Making wooden beads

These wooden beads are a great project to both use up little scraps and get kids involved in craft.  The beads can be strung up to make a holiday garland, hung as an ornament, or made into a necklace.

This guide assumes at least one adult involved has a basic understanding of green woodworking and knife safety.  Of course, use your own judgement on which tasks are safe and appropriate for your children. 

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Tools needed

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You will need a drill & 1/4 bit, saw, sloyd knife, ruler, and a pen or marker. 

If you have it, a spoon mule and drawknife can be easier for some kids.     

You will also need a stable work surface and some way to clamp your work to it (your hand can work if needed).

1. Stock prep

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The beads can be any size, but I find 1" to be a good choice.  Prepare a piece of stock 1" square by 3-5" long by splitting, sawing, or any preferred method.  You can use green wood, soft wood (easiest to carve for younger kids), or dry lumber.  The offcuts from next to spoon handles work great.  These don't have to be perfect at all.  Having a few pieces done before you get the kids involved will make things move along faster.  Have a child mark off 1" increments and bring the lines all the way around.  

2. Sawing

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Saw down each side, along your lines, 1/4" deep or so.  You don't have to be precise, but don't cut all the way through.

3. Initial shaping

Use a sloyd knife or drawknife to shape the beads.  Begin by knocking off the corners, angling the cuts in toward the center of the stock, then keep going.  Make things faceted or round, symmetric or wonky - you're in charge.

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4. Drill, saw, repeat

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Drill a 1/4" hole through the top bead, then saw it off.  Repeat until all of your beads are drilled and separated from the stack.

5. Final shaping

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Use the sloyd knife to do final shaping, particularly the top and bottom that will be rough from the saw.  Be careful with this as the beads are small now.

6. Dry, finish, string

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If you used green wood, you'll want to let the beads dry now.  If your young helpers are impatient, you can microwave them in 10 second bursts until they feel dry (careful, they get hot).

Finish the beads with oil, milk paint, acrylic - your pick.

Finally, string them into a garland, ornament, or necklace.  Play with patterns, colors, spacing, and different wood types.

I hope this created some homemade joy and happy memories for your family.  Send me pictures of your finished beads via email or @mattpday on Instagram. 

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