Exotic wood & bezels

Hello, I would like to set wood into bezels for rings, earrings and
pendants but I’m not sure where to start. Has anyone tried this?
Does anyone have any advice on suppliers? Should I look for veneers
or thin cut wood? Are there any terms I should be searching for? Any
advice on cutting, sanding, polishing and sealing the wood? I am
thinking about wenge, cocobolo and honduran rosewood cut into
circles, ovals and rounded squares. Thanks for your help!


I have not tried this, but I have done a fair amount of wood
working. I think the group I would look at on treating small thin
sections of wood would be the folks who do pens and other small wood
turnings. They are also very knowledgeable on finishes which can deal
with body moisture, oils and acids.

Some woods are hazardous to work with so be careful on that issue.
There is a web site that has that I looked it up once
before doing some sanding on desert iron wood from Arizona, and it
was a good thing I did. I was surprised by how many woods will cause
a reaction in people during sanding and cutting.

On suppliers, I would look again at suppliers of pen blanks. Just
google pen blanks, these folks will provide wood with be best fiber
density, pattern quality, soundness and moisture value.

If it works out for you, post a picture, it sounds interesting.



A couple of hints on exotic wood. Cocobolo is a great looker but,
BEWARE of the dust (very poisonous)! you will need protection. Also
the only way to finish it is with wax.

Wenge is very course wood and hard to finish, also BEWARE of
splinters from this! There is a great website on exotic woods and
relevant info if you search for hobbithouse.

Chris Mead

I just have an additional question about toxicity of woods, granted
if it is set with a back and bezel, it would be different. But I know
when I worked with some exotic woods, the dust from sanding is toxic
to breath in. So what woods are fine for being against the skin and
eating utensils, etc?



You could look into wooden beads for a start. They’re already
sanded, finished, sealed and what-not. As I have seen people do with
coin pearls, you can cut the beads in half to make them shallow for
setting into bezels. It could be interesting as wooden beads are all
the rage right now and there are lots and lots of uniques shapes,
sizes, colors etc on the market

Good Luck
Kim Starbard

Here’s one good source for small pieces of exotic hardwoods:


It’s Texas Knifemakers Supply, which has lots of other cool stuff,
too. You just saw wood and sand it. You can use rasps or rough burs
for roughing. Wood isn’t polished, like with rouge, it’s sanded
really fine, then a finish is applied - I like Varathane Spar
Varnish, myself, and then the finish is polished. Super fine steel
wool is good for me, or people use pumice and other things. Ebony is
known to cause lung problems, cocobolo can cause allergic reactions
in some people, and wenge is another one that can be an irritant.
Cutting wood as you suggest is pretty easy, really, with a little



I really do not know. I have always followed the rule that if you
can eat the fruit, the tree is probably safe. Not that I have eaten
many trees, but that is the basis I used for cutting boards, bowls,
forks, spoons and cribs.

The other consideration is the sealer used, once many of the woods
are sealed, they are no problem, if they were, they could not be used
in furniture or the other items we use in our homes.

Most issues that I have seen with woods have been in relation to
inhaling the dust during the construction of the item and in one
case, the dust settled on the persons arm, they were sweating heavily
and they had what I believe was a reaction. The wood in this case was
cedar, the fence type, the stuff was not treated.

Here is a site I have found that may help you seek additional
Or you could just do a google like I did, there are a
lot of sites.



On suppliers, I would look again at suppliers of pen blanks. Just
google pen blanks, these folks will provide wood with be best
fiber density, pattern quality, soundness and moisture value. 

Try Lee Valley Tools (leevalleytools.com). They have a fairly good
selection of several woods in various sizes and they are a very
reputable firm and great to work with. One caveat - if you peruse
their website you are bound to find all sorts of things you can’t
live without. My friend waits impatiently for their holiday catalog
each year to get gifts for the grandchildren, as they have
wounderful old-fashioned, non-hightech games and toys. They also
have a very nice gardening catalog, with associated kitchen
supplies. Being a cook myself, I’m not sure how I ever survived
without their garlic peeler - and I can’t figure out why I never
thought of it myself!

Good luck with your project - I’ve been planning to play with
combining stones and wood in inlay for quite a whild.


Hi Marcella,

I work with a lot of exotic woods as inlays to my titanium rings,
and I also make pens from them. A good finish that is very durable
and can be sanded and polished to a glass-like finish is Cyano
Acrylate glue (super glue, also called CA.) It is essentially just
acrylic, is very inert and prevents problems from woods like Cocobolo
that can cause reactions on some people’s skin. Lots of exotic woods
are available as pen blanks, and are around 3/4" square by around 5"
long. You could cut whatever you should need from blanks that size.
There are some great suppliers of wood such as Penn State
Industries, Berea, Craft Supplies USA, WoodCraft and several others.
I also use veneers as inlays in titanium pens. There are several
exotic wood veneers that are around.020" thick, so are easily cut
with an X-Acto blade or by laser to very intricate shapes. A low
power laser engraver at your local trophy shop will do an awesome job
on cutting veneer. You can just bring them a CAD file or drawing of
what you have in mind. Different contrasting pieces can easily fit
together like a puzzle when cut this way, so the possibilities
multiply. The lasers can easily hold a thousandth of an inch, so
parts are very true to the drawn parts and are very repeatable.

I agree with what has been said about Wenge. It’s rough and
splintery. My favorite woods for inlays are African Olivewood, which
has a very pronounced grain (and smells like pizza when you machine
it); Bolivian Rosewood which has a very tight and even grain; African
Blackwood, which is extremely hard and fine grained; and Bocote,
which has a very pronounced grain. Others work too, but a lot of them
have a coarser grain and don’t work as well as these. When finishing
a CA finish, look for what’s called MicroMesh, which is special
sandpaper that goes to 12,000 grit. The suppliers above carry it. It
was originally created to fix scratches in acrylic aircraft canopies,
so will give an absolute perfect finish to the acrylic, but works on
raw wood or metals too. This is how I am able to get polished
titanium right next to spiraled inlays of Olivewood on a pen.

Good luck with your project.

Bruce Boone
Boone Titanium Rings

People can be sensitive to respiratory irritant wood dusts some more
than others. Google “toxic woods” You will find out quite a bit.
Utensils have been made of the maples, alder, bamboo. You really need
to do your homework.


... what woods are fine for being against the skin and > eating
utensils, etc? 

For a number of years I was seriously into carving wooden spoons,
usually from green wood, mostly using the Swedish techniques
championed by Willy Sundquist and his son (for examples of this kind
of work, see http://www.pinewoodforge.com/eating.spoons.html).

I found the following to be exceptional for utensils, rated more or
less in order of personal preference: hawthorn, pear wood, cherry,
apple wood, olive wood, boxwood (power carved not hand carved).

Others that are ok include: holly, dogwood, maples (rock maple is by
far the best of these), alder, magnolia, white oak if you can live
with the porous surface, aged fir (yup, fir. believe it or don’t).

Most of the exotic woods --rosewoods and the like-- are a bad idea
for utensils. There are rare exceptions but they’re so hard to come
by and you often have no idea how they were treated before they ended
up in your hands (some of the wood treatment methods used in the
"less developed" countries of the world would make your hair curl).

IMHO how you finish your utensils is at least as important as what
wood you use. Forget varnishes and shellac if you plan on actually
using the utensils. Oil and oil/wax finishes are the only way to go.

In my work I found that naturally air hardening oils worked very
well (eg. tung oil, raw linseed oil, grapeseed oil, etc). Raw tung
oil was probably the best I used but you MUST use the raw stuff
because “prepared” tung oils have heavy metal driers added that make
them very bad for your internal organs. Other good options included
olive oil (it air hardens VERY slowly but doesn’t tend to go terribly
rancid), raw linseed oil, and oil-beeswax combos. A slow boil in pure
cream works nicely too if that’s an option for you (sadly one must
discard the cream afterwards :slight_smile: ).

Feel free to contact me offline if you’d like more details.

Trevor F.
in The City of Light
Visit TouchMetal.com at http://www.touchmetal.com

I.J.S. makes beautiful inlay-ready rings, and blanks for earrings,
pendants, brooches, cufflinks, and what-have-you. Contact me
off-list for a catalog.

Dan Woodard, I.J.S.