side project: wooden bow ties!

bowtie 14 have you ever seen the products at two guys bow ties? I have. I don’t really like bow ties all that much, but wooden bow ties somehow are interesting to me. however, as much as I like their products, I don’t really have the money to spend on them. however, I DO have time, materials, tools, and a tiny bit of know-how. above are a few of my attempts at making some wooden bow ties. they’re not perfect, but they’re alright, here’s my process.


pretty simple.

  • take some piece of hardwood you like. I used beech in the examples shown here. use an axe to split it into rough blocks approximately the size of a bowtie.
  • making a paper pattern of the finished product and cutting your blocks slightly larger than the template will really serve you well.
  • cut your rough blocks into shape with whatever tools you wish; I use chisels with a little bit of work with a circular saw, but a band saw would probably work better.
  • trace the basic flat pattern via your paper template onto the pieces, and cut these out in turn, cutting outside the line so you have room for error.
  • use a knife and sanding tools to get the actual shape fixed up.
  • burnish the pieces with a stone if you want to give them a shine without adding any sealers or treatments.

bowtie 06 I showed a lot of prospective rough pieces in one of the photos here, but I’ve only finished the shaping and sanding work on two of them – the left two shown in the photo above are the basic ties I ended up with. the rightmost one was made 5 months or so ago. it’s red oak, and the tie around it is linen. it’s somewhat irregular and the shape is enjoyable to me, but it was good for a first go. as you can see, the grain on that initial one runs parallel to the axis of the tie. with my two new birch pieces, I’ve gone diagonal – I think it showcases the grain better for these pieces. bowtie 07 the tie with the multiple thin stripes through it is pretty nice looking all on its own, but the guy shown above didn’t have enough character, so I decided to try a stain job on it. this photo is just a reference to show you my starting point.

here’s how to make a cheap, all natural, simple stain for your hardwood:

  • place some rusty items in vinegar – the type really doesn’t matter – and wait a day or so. the iron oxide will dissolve into the acidic vinegar.
  • brew some tea, letting it steep for a good long while. tea contains tannic acid.
  • evenly coat for wood with tea ( I just dipped it a few times, submerging it completely), then let it dry thoroughly. I balanced the middle of the bow tie on an small bottle so that there were minimal contact points; you don’t want the tea to collect on a visible surface, because that area will dye darker than the rest of the tie. the middle will be hidden with your cloth tie, so it doesn’t matter if there’s a weird bit there.
  • once the tea has dried, brush the wood evenly with the rust/vinegar mixture and let it dry again.

as it dries, you’ll see it darken. that’s due to the tannic acid reacting with the iron oxide. the vinegar is acting as a mordant, fixing the color in place. you can do this treatment multiple times if you want a darker stain – one coat was enough for my purposes. it’ll look really ashy at this point, but if you burnish it with a stone (like I did) or treat it with a sealer, oil, or wax, it’ll be nice and shiny. bowtie 13 I don’t know how to use a sewing machine and I’m pretty bad at hand sewing, but I did my best. I used a variety of fabric sources for the fabric tie that affixes the wood part around your neck. for the tea/rust stained tie, I shopped up a $2 tie I got from the beloved goodwill. for my original oak tie, I used rough linen from some discarded women’s pants. for the stripe tie, I cut up an old button down shirt. I never pay for anything I can get from waste. either way, it was a fun project, and I think they came out pretty well! I’m going to keep making more, merely as a hobby. I like working with my hands, and watching a long process come together into a finished item really brings me peace. stay tuned for a final step I employed to improve my ties – it involves some more free materials sourced from the world around me. bowtie 15 bowtie 16

2 thoughts on “side project: wooden bow ties!

    • hey, I’m a big believer of side jobs – this is definitely an option. need to get the work done and the word out! I’ll be posting them as I make them.

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