These real wood chevron earrings were designed in Adobe Illustrator and cut out of thin wood veneers on a laser cutter in my shop. They are finished with brass hardware and can be customized during assembly to take on a variety of styles, shapes and designs.
Use the included vector file in step 2, modify it for your own tastes, or design your own real wood earrings and simply use this Instructable as inspiration and one possible workflow.
These earrings are completely natural and are finished with a food-safe, satin gel varnish.
Step 1: Laminate Wood Veneers
Acquire wood veneers in varieties of your choosing. Macbeath Hardwood in Berkeley sells a wide range of 1 sq. ft. veneers very cheaply at the front desk. These small pieces of veneer are perfect for small projects like this when you don't want to spend money on a whole sheet.
There are many sources of veneer online and at other local plywood and lumber retailers. The main thing to remember is to buy thin, paper-backed, or unbacked veneers. Try to stay away from a phenolic backed veneer since it will show more of black line on it's edge.
Cut sheets in half using an exacto knife. Spread a thin and even coat of wood glue on the back of the two piece of veneer.
Sandwich the veneer together, wood facing out, and clamp together for 1 hour between two pieces of plywood.
Finally, once the glue is dry, using a 180 grit and then 220 grit sand paper, sand the sheets of veneer smooth. The layer of wood on the veneer is usually very thin - be careful not to sand too much.
Step 2: Design Earring
We decided to go with a very simple geometric design based upon a few chevron shapes linked together that hang beneath a pyramid The shapes play off the negative space between them in forming the earring as the positive space from the wood parts themselves.
The .eps below contains the vector file. Feel free to modify the drawing to meet your own needs.
Step 3: Prep for Cut
Some lasers can leave a marks on the top and bottom surfaces of the cut material. To be sure the wood won't get any stains or marks, cover the wood veneer on both sides with blue painters tape.
I did some very simply color mapping with my vectors so that the holes for the jump rings would get cut before the vector outline of the earring piece was cut. That way I could be sure that the holes for the jump rings would be cut while the part was still held in place.
I also nested a few of the parts together to take full advantage of my material and have as little waste scrap as possible after the cut.
Step 4: Laser Cut
Make some test cuts on the laser to dial in your settings and cut away. I'm using a Full Spectrum Laser laser cutter below to make the cut. It's got a few alignment issues but it gets the job done. Settings vary on a case by case basis with this machine. Since the veneer is pretty thin stuff, you should be able to cut at a pretty high speed and at a reasonable power setting.
Pay two seconds of attention to the orientation of the grain in your sheets of veneer when you place it into the laser cutter. The stiffness and strength of the earring is directly related to the direction that the wood grain is running in the earring. One option would be to glue the two pieces of veneer together in step 2 with opposing grain directions, that way, no matter which way you put the veneer into the laser cutter it would have equal strength.
Step 5: Remove Tape and Organize
Peel off the tape to reveal the wood cut out.
We started to accumulate a whole lot of parts very quickly since we cut the earrings out of a bunch of different types of veneers to experiment.
I used some plastic bags and bag sealer to keep track of everything and label all the wooden parts.
Step 6: Apply Finish and Dry
Apply a finish of your choosing.
We chose to use a wipe on, wipe off satin gel varnish called "Good Stuff". It's a very easy finish to apply to small parts since you do it by hand with a cloth.
Let the parts dry on saran wrap or wire mesh so things don't stick for the recommended time. Flip the parts so both sides dry.
Step 7: Assemble
Using needle nose or jewelry pliers to open and close the small brass jump rings, begin to connect the parts together to form the earring.
Connect two pieces, then another, and another.
Be sure to carefully pry open the jump ring laterally so as not to deform the ring. Then close the ring fully by undoing the bend you just created.
Step 8: Add Hook
Add a brass hook to the top of the earring. There are a variety of styles to choose from at your local craft or bead store. We went with an open back brass hook.