How to Make Wooden Napkin Rings

Using a lathe and chisels, wooden napkin rings are a great way to show your creativity. Every ring can be a unique work of art. Making each ring different either by design or by using different woods, would make a lasting gift for anyone on your list. Napkin rings are an economical way to use up scrap wood and are perfect as housewarming gifts. Ease of construction with minimal material makes this a great craft fair project.

Tools and Materials Needed:

  • 2 by 2 hardwood stock (Cherry, Maple, Walnut, etc.)
  • Table saw
  • Lathe and turning chisels
  • Eye protection
  • Dust mask
  • Sandpaper
  • Walnut oil
  • Clean rags

Step 1 - Cut Blanks

With a table saw, cut the corners off the length of the stock for the napkin rings, forming an octagon profile. Cut 1 1/2 pieces from hardwood stock. On each blank, with a compass, find and mark the center for placement in the lathe. Clamp blank into the lathe at the setting of ‘dead center’ rig (clamp that is part of the lathe) using center points just marked. Tighten lathe onto blank. Set the tool rest such that it is about 1/8 away from the blank, so the blank spins freely (spin blank by hand, without power to check tool rest placement).

Step 2 - Begin Smoothing of Ring

Holding the turning tool (chisel), so that the broad side is on the blank, set the lathe on slow speed. Working back and forth, smooth the blank to a circle. Stop the lathe, make a small mark on the blank with a pencil to indicate cut pattern. Turn lathe back on, hold pencil at each mark, and the mark will be transferred perfectly around the radius of the ring for the napkin rings.

Step 3 - Turning the Ring

Using a chisel, set the tip of the chisel on the marks made in Step 2. Hold the chisel steady with your hip on one end and the tool rest at the lathe. Using different chisels creates different cuts (turnings). Use fine chisel to mark a deep line, and broad chisel to round a section between lines. Use calipers to measure depth of lines. While still on the lathe, smooth the napkin rings with 220-grit sandpaper. To smooth out crevices, fold the sandpaper (sand edge out), and place it into the groove.

Step 4 - Bore the Center Hole

Remove the ‘dead center’ rig from the ring. Leaving the ring attached to the lathe bore begin the center hole using a round-nose chisel. Start the hole in the center and work out. Using a combination of the round-nose chisel and a 1/2 -skew chisel, bore half the ring to about a 1 1/2 inside diameter. Check the diameter with inside caliper. When satisfied with first half, turn the ring and bore the remainder of the napkin rings in the same manner.

Step 5 - Finish Napkin Ring

Once the napkin rings are completed, sand with 220-grit sandpaper. Wet the entire ring with walnut oil. Let sit for 5 minutes and then wipe excess oil off with a clean rag. Allow to dry for 48 hours before using the napkin rings.