How Our Bentwood Rings Are Made

How Our Bentwood Rings Are Made

From canoes to chairs, bentwood as a technique has been around for centuries and beloved for its beauty and strength

how we make our bentwood wooden rings

At Northwood Rings we make every ring right here in our workshop on the south shore of Nova Scotia. From steam bending the wood, to casting the gold, and setting any gemstones. Every part of making our bentwood rings is handled by our skilled artisans. We pride ourselves on knowing that all of our wooden rings will be hand-crafted to the highest standards. 

Need to know more about why bentwood is better? Skip to the end of the page to find out!

(You can read more about our ethics and sourcing here)

 

curls of bentwood wood ready to make into rings

The First Steps: Choosing and Bending the Wood.

Before a bentwood ring can be made, the wood will be chosen with care. The tightness of the grain, the way the wood is cut, and the hardness of the species are all considered carefully. This is so that every ring is made with the best available materials. 

Next, the wood is cut into long thin strips following the grain. This is so that the wood is easier to work with. The straighter the grain, the easier the wood will bend. 

The wood pieces are then steamed and curled around a form and left to set.  After partially dried, the wood is removed from the forms and set aside to dry fully.

Construction: The Bentwood Ring

When a new order is received we create an order tag for the requested ring. This ensures that all of the details of your bentwood ring are easily seen by the artisans in our shop. The wood is selected based on your requested style and the construction process begins.

The bentwood curl is slightly dampened and wrapped around a form in the right ring size. This tightens the curl further and makes it ready to take its final form as a bentwood ring. The curl is again left to dry. Finally, the curl will be wrapped and adhered into a tight spiral of four to five layers. These layers of wood grain going around each other is what adds strength to a bentwood ring.

Eventually the excess wood is shaved off, and the wrap is shaped and smoothed into something looking more like a ring.

Adding Personality: Inlays and Other Changes

In this next step the wooden wraps become the bentwood rings they are meant to be. Inlays of stone, wood, sand, or shell are added to the basic wooden form to bring it to life.

If you order a gold base ring, your inlay may already be attached (see how our gold rings are made here); otherwise all of the little details are added at this stage.  

Every inlay is done by hand for the best effect. Small chips and shells, like our mother of pearl, are placed piece-by-piece like a miniature puzzle for the best shine and fit of the tiny little line.

A ring filled with the customer’s own sand is shown off to the side. The excess will be sanded away to leave a beautiful offset inlay with a personal story for the customer.

 

Finishing: The Perfect Ring Needs The Perfect Finish

We coat our rings using a crystal clear, waterproof finish. This coating is applied thinly over eight times in order to build up a shiny, protective outer shell. This process takes several days as each thin coat is added and allowed to thoroughly cure.

We’ve been making and finishing bentwood rings since 2012. As a result, we’ve created the perfect finish. The finish we use is hard enough to protect your bentwood ring, but just a little flexible to keep it from breaking up as the wood ages. 

We know our finish is the best available option to complement our hand-crafted wood rings.

Our own custom-built machine, seen in the image, ensures that each coat dries evenly as it cures for the perfect result.

a woman with purple nails polishes a bentwood ring with mother of pearl

Polishing: Handled With Care

With so much effort put into every step of the bentwood ring process, the polishing has to be just as good. This means that every wooden ring is carefully polished by hand following a methodical process.

If imperfections are spotted in the finish we’ll strip the ring back down to the wood and start all over if needed. Our philosophy is: If we wouldn’t give the ring to our own family, we won’t send it out to you.

We know you’re expecting top craftsmanship from us, and that’s what you’ll receive every time.

Why A Bentwood Ring Is Better

When we started Northwood Rings in 2012 there were very few bentwood rings on the market. Bentwood rings cost more, and take a lot of time to make right.  A lot of the wooden rings people can find are made from cut-out wood. 

So why go to the effort of making a bentwood ring when using a cut-out is faster, cheaper, and easier? It’s simple. A bentwood ring creates lasting strength in the way the grains are handled.

What is Bentwood?

Bentwood is a method of bending long pieces of wood into a rounded or curved shape. 

The process of bending the wood along the grain provides strength to the piece. If you picture a tall tree bending and swaying in the wind you’ll have a perfect idea of how working with a tree’s own nature can create a superior product. 

In order to take advantage of this give that a tree’s grain has, the wood has to be dampened or steamed rather than dry. Then the piece needs to be bent and left to set that way. Because our rings are made with such thin slices of wood, we’re able to bend long pieces of wood into tight spirals. 

Other examples of bentwood are traditional wooden canoes and boats where the hulls are made from bent ribs of wood. Old rocking chairs with rounded wooden feet, curved backs, and arms are also a good example. In fact, now that you know about bentwood, you might start seeing it all around you. 

 

wooden ring showing bentwood inlay
Rendered image of a bentwood inlay. The grains are running around the ring, creating a strong band. Bentwood is a superior method for making wooden rings.
Rendered image of a cut-out wood inlay. The grains are running along the width of the ring, rather than the length. This style creates end grain areas which weaken the wood over time.
What other methods of making wooden rings are there?

There are two main options when choosing a wood ring: bentwood or cut-out. 

In a cut-out ring a piece of wood as thick as the ring will be wide, is drilled with two holes – one for the inner part of the ring that will be the ring size, and one for the outer part. The ‘ring’ of wood is then shaped, smoothed, and finished.  A ring like this has two end-grains which introduce weakness to the ring. 

If you imagine cutting a branch at both ends, the cut ends are your ‘end grains’. These ends allow water to pass through the wood and can split easily. Imagine chopping firewood, it’s the ends of the wood that get chopped and split apart. Chopping through the middle would be much more difficult. 

End grains also don’t show the beautiful pattern of the grain of the wood, just the circular layers of the tree.  Using the bentwood technique means using the best the tree has to offer. It’s both stronger (the grains interlock and create strength in the wood), and more beautiful. 

So how do you know which wooden ring is made using bentwood, and which is made using cut outs? 

All Northwood Rings are constructed in our shop using our knowledge of bentwood for a superior ring. 

Most other makers will list if their rings are bentwood since the technique itself is a feature. If nothing is listed you can look at the wood itself. Seeing circular grain patterns, or the lines running up and down the width rather than the length of the ring are giveaways that the ring is made using a cut out piece of wood.

Does adding a metal liner or  choosing a mostly metal ring make cut-out wood better?

When you’re choosing your wooden ring, whether that’s for your wedding, engagement, or any occasion where you’ll want to wear the ring on a regular basis; choosing bentwood just makes sense.  

There are a lot of options for metal rings with wooden cores available on the market, and that may make you think they’re just as good. The reality is that these rings are likely being crafted by jewelers without a lot of woodworking knowledge. 

A lot of these wooden rings are even being mass-produced in factories where the wood chosen and used is given little thought. This means the wood could be of lower quality, or that it could be sourced unethically.

If you can get both metal and bentwood together in your ring, you can be confident that you’re getting a higher quality ring that will last much longer and be made with better craftsmanship. 

Ebony
Macassar Ebony - Southeast Asia: A beautiful dark red to black toned wood. Great with vibrant colours like turquoise or malachite.
English Oak
*We are currently using the lighter woods from our Macassar Ebony to achieve this color as Roasted English Oak that is workable for bentwood has become hard to find. Colors range from medium to dark brown and nearly black tones.
Grey Maple
Sugar Maple - Canada: We use the same maple as our regular maple listing, but achieve a beautiful greyed colour by soaking the wood in iron acetate to achieve a weathered silver look.
Santos Rosewood
South America (Brazil and Bolivia): Not a true rosewood, and the same wood as our Pau Ferro, we use the santos name to differentiate the more red tone of this wood from the yellow tones of our Pau Ferro.
Pau Ferro
South America (Brazil and Bolivia): The same as our Santos Rosewood (although not a true rosewood), we use the Pau Ferro name to differentiate the more yellow tone of this wood from the red tones of our Santos.
Purpleheart
Central and South America: Beautiful deep purple tones that range to nearly black, but show up brilliant in natural light.
American Elm
Eastern to Midwest United States: Tones range from a toasted caramel to light creamy white in the sapwood
Hawaiian Golden Koa
Hawaii: Vibrant golden tones ranging to reddish hues make this one of our customers most favorite wood choices.
American Black Walnut
Eastern United States: Walnut ranges from a pale brown to a deep chocolate brown and every shade between. Can have color casts of yellow, grey, purple or red.
Elm Burl
Western Europe: The grain in a burled tree is caused by some form of stress or injury to the tree, but creates a pattern that is beautiful to look at. Colors range from medium to dark brown with small figures of color patterns changing throughout.
Canadian Maple
Sugar Maple - Canada: Light and bright in color, our sugar maple comes from Canada and is a beautiful warm creamy white tone ranging to a light honey shade.

None of the woods we use are listed in the CITES appendices as being threatened or endangered. Macassar Ebony is listed on the IUCN Red List as being vulnerable due to a decline in it’s natural range. 

We source most of our woods from craftspeople and artisans with pieces too small for their own use. In this way we feel we can create beautiful rings without contributing to their decline.

Turquoise
Malachite
Lapis Lazuli
"Blue Mix"
Made from Turquoise, Lapis Lazuli and Malachite
Jet
Synthetic Coral
Coral Sand
Natural Sand
Mother of Pearl
Synthetic Opal