Handcrafted Wood Buttons For A Coat or Jacket

Handcrafted Wood Buttons For A Coat or Jacket

Hi, Alan Stratton from As Wood Turns dot com.
Recently Jari Hirvonen from Finland asked how to make wooded buttons. Wanted to make
them uniform so they look similar. Did not want one-offs.
So I check the AAW website for some resources. I found the key there was to make the holes
uniform in the blank. Then there’s a better chance of turning them uniformly afterwards.
So, let’s make some uniform wooden buttons. But be sure to allow a few extras in case
there’s a catch. For this set of buttons, I did not like the
prospect of marking out all those tiny holes and getting them exactly in the right place.
So, I made a drilling jig. I’ll explain the jig in another video.
First, I’ll drill the same set of holes in two scrap blocks that are the same size
as my button blanks. These I’ll use later in the process to size and align the buttons.
These two scrap blocks will have center holes that will align them later to the lathe chuck
but are useful now to align and center the jig to the drill press. The center of the
jig becomes the center of the button. I’d recommend making the button blanks somewhat
oversized to the final target size. The jig uses spacers whose widths are one
half the distance between the button holes. Two spacers are used on each side of the jig.
The center hole on just these two scrap blocks uses one spacer on each side.
The real button blanks will use combinations of none and two spacers on each side to position
the four holes. I position the blank and spacers and lock down the blank, drill the hole, change
the spacer configuration, drill another hole, until the four holes are done.
Even with the jig and a waste strip to drill into, this padauk was very brittle. There
was an uncomfortable amount of tear out and chipping both on the top and bottom of the
button blanks. Next time, I may try veneer tape on both sides of the blank to try to
reduce the chipout. Now to the lathe. I made small threaded wood
faceplates for both the headstock spindle and tail stock live center. Please see my
faceplate video for details on making wood faceplates. The tail stock faceplate can also
be held by a chuck. Here’s where the scrap blocks from the drilling
operation come into play. I drilled a center hole in each faceplate and used a drill bit
to align this hole to the center hole in the scrap block for both the headstock faceplate
and the tailstock faceplate. Then glued the waste blocks to the faceplate. If all goes
well, all the holes can be aligned. I stacked up all my blanks on two pieces of
brass rod in diagonally opposite holes and mounted the stack between the two faceplates.
By the way, I used Baltic birch for these faceplates but would use solid wood next time.
At this small diameter, the Baltic birch tended to crack at the lamination joints.
Then to turn the buttons uniformly round. I started with a gouge. I tried the gouge
also in shear scraping mode. Again the brittle padauk chipped out in the short side grain.
I switched to a skew to try for a cleaner cut until I remembered that this is a cross
grain turning and a skew would be dangerous to either me or the wood.
Finally, I switched to using scrapers: a round nose scraper and my skew used as a scraper.
Ultimately, I put some pressure sensitive 80 grit sandpaper on a small piece of plywood
to sand them evenly. I tested the diameter with calipers. They
are close but there still a little taper across the entire stack. I figured these was close
enough. Now for the button faces. I used another wood
faceplate with a fresh piece of pine glue on. I turned a recess in the pine to use as
a jam chuck. It turns out that the button I used to size the recess came from the larger
end of the stack. I needed a layer of paper towel to hole about one half of the blanks.
I turned both faces on each button before moving on the the next. I kept the first button
on the lathe headstock to use as a pattern and flipped it over for the button face and
the back. I used the round nose scraper and my small
skew as scrapers. At times, I tipped the scraper up on its corner to reduce the contact area
especially over the thread holes in the buttons. This was the area most at risk for more chip
out. I sanded each face or back from 180 grit up
thru 600 grit also using a mineral oil and beeswax mixture for both a sanding media and
the final finish. To remove the button, I had remembered to
drill a hole thru the faceplate so I could use the knockout bar to press out the button
from the recess. With all the button fronts and backs finished.
I again used the wood faceplate I used to size the buttons.
I reduced the diameter of the faceplate to less than the button so I could have enough
room to radius the back side without flipping the button over.
This time, I cut two short pieces of brass rod and inserted these into the headstock
faceplate. These were just long enough to hold one button.
For the tailstock live center, I drilled out a rubber stopper to cushion the button and
the tailstock. I kept the tailstock in place while using a tool and at least thru the more
coarse grits of sandpaper. Then if I was careful to maintain pressure from the front, I could
finish sand without the tailstock. I did have a catch on one button with cracked
the button. All the more reason to start with more blanks than final buttons. Then also
with this selection, you can choose those that most closely match or have the best grain
pattern for the final coat or jacket they are intended for.
The beeswax and mineral oil made a nice finish on these buttons. Hopefully, the wood you
select will not be as brittle as this padauk. Please like this video and subscribe to my
channel so I can let you know when the next woodturning video is ready.
Please add your comments and project suggestions. Until next time, I’m Alan Stratton from
As Wood Turns.

28 Replies to “Handcrafted Wood Buttons For A Coat or Jacket”

  1. Very nice Video Allen but a bit complicated for this 73 year old senior citizen to remember all the important bits. LOL. I enjoy watching you younger chaps coming up with these inovative ideas.


  2. I'd like to see your ideas on the jig. I like idea "Spinning" where one idea prompts another. That one prompts yet another, and so on until a finalist emerges.
    Thanks in advance.
    Alan Stratton

  3. HI Alan,
    Nice video. I'm curious about whether, if your blank is square, you couldn't just rotate the blank through 90 degrees for each hole?


  4. Theoretically, you are correct. The risk is whether your blank is indeed square. Also for the following faceplates, I needed a hole exactly centered among the holes. It would depend a lot on tolerances. I figured the dual spacer concept would overcome some of the other risks.
    Thanks for your comment
    Alan Stratton

  5. I never thought of how many steps would be involved with wood buttons. Love all the tip you gave in this video. Thank You Alan.

  6. If you only wanted a one-off, you could shorten the process. Uniformity required more of a process. Yes, I was surprised about the number of steps also.
    Thanks for watching.
    Alan Stratton

  7. You are probably right. I didn't realize when I decided to do the buttons how much prep work would be required.
    But now, it's done & I'm all set to make as many buttons as my wife would like.
    Thanks for commenting.
    Alan Stratton

  8. I think I will remain a happy spectator on this project. But if I end up needing some custom buttons, at least I have an idea on how to go about it. Thanks for the effort, Alan!

  9. At least you'll know were to come to remind you how to make the buttons.
    Maybe you can use the concepts in a current projects.
    Thanks for watching.
    Alan stratton

  10. In theory, the stack should work. However, any even small shift in wood dimension or angle for the drill or bit wandering could spoil the entire stack. I learned from one of my engineering sons to always try to index from within the blank so that errors do not compound.
    The jig works as one part in an integrated system or process to eliminate error or dampen their impact. The jig also produces align blocks for the column and for rim turning.
    Thanks for your question. Try your way & report!

  11. Hi Alan
    wouldnt it be better to drill the small holes while you have a square button ?
    by having it square you can drill the same 4 holes by just turning the piece a corner at a time
    This idea suffers on how the heck am i going to turn the square buttons to make them round
    while the second idea that i thought it to make a square outside/round inside clamp by making a hole on a square piece of wood and cutting it on one side so when you hold it
    you close it a little and it crabs the button

  12. The buttons are drilled while the blanks are square. When square, you could set fences and rotate 1 corner at a time theoretically. However, any variance in squareness or size would result in misplaced holes. Then you have a problem aligning the stack to round them.
    Using the drill jig to drill the holes is part of an integrated system. I've posted another video detailing the setups that should help. Pls check it out.
    Alan Stratton

  13. How about using packing tape on both sides to help prevent splintering. I saw it used on scroll saw work. he used mineral spirits to clean off the glue.

  14. That should work as long as the stickiness is not too bad to clean up easily with the mineral spirits.
    I've also considered veneer tape. However, it would clean up with water which may have its own issues.
    Thanks for te suggestion.

  15. So… How much do you reckon it would cost per button if you went into production? Please. (My idea was to make them from dowels)

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