Introduction: Disc Bead Bracelet - Cheap, Easy, and Recycled Shrinky Plastic!

Picture of Disc Bead Bracelet - Cheap, Easy, and Recycled Shrinky Plastic!

This is a fun and easy project, costs less than $1 to make, has tons of possibilities for customization, requires no jewelry making skill or real tools, and is a way to recycle stuff that would be thrown away! What could be better??

This was inspired by something I used to do when I was a kid, make bracelets out of fishing tackle (specifically a barrel swivel). You can buy these anywhere they sell fishing gear - I paid 99cents for a pack of 12 and didn't even use them all.

I combined that with my love of faux shrinky dinks from #6 plastic (previous instructable here or check out my Shrinky Dinky Test Lab experiments) for a fun, updated twist!

Of course, bracelets aren't the only thing you can do with this -- you could make drop earrings, necklaces, bead curtains, or whatever! This would also be a great project for kids to do, I could see this at a pre-teen girl birthday party...

So, if you like this, be sure to rate it!
And if you try this, or a derivation thereof, I'd love to see it ... come find me at


Step 1: Materials

Picture of Materials

Here's what you need:

#6 Plastic - The thin clear kind marked with a 6 in the recycling triangle. No, not the Styrofoam #6 or any other number. I save to-go boxes, boxes from the bakery section of the grocery store, and so forth every time I see a #6 on it! Also, #6 is not recyclable in many cities recycling programs, so it usually ends up in a landfill somewhere. And that's no fun!

A package of brass barrel swivels, found in your fishing supply section of your local discount store or whereever they sell fishing tackle. They come in various sizes (I used #10 for this example, which was 12 in a pk), and it took about 7 for my (small) wrist.

Sharpie markers -- I used red, orange, and magenta.

A hole punch

A circle punch (something like this - you can find in craft or scrapbooking stores)
...or you can cut out the larger circle with scissors, its just more tedious.

Acrylic Top Coat spray

Step 2: Getting Started on Your Charms - Color & Cut

Picture of Getting Started on Your Charms - Color & Cut

First, decide on your colors and/or any design. For mine, I decided to do several different similar solid color charms.

Roughly color your plastic, so that you can still see the lines left from your markers. I didn't in these pictures, but a really neat effect is to color one side of the plastic with red in one direction, and the do the other side in magenta in a slightly different direction.

NORMALLY, you pick light colors because they darken considerable on shrinkage. For this project, you want to pick dark colors, as we'll be using the sealer at the end to lighten them and give them a mottled effect. I found the orange came lighter than I would have liked, but the red and magenta were quite nice.

Next, punch out the shape using your circle punch.

Then, using your hole punch, punch a smaller circle close to the edge of your disk (see picture)

Step 3: Charms - Shrinking

Picture of Charms - Shrinking

Place your plastic discs (colored side up if you only colored one side) on a sheet of parchment paper in a 225 degree oven (or toaster oven) . They will quickly start to curl up. Within a minute it should have flattened out again and be ready to remove.

Remove. If disc is not quite flat, while it's still hot, use a book on a hard surface to press it down and ensure it is flat.

Unlike store bought shrinky dinks, recycled #6 may not shrink evenly. For this project, that's ok, as they look cool as little ovals.

(If you need more info on the shrinking process, check out the other sources I referenced in the intro to this instructable)

Step 4: Charms - Sealing

Picture of Charms - Sealing

Sealing Shrinkies colored with Sharpies is tricky. Luckily, this project takes advantage of the nature of the reaction of the colors to being sprayed with acrylic top coat spray, so it's easy!

Lay your charms out and lightly spray with an acrylic top coat sealer, several light coats. The sealer will lighten and mottle the sharpie marker, giving an interesting organic effect.

Let dry thoroughly, and repeat the process on the other side.

When completely dry, you're ready to go!

Step 5: String Your Bracelet.

Picture of String Your Bracelet.

No tools required! just unhook the end of one of your swivels. Slide a disc on it, then slide the loop end of another swivel on it. . Close the clasp. (Sorry, it's backwards in the picture!)

Open the clasp of the one you just strung on, and repeat the process. Continue until you have enough length to reach around your wrist with a little slack (for mine, that was 7).

Place around wrist, open your last hook, add a disc, then clasp the end to the beginning.


Step 6: Wear, or Give, and Show Off to Your Friends That You Can Cheaply Adorn Yourself While Saving the Planet!

Picture of Wear, or Give, and Show Off to Your Friends That You Can Cheaply Adorn Yourself While Saving the Planet!

Of course, there are so many ways you can do this, customize it for your own look. Make and give as friendship bracelets. Make earrings by just attaching a earring finding on the end. String a whole bunch and you can make a curtain out of them even!

If you have more questions about shrinky plastic from #6 recyclables, do check out my doodle charms instructable or check out the Shrinky Dinky Test Lab experiments on my blog.

Hope you enjoy it!


porcupinemamma (author)2011-05-29

So glad I found your excellent Instructable. Your bracelet is a work of art! I've subscribed to your ingenious instructables. Thanks for sharing

ArtCraftGo (author)2011-04-12

I love your tutorials!

I’m trying to find information online about melting plastics with recycling #s 1-5. I’m curious what will happen, how they melt, and whether they’re usable for crafts. I hesitate to experiment myself because I figure someone somewhere has already tried!, and I don’t want to sacrifice our toaster oven or fill our house with horrible-smelling toxic fumes, if that’s what the other numbers of plastic do when melted.

Do you have any information about what happens when you melt plastics other than #6? How did you come to know #6 was best for crafting?

Thank you! Happy crafting!

P.S. — Have you tried any eco-friendly resins as sealers? How do they compare to standard sealers?

DotatDabbled (author)ArtCraftGo2011-04-12

Honestly, I've only tried with a few different kinds so I'd be hesitant to give any advice about other plastics. Some will simple soften, some will do nothing at these kind of temps. I would be concerned about fumes from too much experimenting, so try anything outside in an old toaster at your own risk :)

I do have another cool project -
a bracelet from a vinyl record, but I'm not sure if that will help you.

ArtCraftGo (author)DotatDabbled2011-04-12

Thanks! Perhaps I will just have to be on the lookout for an old toaster oven in our local thrift stores. :)

pennyg (author)2010-12-27

Dot--You knock me out! Thanks so much!!

Lftndbt (author)2009-02-26

Very nice indeed!
Reminds me of these.
i think they would go well together. ;-)

Lftndbt (author)Lftndbt2009-02-26


roneisaqt (author)Lftndbt2010-10-05

so pretty, it looks like jade. :)

DotatDabbled (author)Lftndbt2009-02-27


BangaliBabyGirl (author)2010-03-11

 Do you have any other cheap alternatives for the brass barrel swivels? I don't have a fishing store anywhere near me unfortunately

I got my swivels at Walmart (or Target) I think, so try one of those type stores.  If not, try beading wire.

 Thank you! :) 

djgracie (author)2009-12-20

these are soooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo cool !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
i'm going to make them !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!:):)

Ravend (author)2009-10-26

I think Mcdonalds salad containers is #6.

christine ang (author)2009-09-13

:( My daughter and I tried this three times. The plastic became bubbled and would not lay flat. I even tried to flatten while still go :( I did use #6 plastic...hmmmm. Then we tried an opaque cup...that worked very well. Are there any suggestions? I haven't given up yet, maybe it was just that one particular to go box. I'm really excited about this project and would love to go create with it :) TY!

swartley3ga (author)2009-07-05

I love this...I am going to make some today =) I will post pics if I get a chance to make them!

ChrysN (author)2009-05-13

I am curious, what is the difference in size before and after (percentage of shrinkage)? I want to make something a specific size and I am wondering how large a piece I would need to start with.

DotatDabbled (author)ChrysN2009-05-15

unfortunately, when you are using recycled materials there isn't a straight answer, as it varies from plastic to plastic depending on how it was made. The best thing to do is to take a square scrap piece, mark it like a ruler both horizontally and vertically, and shrink it. Then use that as a guide. Also note that some plastics will shrink more in one direction than the other.

ChrysN (author)DotatDabbled2009-05-15

Thanks, that's good to know! I'll give it a try.

Killdoomkid (author)2009-05-15

Dude! This is like the simplest thing EVER, yet I've never thought of it before! You're clearly very creative and the end product looks great! I'm going to go make one of these right now. lol.

yadavnatasha (author)2009-04-23

Its a great idea!!! I am gonna try it out right now!!! Eco-friendly!!! :>

headlessbubble (author)2009-03-11

awesome! great idea I can't wait to try it

silverhawk319 (author)2009-03-10

this is so cool,being a cheap hippie and semi green i love it.

HimeNoHana (author)2009-03-06

Oh thanks! I've been wanting to try the shrink wrap 'beads' for a while now, but just never could justify spending $$ that the craft stores wanted for it. Now I know what to look for!

mdeblasi1 (author)2009-02-26

I am forever checking, before I recycle or throw away, for the illusive no. 6 plastic. What usually comes wrapped in it? Marya

KreaKatri (author)mdeblasi12009-03-01

I have found fx ice containers, meringue containers, take-away salad container or cream puff/cream bun/chocolate marshmallow(these are the possibilities my dictionary gave me) containers. If it's clear and makes a lot of noise when crumbled, there's a good chance it's no. 6 Hope it helps :)

Corvis (author)mdeblasi12009-02-26

cd jewel cases are also no.6 plastic. they might be too tough to cut for use in this project though.

mdeblasi1 (author)Corvis2009-02-26

CD cases would cut easily with a jeweler's saw. I'll have to try that, if they'd shrink up you could get some really interesting effects. Marya

DotatDabbled (author)mdeblasi12009-02-26

i don't THINK they would work -- probably too thick (the stuff that I know works is very thin and flexible). but if you try it (and be sure to do so in a well ventilated area) i'd love to know what happens

mdeblasi1 (author)DotatDabbled2009-02-27

I'm in the hospital this weekend, (Crohn's disease, semi-annual "tune up",) and the cafeteria is a gold mine of number six plastic. I can spend otherwise wasted time designing baubles. See, there's a positive side to everything. (imagine some sort of wry grimacing emoticon here.) Marya

DotatDabbled (author)mdeblasi12009-02-26

My local pizza place does their to-go salads in #6 clamshell containers. Quik Trip gas stations hot-dog boxes are. The lid to the prepared sushi at my local grocery store. Some of the items (like donuts) in the bakery section of the grocery store. Solo disposable plastic cups (but they wouldnt necessarily work for this application) Most thin clear disposable plastic seems to be either #1 or #6. If you work in a office, a great source is when people bring in food items for parties!

craftygreen (author)2009-02-27

take out food usually comes in number 6 plastic. like take out from qudoba.

ChrysN (author)2009-02-26

Those look really nice hanging in the window, I just saw #6 the other day, now if only I can remember where it was.

lemonie (author)2009-02-26

These are nice, have a glass-effect look, and simple too. L

About This Instructable




Bio: Dabbler in All Things Creative...
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