so that when the wood is added it’s not too bulky. Since the outside is already flat, all you need to do is epoxy your wood around the outside.

The size of the ring is determined by the size of metal ring you buy. Select the right size and fit, and have them shipped to your shop. I have a set of homemade carbide lathe tools, so that’s what I use to flatten the metal rings. You can also use them to thin a flat ring before you add the wood layer.

When I made my wedding ring, I knew that I was going to need something amazing. I also knew that a wooden ring would not last under the type of use that I would be putting it through. The solution was to make a Briar ring with a titanium core. The Briar on the outside gave me the look I wanted, and the metal on the inside gave me the strength.

Experimenting with Different Looks and Sizes

wooden ring makingA wooden ring does not have to fit the accepted norm. We covered that with looking at shapes other than round. For this way to make better rings, it’s all about proportions and sizes. After all, these different looks attract attention, and are still easy to wear.

I really like making taller rings. These look really attractive, and let you showcase several species of wood all in one place. They take up a lot more room, but since they still fit between two knuckles, they don’t interfere with natural hand movement. This means they are easy to wear, and still fun too. They also stand out.

wooden ring makingA taller or thicker ring makes a statement. Especially a taller ring. Thin rings tend to hide on the wearer, where larger sizes beg to be looked at. Try out a taller lamination and see what it looks like after shaping. If you find a design that you like, you can make a larger ring that really shows off more wood design.

I have a ring that I really like, and I used this technique to create it. It’s made from Bubinga and Bocote, and it a very tall example. Even with the size, it is not cumbersome to wear, and it attracts attention because it’s different.

my wooden ring making book

Using Alternative Materials for Rings

Wooden rings don’t have to be made from wood only. There are tons of materials out there that can add to your design choices. If you know where to look, a world of inexpensive choices await you. Besides, combining wood and other-than-wood materials is a great way to get the creative juices flowing and make better wooden rings.

wooden ring makingOne of the best places to find good ring making material is from a wood turning supplier. If you have ever turned wood pens, then you know what I mean. They have so many different types of materials available that you will get lost for hours looking at it all.

Pen makers use plastics quite a bit. They are typically acrylic, though they come in a few other names as well. Take a look at bottle stopper blank size pieces, as they will give you the size you are looking for when making a wooden ring. The pen blanks tend to be too small, but they can always be laminated into another design.

Another material that wood turners use is called Tru Stone. This is a man made stone like product that has a nice heavy weight. They create the product, and make it look like natural stone. When you work that into a wooden ring, it really adds beauty. Also, this material turns and sands much easier than actual stone, so it’s fun to work with.

wooden ring makingLastly, metal sheets are an interesting material to work with. These come in several thicknesses, and the soft metals cut the easiest. You can use this almost like you would use a layer of veneer.

The hidden benefit is that it adds strength like a metal core. If you use a nice two part epoxy, the wood and metal will hold together really well.

Depending on how you decide to make the ring, the sheets can be on the inside or the outside, and it will look differently. If you bury them on the inside, they will be less visible, and you can benefit from the strength without having to see more than the edge of the metal. If you do them on the faces, they can showcase more of the metal, while still framing the wood on the ring.

For More about Making Wooden Rings:

wooden ringsMy book, Wooden Rings: How To Make Wooden Rings By Hand explains the entire process of making wooden rings for beginners. It has step by step instructions, as well as examples of nearly 50 wooden rings. If you are interested in learning how to make a ring with very few tools, this book is very helpful.

Many of the examples that are on the cover are shown in the book, and they are all fun to make. If you are brand new to making wooden rings, the book focuses on using very few tools and basic techniques.

If you have been a woodworker for a while but just want some good instructions, the book works too. It’s easy to see what tools to use by the descriptions in the step. It was a pleasure making all of these rings for the book, and working with new and different lamination techniques. I also cover rustication, some inlays, and working with metal cores for your rings. Take a look by following the link above.

Here are my 9 Ways to Make Better Wooden Rings one last time:

  • Wood Selection. The more you know about available wood, the more choice you have.
  • Grain Direction. Paying attention to the grain gives you more design options.
  • Using Veneer. Any time you need a thin line of color, veneer is a great option.
  • Different Shapes. Rings don’t always need to be round.
  • Lamination Techniques. Making several different woods work together.
  • Inlays. Inlaying a wooden ring is easy, and adds a nice touch.
  • Metal Cores. To make a truly long lasting ring, a metal core can’t be beat.
  • Different Looks. Size norms can be challenged, and a beautiful ring can result.
  • Alternative Materials. Try out a different medium, or combine it with wood.

I hope you enjoyed these nine ways to make better wooden rings. If you have any questions about the article, please leave a comment and I will be glad to answer them. Also, please share my work with your friends on Pinterest! Happy building.

Additional Information About Westfarthing Woodworks

While I publish the overwhelming majority of my woodworking content for free, I also have several books available as well. You can see them on my Available Books Page, and they cover several different woodworking disciplines.

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2 thoughts on “9 Great Ways to Make Better Wooden Rings

    1. Absolutely Daniel. Once you get into woodworking, you will eventually arrive at a point where you can make just about anything you want. It’s an amazing place to be, and woodworking can help you do many different things. Happy building.

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