How Our Rings Are Made
All of Northwood’s jewelry employs the use of bentwood. Bentwood is wood that has been cut along the grain and steamed until pliable, then wrapped around a form to take shape.
You may already be more familiar with bentwood than you realize. Wooden canoes, rocking chairs, and many pieces of furniture employ bending wood as a technique. Bentwood itself is a well-established method in woodworking but has only recently been applied to creating rings in a durable and long-lasting way.
Every Northwood Ring is expertly handcrafted by our knowledgeable team to your exact size when you order.
So what is the difference between Bentwood and a cut out style of wood ring and does it make a difference?
In the cut-out wooden ring there are two areas where the end-grain grain is exposed and the ring is vulnerable to breaking when put under pressure or when water enters the wood and causes it to expand. If you don’t already know what end grain is, imagine you cut the middle of a tree trunk out of the tree, you now have a log with two ends. These ends are the end grain and are susceptible to soaking up water and to splitting. The area running between the two end grains, if you were to saw layers out of your new log, would be going ‘with the grain’ of the wood. This is the strongest part of the wood and these tightly bound grains help keep the tree straight and tall.
In a bentwood ring, the grain is oriented around and around, into several layers, creating a durable ring with no weak spots.
To bend wood, thin strips of wood need to be steamed to just the right temperature, then quickly wrapped around a form and clamped to hold their shape. After the wood has dried into shape, a special glue is used to glue each overlapping layer until the thickness of the ring has been formed. We typically use 5 to 7 layers to create each all-wood style ring for maximum strength with a thin profile (In our Metal Core and Precious Metal rings only one to three layers are needed as the wood is not the main source of strength in the ring).
The way the grain is oriented along the length of a bentwood ring, the layers upon layers of wood, and the strong adhesive work together to create the toughest wooden ring possible. Think of it like building with blocks where staggering each layer creates more strength than the one layer on it’s own.
After the shape of the ring has been created, we carefully sand the wood to a polished state, cut and round the edges into a smooth, soft curve and add any inlays you’ve requested. Crushed shell inlays are placed with tweezers to create maximum coverage.
Lost Wax Casting
Our newer luxury style rings and our rings with a metal core (that is, rings with a golden inside and wooden outside) are made using a technique called lost wax casting. When you order your ring the gold band is designed in our CAD program and printed out on our 3D wax printer to your requested size. From here, the wax is sprued and added on to a tree with other rings of the same gold type. To sprue the ring means to add a wax feed that connects your ring to a main wax ‘trunk’. This trunk and feed line allow the molten gold to flow into the cavity left by your wax ring once it has melted away.
Once the wax tree is created, it is placed in a flask and filled with a plaster-like casting medium. The casting medium hardens and is then put into a kiln where the wax models melt and run out of the plaster, leaving room for gold to take their place.
The right amount of gold is then melted and poured into the cast, filling up each crevice left by the wax and hardening quickly.
The plaster cast is dissolved in water leaving behind a golden ‘tree’ of rings. Each ring is cut away, the sprue filed off, and the ring polished and made ready to receive the wooden portions. The sprues, or left over gold pieces, are then added along with fresh casting grain to be melted and reused in the next tree.