Canadian Woodworking

A unique way to wrap presents

Author: Chris Wong
Photos: Chris Wong
Published: December January 2013
unique present wrap
unique present wrap

While you’re wrapping presents this year, head to the shop. There’s nothing more eye-catching than a handmade wooden ribbon and bow.


As Christmas nears, you’ll find me in the workshop mak­ing presents. I value unique, handmade items and so do my family and friends. A handmade gift cannot be beat. Some of my favourite gifts to make are wooden jigsaw puzzles and small boxes. I like to wrap them in brown kraft paper and finish off with a wooden ribbon and bow.

I got the idea two years ago on Christmas Eve while wrapping gifts in my private space – the workshop. Experience with hand planes has taught me that I can control the shape of the shavings three different ways: vary­ing effective cutting angles, skewing the plane body to different degrees, and controlling how the shaving clears the plane’s mouth.

Difference of Pulling
Both shavings were produced with a plane set for an effective cutting angle of 37 degrees. The shaving on the left was pulled vertically out of the plane’s mouth while the shaving on the right was allowed to curl freely.

Pulling a Shaving
 Once Wong gets the plane started, he uses his forward hand to pull the shaving straight up out of the mouth.

Bow Close
The bow is comprised of multiple wavy shavings carefully wrapped around each other.

Restricting Shaving
Wong places his forward hand over the mouth of the plane to restrict the shavings and cause them to curl. Varying pressure on the shavings as they are produced results in different effects.

Taped Ribbon
Use transparent tape to secure the ends of the ribbon under where the bow will be placed. Hot-melt glue would also work.

Ready to Give
Finished, the wooden ribbon and bow lends a unique and memorable touch to the carefully crafted contents.

Not Every Wood is Suitable

Stock selection is very important. Choose a wood that is easy to work and has straight, non-reversing grain. Basswood and poplar are good choices. The board’s thickness is equal to the width of the ribbons produced; 3/8″ is a good place to start because wider rib­bons are more difficult to produce and narrower ribbons are harder to keep from twisting when installing them. The length of the board should be at least a few inches longer than the girth of the box.

Thick Shavings with Minimal Curl for the Ribbon

The criss-cross ribbon shown in the lead photo is made from two long, heavy poplar shavings. They are about 0.003″ thick and I use the following techniques to minimize the curl in the shavings, making them easier to manipulate.

To cut the ribbons, I start by check­ing that I have a keen edge on a 25 degree plane blade. Set upon the 12-degree bed of a low-angle jack plane, the tool’s effective cutting angle is 37 degrees (a block plane could be used, but the adjustable mouth on mine doesn’t open wide enough to allow a 0.003″ shaving to pass through). I set the plane blade deeper than I ever would in a normal situation and took repeated passes to find a blade setting that produced a thick, strong ribbon and allowed me to make a smooth pass without too much effort.

The straighter the ribbon is, the easier it is to work with so I make sure not to skew the plane as I advance it and I also gently pull the ribbon straight up out of the plane’s mouth as it is produced. This means that I am able to start the pass with two hands on the plane, but have to complete the pass with only one hand on the plane. It takes some coordination.

Delicate, Wavy Shavings for the Bow

The bow is made using different tech­niques. A single bow is usually comprised of two or three intertwined, wavy shav­ings. To make these shavings, I like to use a bench plane with a 45 degree effective cut­ting angle. The increased angle makes the shavings more wavy but not accordion-like, as a 60 degree effective cutting angle might.

You’re probably familiar with the curly shavings produced by a bench plane, but that’s not what I want for a bow. To get more wave in the shavings, I place my front hand over the mouth of the plane to prevent them from ejecting as they would normally. With nowhere to go, the shav­ings fold back and forth over themselves. Skewing the plane to different angles also affected the shape of the shavings.

When I have a few of these shavings, I select my favourites and wrap them around each other to form a spherical shape and trim the ends with my shop scissors.


To adorn the wrapped present, I first select the two best ribbon shav­ings. I use transparent tape to stick one end of the shaving at the center of the top of the box and wrap the shaving around, back to the center.

I trim it to length with scissors and use another piece of tape to secure it. I repeat the process at 90 degree for the second rib­bon. Then I decide which part of the bow is the most flat and secure it where the two ribbons cross with a blob of hot glue.

I’ve found that recipients of my gifts like to spend a few minutes admir­ing the wrapping job before carefully removing and setting aside the bow and ribbon. Then they tear into the paper.

Chris Wong - [email protected]

Chris is a sculptural woodworker and instructor.

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