June 3rd marks the five year anniversary of Dunn DIY. Conveniently, the official five year anniversary gift is wood. And so, putting together a fitting project was incredibly easy. Actually though, I thought that this project was an extremely fitting one to celebrate how far we’ve come, how far I’ve come, in five years.

First off, my hair was a lot shorter back then. And my DIY knowledge a lot smaller. This blog has truly been an experience for me of figuring things out and learning how to do things myself. The practical knowledge that I’ve gained through Dunn DIY would take up too much room to talk about here. But I truly believe that the skills I’ve gained here will follow me through life, and I’m probably always going to be thinking up creative ways to solve problems and make improvements in my home. One of the biggest skills I think I’ve developed through this time has been creativity. I remember when we first started Dunn DIY, and every week I wondered what idea we would be able to come up with for next week’s project. Now, I look back on the year and think to myself “Wow, we really only did a fraction of the ideas in my head”. Creativity to think up new projects, to solve problems, and to come up with new ways of doing things. And that’s why I think this project here today is the perfect project to celebrate this journey. Five years ago, I never would have been able to think up something like this:

Last summer I spent a good chunk of time working on the design for a DIY dunk tank. It seemed like a fairly involved project with elements of plumbing along with woodworking, and the design process turned out to be more involved than I anticipated. Typical DIY.

I think I was taking a break from dealing with the plumbing elements, and decided to work on the rotating arm with a paddle that triggers the dunking part. I had been using a certain size of PVC pipe, and realized that I needed to go with a larger size. I picked up the larger pipe but, as often happens with this kind of process, my brain didn’t quite keep up with me and I drilled a hole with a hole saw for the size of the original pipe. Which was, of course, too small now. I had drilled the hole in the structure, and it was more work than I cared for to take it apart and replace the piece. So I opted to drill the hole bigger.

Now, the way a hole saw works is there’s a circular shaped saw that attaches onto an arbor that fits in your power drill. The arbor has a drill bit attached to it that extends past the saw. So the first contact you have with the material is with the drill bit. This creates stability while you’re drilling. If you tried to use a hole saw without that drill bit, or if you use a another hole saw to try to widen a hole, the saw would just slide and jerk around and tear up the surface of your board. Not to mention, it’s dangerous. So I wasn’t about to do that. But I thought to myself, “that drill bit works as a guide to tell the hole saw where to go. I wonder what else would work as a guide?” And that’s where I came up with this plan: take a scrap piece of 2x4 and cut a hole with the larger hole saw (the one I should have used originally), place the scrap piece on top of the original hole, center and clamp in place, and then use the scrap piece as a guide for drilling the hole larger.

Not only did it work beautifully, but I ended up with a thin ring of wood (the difference between the two holes) that was perfectly intact. I didn’t think much about it at the time, until this year when someone mentioned DIY napkin rings to me. What a perfect application of an oddly learned skill!

Step 1: Cut guide for napkin rings

Start by cutting off a small length of 2x4 or using a scrap piece you have lying around. Clamp it down and cut out a circle with a 2” hole saw. This will be your guide piece.

If you’re not familiar with using a hole saw, it can be a little tricky at first. There’s a lot more contact than just a regular drill bit, and this means that it’s more likely for the drill to catch and give you some kickback. I like to point my elbow away from the drill, creating a right angle to the drill with my arm. This is a great way to protect your wrist from getting tweaked.

To begin, first get the drill bit started in the center, then release any vertical pressure you’re putting on the drill and turn the speed up to high. High speed, light pressure. That’s the trick. Once the hole saw starts cutting, you can apply more pressure (and may need to in order to continue making progress). Just continue to be careful of kickback, and relieve pressure if the saw seems to be getting stuck. Depending on your specific board, and the newness of your hole saw, it may be fairly smooth cutting through, or you may hit a lot of snags. It just takes some practice to know whether a snag can be fixed with a little more pressure or a little less, or with removing the drill altogether and then returning. Every so often, cutting with a hole saw, my drill will overheat and the battery will shut down for a minute or two. This isn’t a big deal, just wait it out for a minute or two.

cutting guide for wooden napkin rings

Step 2: Cut inside circle of the napkin ring

Use a 1 ½” hole saw to cut a circle in a length of 2x4, roughly centered side to side. Measure 1/4” around the edge of the circle and mark with a pencil.

measuring guide for diy wooden napkin rings

Step 3: Cut outside circle of the DIY napkin ring

Position the guide piece on top of the 1 ½” circle and line up the hole with the pencil markings so that it’s centered. Clamp in place. With a 2” hole saw, use the guide to cut out a larger circle around the 1 ½” circle.

cut outside circle of wood napkin rings
cut holes in scrap wood for napkin rings
finished napkin ring

Step 4: Sand wooden napkin ring

Sand napkin ring smooth with a piece of sandpaper. I tried using an electric sander, but I found it very hard to hold the napkin ring firmly in this process. Not to mention, I couldn’t sand the inside at all with a sander. I recommend starting with 100- to 150-grit sandpaper and working up to 220-grit. The inside in particular seems rough, and the inside in particular needs to be smooth so that it doesn’t snag your napkins.

sanding napkin ring
sanding diy wooden napkin ring

Step 5: Stain and finish

There are a number of different ways to finish your napkin rings. You can paint, stain, or go for an all-natural and coat with mineral oil (this is a food safe finish that’s often used in the kitchen on cutting boards and the like.

Personally, I wanted to keep these napkin rings natural so that everyone could appreciate the fact that they’re made out of wood. I mean, talk about a good conversation starter at a dinner party (only if you like groups of people praising you. I personally go back and forth). Not to mention, wood goes with everything. But then someone suggested to me the brilliant idea of painting the inside a vibrant color. I have to say, I’m such a fan of this. This way the color won’t get in the way of seasonal decor for different holidays, and it really makes for a fun pop when you take the napkin rings off the napkin. The overall effect, I think, looks very Scandinavian.

I used red acrylic paint for the inside of rings, and then a natural stain on the outside. I also highly recommend finishing your napkin rings, whether it’s with a subtle matte finish or a glossy one, because they will be on the dinner table and subject to food stains.

painting inside of napkin ring
staining and finishing napkin ring

napkin rings

final napkin rings wooden

final diy napkin ringsSee some of our past birthday posts here: