I’m hoping someone could answer a couple of questions for me.
Do you need to finish the backs of wooden jewelry and, if so, what won’t irritate skin?
Also, what kind of tape do I need to mask wood for the laser?
Well, “need” is totally subjective and is therefore up to you. Personally, I think that jewelry is handled all the time, and so finishing the back looks and feels much better.
As for what finish to use, that’s again up to you. In terms of irritation, I suppose it would depend on the wearer, some people might be more sensitive than others, but a shellac, polyurethane, or oil finish is generally pretty hypoallergenic.
Masking is a whole other topic, and has been covered extensively on the forum. Search for “masking” and you will find so much information. Always search first, you’ll be amazed at what you find.
This is my favorite topic on the matter:
What I do on the backs of the mosaic tile pendants I make out of wood is coat it with a layer of epoxy resin (like ICE brand but there are many that work). It makes a nice smooth water-repellant coating that also looks nice. Here’s a photo (sorry for the lack of focus):
I’ve sold a good deal of jewelry made from raw mesquite on etsy, some made with the forge and some without.
I always finish the pieces front and back. Wood is porous and I don’t want moisture or oils from someone’s skin to affect the piece over time.
I’ve always used plain old shellac. It’s not the most durable finish, but it gives me the look I want, and nobody has ever complained about problems with their pieces. My wife has a piece finished with shellac that she’s worn for years now.
Using a spray can works okay but I prefer the results from applying two or three light coats from a can with a small brush. It just gives a look that seems to suit my work. I have to be quick as the stuff dries out in a hurry, but for a small piece there’s not much to cover.
As far as masking, I’ve used various brands of plain old masking tape and all have done fine so far. I was just using a roll from the dollar store last time I worked. My raw wood pieces are always sanded smooth before engraving begins though. I make sure the surface is dust free before putting the tape on and lay the tape down smooth without air bubbles.
Before finishing, I give the piece a few runs over fine sandpaper (320-400) and clean the dust again, to make sure the tape residue is gone and any stray burns are removed.
Here’s some pictures that sort of show off the finish I get.
With some patience and experimentation you can get incredible work out of the forge.
Lovely pieces! I really like the look with the copper wire–it goes perfectly with the designs.
Thanks! Nice pieces!
Thanks! I see you epoxied right over the glue-on bail?
Yes, after letting the glue dry overnight.
To be clear, the resin I used was a two-part liquid resin that takes about 24 hours to completely harden.