Celebrate in Style with a Wooden Bow Tie

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This article is from Issue 80 of Woodcraft Magazine.

Raid your scrap bin and create some dressy accessories that express what’s beautiful and fun about woodworking.

Like many of my woodworker friends, I’m a lot more comfortable in jeans and a t-shirt than I am in fancy clothes. Not long ago, I discovered a foolproof way to make formal occasions more enjoyable—with a dress-up item from my own workshop. Wooden ties are fun to make, fun to wear, and great to give as gifts. A quick pick through your scrap bin will probably yield enough material for several ties. The only other ingredients are some adjustable straps, double-stick tape, decorative fabric, and varnish (see Buyer’s Guide, p. 64). So turn the page, and let’s make some ties!

Bows to go. It just takes a little wood to make a lot of ties. Choose fabric or leather centers to complement the wood grain. 

Create your ties in 5 steps

Some woodworking projects lend themselves to making multiples. This is one of those projects. It’s easy to make every tie unique because you can vary the wood, the shape, and the center band treatment that holds the strap. The quickest way to make multiple ties is to cut a single tie shape in thick stock, and then slice thinner ties from this blank. I aim for a thickness of around 3/8". This gives the tie some depth to allow for edge treatments that range from slightly sanded to deeply chamfered.

1 Pick your pattern

A little online research or a trip to a men’s clothing store provides the first and most important lesson in bow tie design: There’s a variety of sizes and styles. So the first step is to find a shape you like and transfer it to a piece of cardboard that will become your pattern. The center of the pattern (where the knot on a fabric tie is located) should be made thinner, as shown. This skinny section makes room for the decorative band that will hold the strap in place.


Go to woodcraftmagazine.com for full-sized patterns.

2 Cut out your ties

I traced my pattern onto some pieces of zebrawood, curly maple, and cherry. Then I cut out the tie shapes on the bandsaw. If your tie blank is thick enough, you can resaw the blank to create two or more ties. Use a pair of pushsticks as shown to keep your fingers well away from the blade.

3 Have fun shaping & sanding

Quite a few edge treatments are possible—from minimal round overs to broad bevels. Let the wood grain and your own sense of style determine the treatment you choose. I use my oscillating spindle sander to remove saw marks and to bevel edges, but you can also do this work by hand, using chisels and sandpaper. To prepare the tie for finish, sand all surfaces to 220 grit.

4 Apply finish

Since the narrow center section of the tie will be covered by fabric or leather, I drill a hole in this area for a screw. This makes it easy to hold each tie as I apply finish; it also keeps the ties upright for drying. Here I’m using wiping varnish, but aerosol lacquer is also a good choice.

5 Add the center & strap

The narrow center of the tie is finished off with several layers: double-stick tape, an adjustable strap used to hold the tie in place around your neck, and a decorative layer of fabric or leather. Craft stores stock narrow fabric trim in a wide variety of colors and patterns; they also have leather trim. Start by adhering the strap to the back of the tie’s center section with double-stick tape. Then wrap one or more layers of trim around the center to cover the strap and build up a thicker center. Cut your wrapping material to end at the back of the tie, and adhere it with hot-melt glue or 5-minute epoxy.


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