Briar is an amazing species of wood to work with. For wooden rings, Briar can also give you many opportunities for design. Tobacco pipe makers use Briar for their pipe bowls, called stummels. The versatility and coloring ability of Briar is unmatched, and you can make many different design looks with the same piece of wood.
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Single Species Briar Ring
This is a single species Briar ring. When the wood is freshly cut, it has a pale coloring, and not much for grain. It’s a closed pore species, so it can be sanded finely, and takes a polish very well.
The reason you can see every single grain line in the Briar ring is because it was stained using a method called Contrast Staining. This is where the softer grain lines are stained a dark color, and the harder flake is stained another. The look ends up showcasing the grain, and making it explode into view. What was once not very noticeable, now takes center stage after staining.
Briar and Contrast Staining
Alcohol or water base dye stains are used to perform a contrast stain. First, you stain the entire ring black or dark brown. Then, you lightly sand or steel wool the surface until the majority is removed. You can repeat this process a couple more times to get a deeper coloring in the grain. Finally, you apply a lighter color of stain over the entire ring to dye the flake. The beauty is that you can use earth tones, or even solids like blue or purple.
Briar and Rustication
This can be accomplished in many ways, but one of the easiest is with a wire wheel. I have a small wire wheel that I can chuck in my lathe, and it quickly removes material. The hard wire bristles create an even pattern on the surface, which can be stained using the same contrast method as smooth Briar. In this case, I stained the entire ring black first, then sanded the entire surface, and finally applied a mix of red and yellow. The final look is very interesting, and completely different than the first look.
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There are a number of tools and methods for rustication. The main methods are using a wire wheel, sandblasting, and using pointed tools to erode the surface. Anything you do that creates the look of weather worn wood can be considered rustication.
Try out some Briar next time you are looking for wood. You may have to go online to a tobacco pipe making supplier to find it, but the effort will pay off. Try some different colors and different rustication methods, and see what you like. You will be amazed at how such a simple piece of wood can have so many different looks.
My book, Wooden Rings: How To Make Wooden Rings By Hand shows how to make wooden rings without needing many tools. There are step by step instructions, and examples of over 50 different wooden rings. Anyone can make a nice looking ring, even with a limited tool selection.
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