Fig. A: While a standard X-Acto blade will work, I recommend getting a set of carving blades if you plan on doing
a lot of button making. Figs. B and C: If you don’t have
access to a vise, clamp your stick to the end of a table
branches will need to dry out in the sun for a day or
two before being made into buttons. Buttons cut
from wood that’s too green or wet will crack once
they dry all the way. Expect some trial and error
with determining the right moisture.
2. Remove the bark (optional).
You can leave the bark on your buttons, but if you
want to remove it, use a sharp knife to peel away
2"– 3" of bark at one end of the branch, working
around it evenly with shallow strokes. It’s important
that your knife is really sharp; if it’s dull, removing
the bark isn’t just a pain — you’re also more likely
to slip and cut yourself.
3. Drill the holes.
Place the branch in a vise and use the
5" bit to
drill 2 or 4 evenly spaced holes into the cut center
of the branch. Keep the drill level with the branch,
or your holes will be skewed, and don’t drill too
close to the perimeter of the branch, or you may
break through it.
4. Cut the buttons.
Use a jigsaw or coping saw to cut
slices from the branch.
with 2 C-clamps. Figs. D and E: Pre-drilling the holes and
then widening them by hand helps prevent splitting.
Figs. F and G: Using varied grits of sandpaper will yield
a smooth-finished button that retains its rustic look.
5. Clean out the holes.
Next you’ll need to clean the wood pulp out of the
holes and widen them. Hold the E" bit in your hand
and gently turn it through all the buttonholes to
widen them. Repeat with the r" bit.
TIP: You may want to use a bit of cloth for
grasping the drill bit or you could hurt your
fingers over the course of making a half-dozen
buttons — as I did the first time.
6. Finish the buttons.
Sand the buttons, starting with the 220-grit sandpaper and working through to the finest grit. Depending
on how rough you want your buttons, you can do
just a few strokes or work all the way up to 600-grit
sandpaper to make them really smooth. If you want
to finish the buttons with a natural seal, rub on a little
beeswax then wipe off the residue with a clean cloth.
Try out a few different ways of sanding and finishing with individual buttons. Once you find a finish
you like, go crazy and make a whole set that way!
Making creative projects out of found and on-hand materials
is one of Kristin Roach’s favorite challenges. You can find
more of her crafting adventures on