Canadian Woodworking

Wooden gift tags for the holidays

Author: Rob Brown
Photos: Rob Brown
Published: December January 2022

The perfect addition to any gift, these customized gift tags designed and created by two young woodworkers are a great project for beginners.

  • COST

This is the first of what we hope will be many more articles by young woodworkers. If you know of someone between ages 10 to 20 with a project to share contact [email protected]

These small gift tags add the perfect touch to a present. They are easy to make and will add a great personal touch to your gifts. You can also make them with minimal tools and machines, which is great for new woodworkers.

Rip on the Bandsaw
A bandsaw is a safe way to rip thin strips of wood off a large piece of wood. Set the fence to about 1/16" thicker than you want your tags to finish at.

Rip on the Bandsaw

Cut to Length
Although a miter saw and table saw can also cut wood to length, a hand saw is the safest, especially when cutting small stock like these tags.

Cut to Length

Remove the Notches
After drawing the design on the tags, cut the two V-notches out on each tag. Patience and accuracy now will pay off with a nice-looking gift tag down the road.

Remove the Notches

Round the Corners
A disk sander allows you to remove the material from the two outer corners of each tag. Another sander could also work, as would cutting most of the material off with a scroll or bandsaw, then using a hand sanding block to smooth the curve.

Round the Corners

Bore a Hole
A drill press will drill a straight hole into wood. Make sure to hold onto the workpiece while drilling so it doesn’t catch and start to spin with the bit. Placing the workpiece against a piece of wood clamped to the drill press’s table is also an option.

Bore a Hole

Name Names
Although you could use a regular pen or pencil, we chose to label the tags with a pyrography pen.

Name Names

The basics

Draw your idea on a piece of paper, then decide the size of the tag and write it onto the page. You can even draw the tag to scale if you think that will help you visualize the project better. We made our tags 4″ long × 3/4″ wide × 1/4″ thick, but feel free to adjust the sizes of your tag.

Pick two types of wood to use. We chose black cherry and maple because they’re both light enough to see the writing on and are closed-grain woods that are easy to write on. Our dad also had a few cherry and maple offcuts we could work with. Pine, spruce and basswood would also work well.

Start cutting

Break out lengths of wood about 2′ long, 1″ thick and around a few inches wide. A hand saw will do a great job at cutting a few pieces to length. The wider the board you use, the more tags you can make from it. Joint one face smooth and then joint one edge true on both pieces of wood. Dress them to a thickness of 3/4″ with a thickness planer.

On the bandsaw, set up the fence so it rips slightly thicker than the final thickness and rip one strip of wood off the edge that was jointed. After the rip on the bandsaw, return to the jointer to true the freshly cut edge before returning back to the bandsaw to make a second rip. Repeat until you have enough strips.

Use the thickness planer to dress the strips to final thickness, ensuring the smooth face is placed downward on the thickness planer’s surface for each pass. If you don’t have a thickness planer you can make some passes with a hand plane to smooth the band-sawn surface. Because these gift tags are short, their faces don’t need to be perfectly parallel or flat.

Sand the two faces and the two sides by hand. A small electric sander might also work, though it’s not easy to keep the sander flat on the small surfaces of these tags while sanding. Ease the four long edges with a block plane and a hand sanding block. Using a hand saw with a crosscut jig to cut the tags to their final length is a safe and accurate approach. A scroll or bandsaw could also be used to cut the tags to length, though be sure to keep your fingers away from the blade while cutting these small pieces.

Shape one end

Draw the circular pattern onto the wood. We traced a 3/4″ diam­eter Veritas offset wheel gauge. Mark the center point at this time, too. We moved the gauge about 5/8″ towards the center of the tag and added two more short arcs.

Use the scroll saw to cut out the two small “V” sections in each tag. Be as patient and accurate as possible with this step because it’s hard to fix afterwards. You can use a bandsaw for these cuts, but a scroll saw leaves a smoother surface and will be a bit more accurate. A coping saw, or even a hand saw used to make short, straight cuts, will also work, but you’ll have to round those edges a bit afterwards with a file or sanding block.

Next, use a disk sander to shape the outer corners of the circular portion. A disk sander removes wood surprisingly quickly, so be care­ful with this step, too. If you don’t have a disk sander, a belt sander turned on its side would also work. If you have neither of these tools, remove most of the material with a scroll saw, bandsaw or coping saw, then use a hand sanding block or file to smooth the arc.
On the drill press, bore 3/16″ diameter holes for ribbons into the circular part of the wood. We used a brad point bit because it would leave a cleaner hole. Next, use a sanding block to sand all the surfaces, as well as the sharp edges and corners.

Add names

There are a few different ways to add names to your tags. The sim­plest approach is to just write the name on the tag with a pen, pencil or Sharpie marker. A more complex approach is to draw the names on the tags with a pencil, then carve them out with a V-gouge. A third approach, and the one we took, is to lightly draw the names in pencil then use a pyrography pen to burn the names on.
Once the tags have been labelled you can apply a coat of fin­ish. Just about any clear coat will do, but we chose to wipe on one coat of OSMO Top Oil. Finally, cut and tie ribbons through the small hole.

Rob’s 10-year-old son enjoys woodworking. His 11-year-old daugh­ter is a bit less excited to get into the shop, but she did well once she learned a bit more about each tool or machine being used. She’s also a great writer. They teamed up to make this article happen. Rob’s son did most of the building and his daughter did the note-taking and writing.

Young woodworkers

If you know any kids between the ages of 10 and 20 who would like to write an article for us, please contact Rob.

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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