Susan Rosand

Ring Holder

An elegant gift that's easy to turn

Finished Ring Holder
A magazine article inspired the author to modify a weed pot form to make this ring holder.

Survival, in the craft show market demands that you have a wide range of products which are affordable, yet give the maker some sense of pride in what he or she is producing. When I turn these items, I do the best job I can relative to the price that I charge. I try to finish a $20 dollar item as well as a $500 bowl. I may not power sand the $20 object, but you'll have to look hard to find any sanding marks.

One of the turnings that I have been successfully marketing over the years is a ring holder. I found the idea in a magazine a couple of years ago and modified it to suit my needs. The one I modeled my ring holder after was turned out of a solid piece of wood and had a bit of a foot on it. When I looked at it, it reminded me of the weed pot that I have been producing for a number of years, except that its rim was significantly narrower to accept a ladies ring and it had what I call a "flame" coming out of the hole that would have held dried flowers in my weed pots. I also thought that a contrasting wood for the "flame" added a bit more character to the piece.

Turn a concave on the top of the ring holder
Turn a concave area on the top of the ring holder, and then bore a hole so you can bring up the tailstock to support the neck while turning.

Generally, the body of these pieces is finished with oil, such as Waterlox. The flame, which is made of ebony more often than not, is polished to a high gloss.

Turning the body

The body of the ring holder can be made with any type of straight grained wood, such as maple, walnut or cherry. If you have scraps of burl around, they also make beautiful ring holders. Regardless of which wood you choose, start with a block about 2-3/4 inch square by about 3-1/2 to 4 inches long. I glue the stock to a waste block that fits into my OneWay chuck. If you don't have a chuck, use a small faceplate with a waste block screwed to it and glue the stock to that. The only advantage of the chuck over the faceplate is that I find it to be a bit faster.

I also recommend using scrap hardwoods for the waste block, rather than soft woods like pine or plywood. In my experience, the pine is too soft and the plywood often separates under the stress of turning.

Turn the body of the ring holder to a cylinder of about 2-1/2 inch diameter and then true up what will be the top of the ring holder. Next, turn a small concave section in the top of the ring holder, as shown at left, and drill a small hole (about 3/16 inch) about 2 inches deep into the ring holder. Remove the drill chuck and replace it with your live center to support the neck of the ring holder while turning. I generally switch to a 1/2 inch spindle gouge at this point, but a 3/8 inch spindle gouge would work fine. Refine the shape, taking light cuts. The widest point of the neck of the ring holder should be about 1/2 inch Don't make the taper of the neck too narrow. Remember that you have drilled a 3/16 inch hole through it. The bases that I turn are rather "squat" and have no feet. I just prefer them that way. Refine the base until you have a tenon with a diameter of about 1 inch, and then reduce the lathe speed and sand to a minimum of 400 grit.

Using calipers to size the neck
The author uses calipers to size the neck, above, so that a ring will fit over it, but not be so narrow that he cuts into the hole bored in the center.
Finishing the bottom
To finish the bottom, he uses the drill bit as a drive center, top right.

Once you sanded the piece to your satisfaction, part the piece from the lathe, but leave a tenon about 1/4 inch long for mounting the piece when you finish the bottom. To rechuck the piece, I take the drill chuck and place it and the drill bit I used previously in the lathe headstock. Now carefully slide the ring holder on to the drill bit and twist it until it engages the wood of the ring holder. Make sure that very little drill bit is showing to minimize vibration and whipping. I also recommend slowing the lathe down at this point. Carefully bring up the revolving tail center to support the bottom of the ring holder and turn away the tenon you left previously, leaving a recess in the bottom so that it will sit flat. Even though the 1/4 inch tenon also gets turned off, it allows the tail center to engage and support the wood, eliminating the dimple that would be caused by the center. An alternative to this method of finishing the bottom would be to part the piece off the lathe and sand it flat. The down side of this is that all of your turning buddies will make fun of you for sanding it flat.

The Flame

The flame finial is turned seperatly
The flame finial is fumed separately and fit with a tenon to slip into the hole in the center of the main body.

I cut 5/8 x 5/8 inch flame stock of various lengths, depending upon what is laying around the shop. The flame stock is held in my chuck and turned to a cylinder using my roughing out gouge. As with the body of the ring holder, if you don't have a chuck, use a waste block with a 1 inch hole drilled in it, then turn a 1/2 inch tenon on the flame stock and glue it into the waste block. The flame is turned to a finished diameter of about 1/2-inch and tapers to a point. I use my vernier calipers inside the neck of the ring holder to determine the diameter of the finished tenon and use a parting tool to size the tenon and to part it off. After sanding and polishing, it is then glued in place with a little thick CA glue or yellow glue. That pretty much completes the ring holder. There is certainly some room here for variation. I have a ring holder in mind that is modeled after an old oil can.

The whole project easily can be completed in an evening and should justify to your spouse some of the excess time you spend in the shop.

This article originally appeared in The Journal of The American Association of Woodturners
Volume 15 Number 3, Fall 2000.