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Making buttons?

 
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Anyone here make their own buttons out of natural materials?

Wood, bone, antler, something else?
 
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I don't yet, but, I'd like to, so I'll be keeping an eye out. I've made them from clay, before - and I've made frogs...
 
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I was just thinking about this exact question for the last day! I was thinking I need to make some large buttons for a friend's coat, and I was thinking of making 2 toggle type buttons for a different project.

The coat project is a "farm coat" so it doesn't have to be perfect, but my friend does tend to like "pretty" if she can get it so I was thinking of researching using Oyster Shells as I think I can get some of those from a different friend's beach. When I searched for "homemade oyster shell buttons" I turned up this link: https://www.instructables.com/id/Sew-Useful-Contest%253a-Make-Your-Own-Buttons/  

If you've got access to a drill press, this fellow's Youtube video has some good suggestions: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DI_eyCNj-M0

The toggles I'm thinking should be wood and was wondering if Ocean Spray (Holodiscus discolor) would be a good choice. According to this Wikipedia article:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Holodiscus_discolor

"Historically, the plant has been used by Indigenous peoples for many purposes.[7] Raw and cooked seeds were eaten,[8] and leaves were mixed with those of other plants and boiled with small game animals.[9] Many tribes used the wood and bark for making tools and furniture. Noted for the strength of its wood, it was often used for making digging sticks, spears, arrows, bows, harpoons and nails. The wood, like with many other plants, was often hardened with fire and was then polished using horsetail.[10]"

The "noted for the strength of its wood" part suggests to me that my thoughts of making buttons out of it has merit.

Thanks for the impetus to move this project forward! I needed something positive to work on, as I lost a favorite goose last night to vermin and have been trying to get ahead of that problem for a week with no success yet.
 
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I have made my own buttons.

Not sure anyone here is going to like how.  I used a doming block to dome a bunch of pre-1982 pennies.  Then I took heavy gauge copper wire and made a few tight loops and snipped them.  I set those loops inside the bowl of the domed pennies, then put a dab of copper solder paste at the junction.  Put a tray of penny/loop/solder into a toaster over and ran it until the solder melted and flowed.  Then I turned off the oven and let it cool.  Viola!  A hundred or so copper buttons.  
 
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I have made buttons out of antler. It was very simple. I just cut some slices of.the antler the thickness I wanted (maybe 1/8" or a little more) with a hack saw. A band saw would make faster work of it if you have access to one. I then drilled two 1/16" holes for the thread. I just eyeballed those and they came out great. The edges have the bumpiness of the antler, which is what I wanted. You could file or sand those edges down a little to make them easier to use. The bumps sometimes catch in the button hole.
Wooden ones would take a bit more work. Any hardwood would work especially the non-porous ones like maple, cherry, or apple.  You would need to rip a slice of the wood with the grain. The slice would be about the diameter of your buttons wide and as thick as you want your buttons. Use dry wood for this. Then cut the slice up into the buttons. You can do final shaping and smoothing with a rasp and sandpaper. Working with the small button is going to be difficult and possibly dangerous so do as much shaping and smoothing as you can before cutting it off the slice of wood. Drill small holes as you wish and use your finish of choice.  A belt sander and some padded pliers would really speed things up if you are making a lot.
 
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I have made buttons from black walnuts. I made slices with a handsaw while holding the nut in place with a very tight clamp. The cavities in the endocarp work as button holes, but I've also drilled extra holes if I wanted them in a different spot. The best slices come out at about 1/8". It's difficult for me to get them much thinner than that with my equipment. There are probably much better ways to do it but I've had good results this way.
 
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I have not made any in years....these are the last I have from my woven clothing, a cotton vest with bone buttons.
copying my post from another thread

Many years ago when I was weaving full time and making garments, I made bone buttons for the jackets. I used fresh cow leg bone (back when you could still get that at the butcher shop) and cut with a hacksaw to shape...drilled the holes and used a small file to smooth while set in a padded vice. Later, after drying a bit, I used a rock tumbler to really soften the edges. I loved them and don't have any of my own except maybe a small toggle on a vest somewhere.

Downside....the smell is almost nauseating when cutting and filing.

I don't know how older bone would work, maybe if not too weathered so it is weakened, it would be fine.
The fresh bone buttons would stay glossy and smooth as they aged.

EDIT to add pictures...found the vest and they are not toggles like I thought I remembered, but an example of leg bone buttons.....



 
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Looks like the logistics of making antler and wooden buttons has been covered, so here's a nice drawing and some pictures of some antler and wood buttons from two Backwoodsman magazines.  Also a pic of a wood button from my husbands jacket.
P1010573.JPG
buttons
buttons
P1010575.JPG
buttons
buttons
P1010576.JPG
buttons, etc
buttons, etc
P1010579.JPG
button
button
 
r ranson
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Any ideas on some phrases I can punch into google to learn more about making toggles like they have on duffle coats?  I seem to be getting lots of results about programming and toggle clamps but not much in the way of buttons.
 
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Glenn Ingram wrote:
Wooden ones would take a bit more work. Any hardwood would work especially the non-porous ones like maple, cherry, or apple.  You would need to rip a slice of the wood with the grain.



They will be stronger if you cut across the grain. Ideally, find a branch the diameter you want the buttons to be and cut slices the thickness of the button. The key is the branch needs to be dry before you cut it! Otherwise they will split as they dry out.
 
Rob Lineberger
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r ranson wrote:Any ideas on some phrases I can punch into google to learn more about making toggles like they have on duffle coats?  I seem to be getting lots of results about programming and toggle clamps but not much in the way of buttons.



I'd start with the colonial reenactors forums.  Maybe pirate reenactors too.
 
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BeeDee marshall wrote:Looks like the logistics of making antler and wooden buttons has been covered, so here's a nice drawing and some pictures of some antler and wood buttons from two Backwoodsman magazines.  Also a pic of a wood button from my husbands jacket.



BeeDee - what book is that? looks verry interesting from just a single page! I've been picking up bits of bone and antler for several years now and hoarding them away to use for just such as is pictured on the page. I find myself very drawn to natural materials for the making of useful products - baskets, clothes, rugs, bags...
 
BeeDee marshall
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Cindy Haskin wrote:

BeeDee marshall wrote:Looks like the logistics of making antler and wooden buttons has been covered, so here's a nice drawing and some pictures of some antler and wood buttons from two Backwodsman magazines.  Also a pic of a wood button from my husbands jacket.



BeeDee - what book is that? looks verry interesting from just a single page! I've been picking up bits of bone and antler for several years now and hoarding them away to use for just such as is pictured on the page. I find myself very drawn to natural materials for the making of useful products - baskets, clothes, rugs, bags...



It was from Backwoodsman Magazine, a couple of older issues. It occasionally has how to make things from scratch articles that are very useful. The person who wrote the article drew the picture.  Hope that helps.
 
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I've made buttons out of the clay that you simply bake in an oven. Easily found at craft stores, it comes in a variety of colors. You can form them into whatever size you are needing and use a heavy needle or skewer to punch the required holes.
 
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dust from bone,nails/claws & horn.

Even worse than thoracic dust is the “respirable dust” (particle size of less than 5µm) as these particles can even penetrate into the gas exchange areas of the lungs and potentially cause all kinds of trouble.

Prevention
Beyond the obvious method of prevention (don’t use powered grinders/sanders), there are a couple of methods of keeping inhaled dust to an absolute minimum.

The easiest is sorting out some decent PPE. There are many different grades of face mask on the market and even the most basic of these is better than nothing. However, if you are going to engage in frequent or heavy dust producing operations, it is better to get something more serious. In striving for a balance between saving money and, well, not dying of bone filled lungs, the best option for most people would probably be a FFP3 (European) or N100 (US) rated mask. A single disposable FFP3 mask is about £3-4. If money is no object, or you will be working daily with lots of bone dust, some kind of all enclosing filter mask would be much better. Other kinds of filters such as charcoal, HEPA and so on are not necessary as they focus on vapour, exceptional small (<1µm) particles or pathogens. Regardless of the kind of mask you use it is always important to remember to ensure it fits your face correctly – it is no good having a mask that filters out everything if you leave a huge gap around the side of it.
https://halldorviking.wordpress.com/2014/01/31/keeping-safe-while-bone-working-respiratory-issues/

I would use wood & stone or brass & copper, if poisslbe, before useing bone & horn.
 
Julie Reed
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Excellent point. Another (additional) option is a dust collection system so that any dust you create is immediately sucked away and trapped in a filter. Can be as simple as a small shop vac with the nozzle aimed at your work piece, and the exhaust port vented outside, or directed away from your area if you are already outside.
This is valid for ANY cutting/drilling/sanding/grinding operation that creates fine dust.
 
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I never have, but I should try. We have mussels here that were used for buttons years ago. Very beautiful. It's hard to beat natural iridescence when it comes to beauty.
 
Joe Grand
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Julie Reed wrote:Excellent point. Another (additional) option is a dust collection system so that any dust you create is immediately sucked away and trapped in a filter. Can be as simple as a small shop vac with the nozzle aimed at your work piece, and the exhaust port vented outside, or directed away from your area if you are already outside.
This is valid for ANY cutting/drilling/sanding/grinding operation that creates fine dust.



HEPA are costly, because they will not exhust any particulates, small particulates can stay in a cloud for some time.
Maybe I am going over board, but BLADE magazine had an article on the dust years ago, warning knife makes of th danger & said it is best to treat the dust as poison gas.
However a vent to outside hose that went in to a canister could keep the cloud to a minimun.
Most wood workers use vacum at work piece & Air Filtration System, this should go double for horn & bone, because it can harm anyone walking inside or outside of your shop.

3M™ Particulate Respirator 8233, N100
https://www.3m.com/3M/en_US/company-us/all-3m-products/~/3M-Particulate-Respirator-8233-N100-20-ea-Case/?N=5002385+3294776421&rt=rud
 
r ranson
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I got some branches of some wood I like and while they were in branch form, I pealed them, split them in half and then gave them the general shape and size I want.  Used the saw to cut them into 2" lengths (for a finished size of about 1.5 to 1.75" long).  The wood cracks something terrible so I soaked them in PEG for a few days.  

Now it says I should leave it to dry and it should take 60% the normal drying time.  Um... what's the normal drying time for 2" long (with the grain), 1/2" wide bits of stick?

My brain says it's one year per inch, but is that square inch or cube inch, or inch thick, or inch long?  The internet seems to only want to talk about big bits of wood, not little things like this.

Sadly the weather got hot, so it's in a cool part of the house (70F+) with lots of room for the air to circulate but not in a draft.  I made more blanks than I need as I expect to f-up a lot of the stages.  I'm amazed so many made it this far.  
 
Joe Grand
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r ranson wrote:I got some branches of some wood I like and while they were in branch form, I pealed them, split them in half and then gave them the general shape and size I want.  Used the saw to cut them into 2" lengths (for a finished size of about 1.5 to 1.75" long).  The wood cracks something terrible so I soaked them in PEG for a few days.  

Now it says I should leave it to dry and it should take 60% the normal drying time.  Um... what's the normal drying time for 2" long (with the grain), 1/2" wide bits of stick?

Sadly the weather got hot, so it's in a cool part of the house (70F+) with lots of room for the air to circulate but not in a draft.  I made more blanks than I need as I expect to f-up a lot of the stages.  I'm amazed so many made it this far.  



Air dried timber log or rough boards are one inch per year, but being small size, even if it is one inch thick, should be far shorter time.
Many green woodworker  bake their chair parts in a metal drum on a woodash/hot coals bed, of in a kichen oven on a cookies sheet on low heat.
I would leave the limb/log full size to bale it.
I let small slappings air dry in a basement for two year to make walking stick for the BSA, in called SA.
 
Jay Angler
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r ranson wrote:

The wood cracks something terrible so I soaked them in PEG for a few days.

What's PEG? Did you do this because you know the particular type of wood you choose has the characteristic of cracking a lot when drying, or because you were already seeing cracks forming? Do you have a name for the wood (so I know what to watch out for?)
 
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Jay Angler wrote:r ranson wrote:

The wood cracks something terrible so I soaked them in PEG for a few days.

What's PEG? Did you do this because you know the particular type of wood you choose has the characteristic of cracking a lot when drying, or because you were already seeing cracks forming? Do you have a name for the wood (so I know what to watch out for?)



I don't know what PEG is, but someone else in the house is using it for their woodturning, so I snuck my toggle blanks in there for a few days.  

I know this wood splits because I've made hair sticks from it before.  Not so much splits, but falls off in strings if I'm not careful about drying it.  It's a bush so it doesn't have the solidness of tree wood.  But the wood is gorgeous so I think it's worth the bother.  
 
r ranson
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ah, apparently PEG is Polyethylene glycol.  Hmm... Would have thought harder about it if I had known.  

I wonder how we can dry the blanks without the risk of cracking.  This wood is super easy to carve when green, but wait 24-48 hours and it's just about impossible to get a knife to shave a sliver off.  
 
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r ranson wrote:

ah, apparently PEG is Polyethylene glycol.

I just googled: how toxic is Polyethylene glycol and there are many worse chemicals out there. It is used in skin products and the worry seemed to be not about the Polyethylene glycol, but about contaminants to it.  For buttons, the risk is probably low.
I know very little about dealing with green wood and the issues of drying wood - total beginner in this area beyond knowing that wood shrinks as it dries! It makes me wonder what the PEG does to discourage cracking, and what alternatives there might be?

Did you split the blanks in half for ascetic reasons, or to get a specific thickness/shape you wanted?
 
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R Ranson says

I wonder how we can dry the blanks without the risk of cracking.  This wood is super easy to carve when green, but wait 24-48 hours and it's just about impossible to get a knife to shave a sliver off.  

Maybe it's sorta like carving apples into faces before soaking them in a lemon juice dilution! The lemon juice keeps the apple from turning yucky brown as it dries down to a shrunken head!!  Just what came to mind! So the take away is a suggestion to carve while green and wet and fresh, then PEG it!
 
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Very cool stuff here, folks.
I'll have to admire from a distance... my GF had the strangest phobia.
She feels distinctly uncomfortable seeing, feeling or talking about buttons.
She says they remind her of insects like cockroaches.
Go figure, but we are a button free household.
 
r ranson
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My understanding is that when wood dries, it leeches moisture out of the cells or something like that which got oversimplified in my head.

As it loose moisture, it changes shape - it shrinks.

But I also suspect it acts like other cellulose fibres in that the natural shape of the long fibre cells takes over.  Like cotton when it comes 'ripe', the moisture leaves the fibre, and the fibres become flat and curly.  I often wonder if wood does this but less.

Something like PEG or oils, replace the moisture in the cells with something that evaporates slower.  That's why wood gets 'thirsty' and needs more oil from time to time.  
 
Julie Reed
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When wood dries it- like most organic materials- shrinks. The faster it dries, the quicker it shrinks, with some parts drying/shrinking faster than others, and that causes the fibers to separate which leads to cracks. The trick is to slow the drying process to the point where the fibers do not separate. With wood, whether logs, boards or even branches, you simply paint the ends. I use a product called Anchor Seal, but elmers glue works fine too. Since the fibers are like drinking straws running the length of the wood, it dries faster (and absorbs faster) through the ends than the sides, even with sawn lumber. Peeling the log or branch does help a lot though, and in fact is essential with birch or it can rot, as the bark is waterproof.
Even when dry, humidity levels will affect wood, so rungs come loose in chairs in winter, and guitars and violins need to be acclimated and re-tuned if you travel with them. It’s why, if your hardwood flooring was installed tightly on a very low humidity day, it may pop or bulge at the seams in rainy weather.
It’s hard to accelerate the drying of wood. You can use a kiln (as in- kiln dried lumber), but most people don’t have access to one (I don’t mean a ceramic kiln).
Twigs and branches dry fairly quickly full length. The ends will crack, so one thing is to simply cut them a few inches longer than needed and then once dry, cut them to length. You will sacrifice inches on the end, but the middle won’t be cracked. Slow drying means keeping them in a cool dry place, out of the sun. Some air flow helps, but too much will also lead to cracking. The denser the wood, the longer it takes. A 2” spruce pole takes about 6 months for an 8’ piece. That then gives me about 60 1/2” slices to make tree ornaments in November.
Unfortunately green wood is far easier to carve or cut, but then it’s much harder to dry slowly. Keeping it in a paper bag with damp sawdust is one method. I’ve been told short bursts in a microwave oven work, but I’ve never owned one.
Ultimately, planning ahead and patience are the best ways to dry without it cracking!
 
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I was looking for something simple to use to close a plastic mesh bait box which I promised to make a friend for her crab trap. Not fancy, but I think it will do the job!
C-toggle-closure.JPG
I used an small branch of Ocean Spray to make it.
I used an small branch of Ocean Spray to make it.
 
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Chris Sturgeon wrote: Very cool stuff here, folks.
I'll have to admire from a distance... my GF had the strangest phobia.
She feels distinctly uncomfortable seeing, feeling or talking about buttons.
She says they remind her of insects like cockroaches.
Go figure, but we are a button free household.



This was a new one to me, but I did have a teddy bear with sort of creepy button eyes (like googly eyes, but more ‘dead’ looking than cute) when I was a kid so I kind of understand. But I’m one of those people who ‘has to know more’ so I looked it up. This was neat!

Koumpounophobia is the fear of buttons, a relatively rare condition. Like any phobia, the specific fear may vary dramatically between sufferers. Some people are afraid of the texture of certain buttons. Others feel that buttons are somehow dirty. Some only fear touching or wearing buttons, while others are scared of viewing buttons worn by strangers or friends.
The fascinating (to me anyway) part-
In 2007, Apple co-founder Steve Jobs revealed his button phobia to the Wall Street Journal. His phobia extended far beyond clothing buttons, ironically setting the stage for what was arguably the forward-thinking company's most remarkable success. Modeled after the company's 1993 Newton MessagePad PDA, the revolutionary iPhone took the world by storm upon its 2007 release. Singlehandedly, it changed the concept of a cell phone from a device that resembled a traditional telephone to a smooth rectangular block that consisted primarily of a touchscreen. If Steve Jobs had not been afraid of buttons, would iPhones and tablets exist today?
 
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