Wooden Bookmark Stocking-Stuffers

A project by:

Gabriel B. Soares


December 2016

Build Time:

One Weekend

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Purple Heart, Walnut, and Red Oak

While doing a cleanup of my woodworking materials and equipment I collected scrap pieces from various previous projects and couldn't really get myself to throw everything away. I had some left-over pieces of purple heart, ash, red oak, bubinga, and walnut, so I started thinking of possible projects that I could do that would make use of all these scraps. Since the Holiday season was approaching, I decided to make some simple stocking-stuffers and ended up settling on wooden bookmarks.

While I was visiting a friend in Los Angeles earlier this year he took me to the J. Paul Getty Museum. At the museum's gift store I saw wooden bookmarks and thought to myself: "these would be really neat gifts, and it's not all that complicated... I bet I could make this". And so those bookmarks are the inspiration to the ones I built here.

At first I didn't know what to do with these. The idea popped up to maybe start selling them in an Etsy store, but since this was my first attempt at making bookmarks and didn't know how they would turn out, I decided to instead give them as gifts to friends and family.

Sorting through the scraps:

The first step in the process was to sort through all the scrap material that I had and start planning what types of patterns I could make and how everything would need to be cut. I settled on making 1"x6.5" bookmarks which I would make by glueing 1/4" thick strips varying in width from 1/8" to 3/4". In the end I settled on a symmetric pattern as can be seen in the images below.

Once I had all the strips cut, I built a jig to aid in clamping all the pieces together while the glue set.

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Planing the panel:

Once I had the 1/4" thick panel glued up, I had to figure out how I would bring the thickness down to 1/16". I began by flattening one side of the panel on the jointer (this is to ensure that when I fed the piece through the planer I would end up with parallel sides). Since the panel was relatively small, I decided that it would be safer to build a jig to feed the piece through the planer. I found some scrap plywood at the shop and used it to build a support which would hold everything together while feeding the piece through the planer (and also avoid tear-out on the edges of the piece).

I went very slowly on the planer, shaving around 1/32" with each pass, until I hit the desired thickness of 1/16".

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Making the bookmarks:

To cut the rectangular pieces that I used to form the bookmarks I scored the wood with a sharp blade at 1" intervals and snapped off the pieces. Then it was a matter of taking it to the belt-sander to round off the ends, and a lot of hand-sanding to get it all to the desired shape and texture. I began with 200 grit paper and worked my way up through 400, 800, 1000, and ending on 2000 grit sandpaper for a smooth surface. Throughout the whole sanding process I had to be very careful not to load the pieces incorrectly and risk breaking them.

For the finish, I applied two coats of Danish Oil, sanding in between coats. My last touch was to engrave the names of the people I was going to gift these to.

This was an incredibly fun project to work on. I was happy that I could make one more use of all the extra scraps of wood, and I hope that they hold up to usage.

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