This tutorial on how to make homemade charm bracelet beads covers the entire process of making your own beads for a tiny fraction of the store bought price. I bought my wife an expensive charm bracelet, and soon found out that the purchase didn’t stop there.
How to Make Handmade Charm Bracelet Beads
As I wanted to add beads and charms, I saw that the beads were very expensive. What got me the most was that the wooden beads were just as expensive as the glass beads. Being a woodworker, I saw right through that.
In this tutorial, I show how to use store bought ferrules to create beads from wood, acrylic, trustone, or any other material you can turn on a lathe.
The process is easy, and if you have ever made pens or turned on a lathe before, the tooling is going to be recognizable. For example, a standard pen mandrel is used to turn the beads, and the basic 7mm bushings are used as well.
Handmade Charm Bracelet Beads – Preview
Both are made from an acrylic pen blank, and both have the same 1/4 inch metal ferrules.
When you see these up close the shine is far more than in the pictures. The secret is to use a buffing wheel, or polishing compound right on the lathe. Plastic polished really well.
If you are making your beads from wood, the process remains the same. Simply follow along through this tutorial and you will be able to make a beautiful set of handmade charm bracelet beads.
If you do not have a buffing wheel, you can always finish the wood with a wipe on product of your choice. I have made beads using both methods, and they look great.
See Also: How to Make Wooden Beads Tutorial
Handmade Beads – Supplies and Tools
In the picture there is an assortment of pen blanks, and blocks of wood. Some of the blanks are made from trustone, which is a man made material that simulates marble. Others are acrylic and plastic.
The wooden pieces are scraps from other projects, and can be cut down and used to make charm bracelet beads just the same. The ring mandrel at the bottom is used to hold the blanks while they are being turned.
Once you start making charm bracelet beads, you will become addicted. They are super fast projects, and you can really showcase fine examples of wood and other materials. The material you use becomes the star of the show.
Remember that. Select something great looking, and your handmade beads will look great as well.
These ferrules are 1/4 inch diameter on the outside of the smaller section. The larger flattened section is about 1/2 inch. These come in boxes with several inside, and they are inexpensive. You can choose other sizes if you like, but they may not fit on a normal pen makers mandrel.
Also, depending on the brand name of the bracelet, they may not fit on there either. These fit on most of the name brand bracelets, which is why I went with the larger ferrule.
The ferrules I purchased are made from basic metal for jewelry making, and are not very fancy in comparison to some of the materials you can buy. If you want to get ferrules made from silver, gold, or another precious metal, I am sure you could find them. You will need two ferrules per bead.
Handmade Charm Bracelet Beads – Preparing the Blank
For this tutorial, I am using a blue acrylic blank that I purchased from a WoodCraft store. It’s meant for pen making, and measures 3/4 inch square and 5 inches long.
Mark the center on the piece by connecting the opposite corners with a pair of straight lines. The intersection of these lines is the center of the face. Carefully use an awl or a very tiny drill bit to make an indentation at the center mark.
This will help guide the drill. Select a drill that matches the diameter of the pen making mandrel. This is 1/4 inch for most standard mandrels.
After cutting the piece off the blank, sand the ends flat using sandpaper. The easiest way to accomplish this is by laying out a piece of sandpaper on a flat surface.
Start with a coarse grit if you have a lot of material to remove, and rub the piece on the paper. As it gets flatter, switch to a finer grit and keep going until the faces are flat. After they are flat, sand them down to 400 grit to remove any scratches.
The faces will still be seen beyond the ferrules in some designs, and it can be a little tight on the lathe.
Handmade Charm Bracelet Beads – Turning the Bead on the Lathe
Add two more 7mm bushings, and then fill the rod with anything until you can screw it down tight with the knurled nut at the end. In my shop I use a couple old pen blanks.
If you have an adjustable pen mandrel, simply adjust the length so that you have a little room on each side, and can safely turn the blank.
Once everything is tight, mount the mandrel and your charm bracelet bead blank into the lathe. Make sure that the mandrel is seated firmly, and that the far end of the mandrel is locked in place with the tail stock.
Turn on the lathe to a comfortable turning speed, and you are all set to begin turning your bead.
Start off slowly when you are knocking off the corners from the blank. Plastic can fracture easily under the stress from the lathe and the tool.
Once the shape has been rounded, stop the lathe and look at the blank. Make sure that there are not any flat sections on the bead. If there are, it still needs to be reduced in diameter before shaping. Get the bead down to size, and then move on to the next step.
Most of my beads lack creativity. I typically let the material I am using tell the story rather than the shape I turn on the lathe. However, there is some merit to doing things a little differently.
If you decide on another shape, simply use your lathe tools to apply that shape to the charm bead. I have done a few beads with angled sides rather than rounded sides, and they came out nice.
You can also do cuts or lines down the middle if you like. The design is yours, so enjoy the creative process.
Handmade Charm Bracelet Beads – Finishing and Assembly
If you are using wood, then please read my tutorial on Finishing with Tru-Oil for an easy to apply finish that looks incredible.
If you are using acrylic, you have a couple options. There are polishes you can buy that are sold in pen making catalogs and stores that are used right on the lathe. You apply them to your rag, and then buff the piece. They work great, and are a less expensive alternative to a buffing system.
However, if you have a buffing system, like the Beall Buffing System, then you should really use it. I love my buffing setup, and it was a lot less expensive than I thought it would be.
Whether you are using wood or plastic, the buffing wheels make short work of the polishing process.
The bead in this tutorial was buffed before I even took it off the mandrel. It was easier to hold, and it only took about 30 seconds to go from dull plastic to a wet looking shine. Any way you finish, make sure that the bead is nice and shiny before moving on to the next step.
The only time that you need to do anything to the ferrules is if the centers are too long for the thickness of your bead.
If this happens, sand down the smaller end until the ferrules just touch inside the bead.
The ferrules should sit flush on the faces of the bead after gluing. If you do not like using CA glue, then a two part epoxy will do the same thing. The only difference between them is that it can take longer for the epoxy to cure than the CA glue.
I recommend that you experiment with different materials for your homemade charm bracelet beads. Wood comes in all colors and figures, and can really look nice on a charm bracelet. Also, spend some time looking through a pen turning catalog and you will gets lots of great ides.
These catalogs are loaded with great looking blanks and materials. You are guaranteed to find something that you fall in love with, and even the standard blanks can be used to make several beads.
This is a great gift for someone special. Not only are these beads very popular, but the fact that you made it by hand puts it over the top. If you find a special color or relationship between a type of wood and your significant other, then a charm bead from that wood can be an incredibly unique gift.
The effort, thought, and time that went into the bracelet bead will surely make a statement.
If you have any questions on How to Make Homemade Charm Bracelet Beads please leave a comment and I will be glad to answer them. Also, please share my work with your friends online. It helps me show more people the joys of woodworking. Happy building.
- More than 20 Years Woodworking Experience
- 7 Woodworking Books Available on Amazon
- Over 1 Million Words Published About Woodworking
- Bachelor of Arts Degree from Arizona State University
I receive Commissions for Purchases Made Through the Links in This Post.