Canadian Woodworking

Make a necklace stand

Author: Rob Brown
Photos: Rob Brown
Illustration: Len Churchill
Published: December January 2021

If there’s a special someone in your life who wears necklaces, this is a great project for you. If you also happen to be itching to get into power carving, this is the perfect project for you, too.

  • Cost

I really enjoy power carving. The abil­ity to quickly shape the wood into 3D shapes is addictive, and once you get the basics down you will only want to see how far you can go with it. It involves a few different tools that aren’t commonly used in typical hobby furniture making shops, but they’re probably not entirely unfamiliar to most handy folks, either.

An angle grinder is the main power tool used for removing the bulk of waste wood. A range of different power carving discs can be installed in the angle grinder to remove the wood. Companies like Kutzall and Arbortech both make a num­ber of different types of cutters, all with slightly different advantages. Some are coarse, while others are much finer. Some are able to follow a template, while others can’t. Some discs will remove wood on the face and the outer edge, while others only cut on their face. One disc even has holes in it so you can somewhat view the wood as it’s being cut.

Burrs are other tools that can be used for power carving. They don’t remove wood as quickly as discs, but they cer­tainly have their benefits. They come in many different shapes, sizes and types. Used in a rotary tool, they offer the user a lot more control when getting into smaller areas and can be used to carve more intri­cate details into wood and some other materials.

Form the Caul
A caul spreads out clamping pressure. It’s easy to use a straight piece of wood on the straight portion of this form, but for the curved end I decided to make a curved caul with this form. Because there will eventually be the laminations that make up the workpiece between the form and the caul, the radius doesn’t work out perfectly, but this curved caul is thin enough to flex a bit and press the laminations up nicely.

Mark the Laminations
Mark the end grain of the board you’re going to cut the laminations from. This will allow you to re-position the strips in the same order they were cut from the board, keeping grain and colour as close as possible.

Cut, Then Use, the Caul 
 Because the curved end makes the caul hard to use, Brown made a sawcut leaving about 1-1/2" of straight caul on the curved section. During use, he positioned the glued laminations against the form, then brought the straight section of the caul into place with clamps. The next step was to use a few clamps to press the curved section of the caul into place to complete the bent lamination (top). The assembly was left for a few hours so the glue could cure (bottom).

Cut a Notch
A notch to accept the curved support needs to be cut into the end grain of the base before shaping occurs. A mitre gauge and a few clamps will simplify this step.

Sketch it Out
Brown drew the outline of the lilac leaf onto the board, keeping in mind the notch should be positioned at the center of the base of the leaf. Next, he added a slightly wavy center line. To complete the shape, a line offset about 1/8" was drawn around each of the two hollows. This line gave Brown something to work towards using power and hand carving tools. 

Drill to a Depth
  Although it’s not absolutely necessary, drilling holes near the center of the hollow to a determined depth will help you realize when you’ve power carved deep enough. When the holes disappear, you’re at the right depth.

Almost There
After some power carving, Brown can see the holes are almost gone, so he’s almost at the finished depth. You’ll also notice he has stayed away from the edges of the hollow to ensure he doesn’t carve beyond the pencil lines.

Hand Tools Take Over
With the majority of the power-carved hollow complete, Brown switches to hand carving tools. They remove wood more slowly but in a more controlled fashion, allowing him to carefully work towards the pencil lines. He first evens out the area to create a nice visual base for the final carving.

Perfectly Imperfect 
With the hollow relatively even, Brown focuses on using a carving gouge to leave a smooth facet on the entire surface of the hollow. Perfection isn’t the goal, just a vaguely uniform series of gouge marks, leaving a visually pleasing surface.

A Simple Jig
Rather than go to a lot of work aiming for the perfect angle, Brown used a piece of maple supported on one end by a strip of wood about 1-1/2" wide to provide a drilling support to give him angled holes. This will leave the hanging pins at a slight angle once they’re installed, keeping the necklaces from falling off the pins.

Brass Pins
Brass pins are a nice visual touch for this refined project. Chuck 1" long lengths of 1/8" diameter brass rod in your drill and use abrasives and steel wool to smooth and polish the pins before fixing them in the curved support.

Attach the Curved Support
Glue should hold the curved support in place for a long time, though a plugged screw driven through the curved support into the base would add even more strength.

Make a form

I started with the curved support, as that was the hardest part to make. The exact radius and height aren’t critical, as long as it’s tall enough so the necklaces don’t come too close to the base.

I made a one-sided form that I could use to press the thin laminations against while clamping them. I used a 2×8 about 15″ long for my form. I jointed one face flat and one long edge true, then drew a 5″ radius arc so the straight edge of the form was tangent to the arc. Once it was cut on my band saw, I used a disc sander to fair the arc and smooth the cut surface. The curved support would be clamped directly against this edge, so I wanted it to be fairly smooth, though it didn’t need to be perfect.

A curved caul

The main job of a caul is to spread clamping pressure. Clamping up a curved workpiece like this can result in portions of the glue lines being open, as there’s not clamping pressure on the entire lamina­tion. In this case, a curved caul can be made to spread out the clamping pressure and keep the entire length of the curved section tight during glue-up.

I ripped 15″ long lengths of 2×4 spruce slightly over 1/16″ in thickness, then glued them together using the form. When dry, I cut the caul so the curved section of the caul had about 1-1/2″ of straight at the end of it. This was because it’s just far too awk­ward to use the caul whole.

Make the curved support

Similar to making the curved caul, I cut strips of cherry to about 1/16″ thick. They needed to be thin enough to easily curve around the form without breaking, so I checked the first strip and adjusted the thickness as needed. Before ripping all the strips, I marked their end grain to ensure I could press them up in the same order they were cut from the board. This ensures grain and colour are as even as possible.

After applying glue to their faces, I posi­tioned them against the form, brought the straight portion of the caul into place and added a few clamps. I had to make sure the position of the straight part of the caul didn’t interfere with where the curved por­tion needed to sit. I then added the curved portion of the caul and applied pressure to it with clamps. I left it to dry for about an hour and a half, as I wanted to make sure the glue was dry. The internal stress of the tightly bent laminations might other­wise stress the glue lines too much. Besides, there was no rush, because I turned my attention to the carved base.

Power carving 101

If you’re at all new to power carving you’ll want to do a few things before carv­ing this fairly simple base. First, practising on another workpiece (I would suggest some 2× material, as it’s cheap and plenti­ful) will pay off heavily. Power carving isn’t overly complex, but some practice will go a long way to allowing you to feel comfort­able and have success shaping the base. This base is perfect for your first power carving project because it’s not an overly complex design and the hollow doesn’t need to be cut too deep. Also, if you mess it up, you’re only wasting a small amount of material.

But before you even practice on a piece of scrap, you’ll want to educate yourself about power carving. Do a bit of reading and watch some videos online. I would recom­mend starting with an article we ran about power carving (Power Carving, June/July 2011) to learn many of the basics. Whether you read up on the subject or not, be sure to learn about personal protection before turning your angle grinder on. This is critical, especially for anyone just getting into power carving.

Power Carving Discs

Similar to the job a router bit does in a router, power carving discs really are the special ingredient that makes power carving fun and dynamic. Companies such as Kutzall and Arbortech make a range of cutting discs that all have unique characteristics. Some discs are flat on the face, while others have a dished shape to them. Some abrade the wood, while others cut the wood with knife edges. The size of cutter is also something to con­sider. A 4-1/2″ diameter disc is a bit better for larger, flatter surfaces, while a smaller disc or ball-shaped cutter will allow you to cut deeper into the wood. No one cutter is perfect for everything. Do some research and learn what type of cutter is best for you.

Power carved base

Working with a piece of 8″ wide 6/4 black cherry, I cut off a piece about 15″ long. The base was only going to be about 9″ long, but the extra length would allow me to better secure the base while I was power carving and hand shaping the base. I jointed one face and one edge, then dressed the other face with my planer.

I needed a notch to accept the curved support, and the best time to machine that was before any power carving took place, as the piece was still whole. I clamped the base to my mitre gauge and machined a 3/4″ wide × 3/4″ deep notch in the center of the end grain.

Before pulling the trigger, I needed to lay out the shape of the base on the workpiece. Starting from the position of the notch for the curved support, I drew an outline of the base. I opted for a sim­ple, nearly symmetrical lilac leaf, but a bit of creativity will supply you with a lot of ideas. A lilac leaf is very similar to the shape of a heart, so that worked well for this gift, which will be for my daugh­ter. With the outline done, I added a gentle S-curve down the center of the outline. Because I wanted to leave a small flat surface around the perimeter, as well as between the two hollows, I added a line offset by 1/8″ around both hollows. All of these lines were just roughly sketched.

Time for power

I screwed the base to my table saw’s outfeed table. To guide me in obtaining a fairly even depth for the two hollows in the base, I bored a few small holes to 5/8″ deep towards the center of the sec­tions to be hollowed.

With the base secured to a solid surface and my personal pro­tection on, I was ready for action. I opted for a Kutzall Original disc with a coarse coating, as I find that’s a great middle ground for wood removal speed and smoothness of the finished surface. Because the edges of these discs have grit on them, I can also tilt the disc on its edge and use it to get into slightly narrower spaces.

Starting in the center of each hollow, I worked my way down­ward and outward until I was at the depth of the bored holes. That gave me my final depth. Now it was just a matter of widening the hollow towards the pencil lines. I stopped power carving before I got to all of the lines, as hand tools are far easier to control. In this project, power carving is used to remove the bulk of the waste, not obtain a perfectly formed hollow. Hand tools will complete this task for me.

Hand tools for the hollows

I used a medium-sized carving gouge to continue shaping the two hollows. If you didn’t have any, you could just use the power carving discs very carefully, making sure not to go over the pen­cil lines.

Without carving gouges, you might have to aim for a smooth surface inside each hollow, which can be obtained with a small sander or a lot of hand sanding. Once the surface was generally even, and the hollow was shaped, I used a sharp carv­ing gouge with a #7 sweep to add some texture to the hollows. I started at the center of each hol­low and moved upwards towards the perimeter of the hollow as I went.

Trim the base to size

As long as you didn’t power or hand carve too far over the line you can use a band saw to cut to the outer line, leaving a very small amount of material to sand off. Sand the edge with whatever selec­tion of hand and power sanders you have at your disposal.

Before the base is ready for the curved support, it needs its lower edge softened. I ran a 1/4″ diameter round over bit around the lower edge and sanded it smooth. I also sanded the narrow perim­eter of the upper edge as well as the underside of the base smooth.

Back to the curved support

I placed the completely cured curved support on my jointer’s infeed bed and carefully jointed one face flat, keeping my hands away from the cutterhead. Next, I adjusted my planer and dressed the other edge with a few passes. I had to adjust the position of the workpiece while the planer machined the curved end. I did this by pulling sideways on one end of the workpiece, rotating it with my hand. The reason for this was so it wasn’t going through my planer somewhat sideways, as the planer blades might blow out the grain. I stopped once the curved support almost fit into the notch in the end of the carved base. A bit of sanding and the base of the curved support fit nicely in the notch.

I then cut the curved end to length and shaped it smooth. Like much of this project, the exact length of the curved support isn’t critical. I left it fairly long so I had more room to add an extra cou­ple of necklace hanging pins towards the end.

Drill the hanging pin holes

There are fairly simple jigs that can be made to give you exact angles while boring holes on the table saw but, once again, I wasn’t too picky on the details. I knew the hanging pins needed to be on a bit of an angle so the necklaces wouldn’t fall off, but what that angle was didn’t worry me too much.

I opted for three holes per side, about 2″ away from each other, and marked them with a pencil.

I grabbed a piece of scrap wood about 15″ long and wide enough to support my curved support. I found another piece about 1-1/2″ wide that would raise one end of the first piece and give me an angle to rest the curved support. With the workpiece and jig ori­ented so the holes would point the hanging pins upwards when installed, I drilled the holes slightly short of halfway through the curved support. Make sure to test the fit of your pins to the hole size you drill before drilling them.

Copper pins

Wood pins are an option, though I think the look of copper and cherry is gorgeous, so that’s what I went with. I cut the pins 1″ long, then lightly chucked them in my drill to sand their outer end smooth, followed by a polish with some #0000 steel wool. I used a small amount of epoxy to fix the pins in place.

Attach the curved support

Before attaching the curved support, I drilled five holes to accept small rubber bumpers on the underside of the base. This will mini­mize the amount of sliding the stand does and provide a nice feel to the piece.

After sanding the curved support and breaking all the edges, it was time to glue it into the notch in the base. I applied a small amount of glue to the sides of the notch, as well as the end grain of the notch, then clamped it in place for an hour. The fit of the curved support in the notch I made was fairly snug, otherwise I would have opted to add a screw and plug to hold the curved support to the base.

A finish

Applying a finish on a project like this is mostly for looks. Sure, it will help protect it from a small amount of wear and tear, but not much. Test a finish on the wood you’ve chosen to see if you like the look.

Applying a finish to textured wood can be difficult. Brushing is an option but wiping generally isn’t. Lint from a cloth is virtually guaranteed to get stuck in the texture and be very unsightly. I find spraying a finish on is usually the best option. Lacquer and poly­urethane are widely available in aerosol spray cans, and that’s what I used. I applied three coats of Varathane’s Professional polyure­thane, allowing it to dry thoroughly, then sanded between coats.

A buff with wax and #0000 steel wool and the stand was ready for the crowning jewels. I hope my daughter enjoys this gift for many years to come. I sure enjoyed making it for her.

Rob Brown - [email protected]

Rob is a studio furniture maker and the editor at Canadian Woodworking & Home Improvement. Instagram at @RobBrownTeaches

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