Beadcraft! Make Your Own Onyx and Sodalite Bracelet with Semiprecious Chip Beads
Onyx and Sodalite Bracelet
Why make your own jewelry?
I have lived on a fairly tight budget for some years, and the kind of accessories I like to wear are often out of my price range--especially since jewelry is a luxury item, not something you “need” to live. But I’m a vain little monkey, and wanted to have some necklace sets to ’zazz up my rather basic work and church outfits--so I started scheming. I decided that I’d make my own jewelry, both saving money and getting exactly the look I like at the same time.
I got out my trusty laptop and started surfing. Of course there are hobby and craft stores in my town that carry beads and findings and such, but I knew there had to be more out there--and at a lower price! I started looking for websites where I could get genuine semi-precious beads and gold-plated or silver findings--and boy, did I find plenty! There are websites out there that have a huge selection, in all quality levels and price ranges, and one in particular even has some great tutorials to get you started.
Basic Tools You'll Need
You'll need some basic tools to get started; they're available online almost anywhere you can buy beads, but you can also get them at local stores like WalMart, Michael's, Hobby Lobby, etc. You'll want to get a crimping tool, a round-nose plier (the pointy kind my parents referred to as needlenose pliers), a square-tipped plier, and a wire-cutter. There are all-in-one tools available, and they look useful but I can't comment on how well they work because I haven't actually used them myself.
"Findings" For Making a Bracelet
Gold Plate Crimp Beads
Handy Inexpensive Bead Storage
Keeping It All Straight:
You'll also need to purchase bits and pieces known as "findings"--these are the clasps, rings, and crimp tubes you'll need to make a truly finished item. Here again you'll find a wide variety of styles, including toggles (which are designed to be noticed and can even be the focal point of your necklace, placed asymmetrically on the front of the necklace) and the more traditional spring ring and lobster clasps. I like using lobster clasps because they're easy to use, unobtrusive, and fairly inexpensive. You'll attach a clasp to one end of your bracelets and necklaces and a jump ring to the other end, fastening the wire loops with crimping tubes. It's pretty easy to do after a couple of trial runs with scrap wire, and once you've learned to use crimp tubes for attaching clasps you can use the technique in other ways as well.
Bead Layout and First Crimp
OK, so you've gathered up your tools and bought some beading wire, beads, and findings, and had a couple of practice runs with that crimping tool. Ready to make your first piece? I recommend starting with a bracelet rather than a necklace as it's naturally smaller and easier to work with. After you've cut your teeth on that, you can make a necklace in the same overall design and have a matching set.
You might be tempted to go ahead and start putting beads onto wire, but take a breath and curb your enthusiasm just long enough to make sure you have a design that'll work. Even on a simple single-strand piece, it's a good idea to actually lay out your beads in a line, especially if you plan to have a large center bead as a focal point. This way you'll come up with a balanced, symmetrical design. For this article I've made a more simple design with a repeating pattern; it doesn't need to be laid out as carefully. The average bracelet should be 7 to 7 1/2 inches, so be sure to cut that much wire and then some, because you'll need enough to loop at the ends and then trim. At least ten inches should work fine; much more than that and you're wasting materials. Line up your beads and make sure you have the right number for the length, allowing about half an inch for the clasp portion. Attach the ring side of the clasp to the end of your wire with the crimping tool and a crimp tube. You can trim the wire flush with the crimp tube to avoid having the end sticking out, but I usually like to leave a bit of a tail instead, and just make sure that it goes through the centers of the first few beads; this makes for a slightly stronger crimp where the wire end is less likely to pull out.
Adding the Clasp End
Now you have your jump ring crimped on, your beads all strung, and you're ready to finish your piece with the clasp. This is basically the same process as the first end, but you also have to make sure that you don't leave a lot of bare wire on the bead side of the crimp which would be unsightly and could cause the tail of the wire to poke out and catch on your clothes or even scratch you.
Put the crimp tube on the wire, thread on your clasp, and then pass the wire back through the crimp tube again, same as you've done before. But this time you'll want to also pass the wire through the first few beads before crimping the tube on. Crimp on the tube as before, then use your wire nippers to trim off the tail between beads; it should disappear underneath the beads.
Beads, Beading Wire, Tools:
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