When picking the perfect branches, take note of their diameter, texture, and condition. Buttons generally range in size between 3/4" and 1-1/2," and you should choose branches with similar dimensions across. The condition of the branches is also important – always check for mildew and rot. You want your branches to be dry, but not too dry that they will snap when bent. Either choose branches that have had enough time to dry out on your property, or leave freshly fallen branches to dry in the sun for a bit. If you cut your buttons when the branches are still wet, the buttons may crack when they dry.
What you will need: 1. Fallen hardwood branches 2. Saw (hand or powered) 3. Dust mask 4. Clamp or vice 5. Pencil 6. Sand paper 7. Drill and drill bits (1/16," 5/64," and 3/32") 8. Wood finish or seal
Prepare your branches for cutting by marking your intended width for each button. Depending on the look you are going for, buttons may be cut thinly or thickly, but they should be no less than 1/8” thick or you risk snapping them. Secure your branch to your working surface to prevent it from shaking when cutting. On my first attempt, I had not secured the clamp tight enough, and the vibrations from the electric saw had the entire table shuddering.
Using your hand or powered saw, carefully begin cutting your branch where you have marked it. The process will take a bit longer with a hand saw, but that does not mean you should rush through this task with the powered saw either–slow and steady wins the race when you’re dealing with power tools. The general rule of thumb with sawing is, the more teeth on your blade, the smoother your results. I used an electric jigsaw with a smooth wood cutting blade for a cleaner cut, which also meant the cuts were slower and less aggressive than with a coarser blade. Dirt and debris tend to fly anywhere and everywhere, so I advise wearing some kind of protective eyewear or goggles and a dust mask.
Working on a surface you don’t mind piercing, drill two or four holes in each of your buttons. Be sure you don’t drill too close to the edge, or you might break the button.
Buff your buttons with sandpaper as much or as little as you like, depending on how rough or smooth you want your finished product to be. The more you sand and the higher your grit number, the smoother your buttons will turn out. Wanting to keep the natural charm to my buttons, I sanded them with a medium-grit paper and spent significantly more time sanding the button faces than the bark. By sanding the bark just a little bit, I smoothed out any jagged edges but kept the integrity of the bark.
There are several ways to seal the buttons. For a natural seal, rub on a little oil or beeswax, then wipe off the residue with a clean cloth. I chose to stain and seal my buttons all at once with an aerosol spray wood finish, adding a hint of oaky color to my already striking buttons.
Both practical and aesthetically pleasing, the wooden buttons came out wonderfully, and they add the perfect touch of earthiness to my knitting projects.