I fell in love with a piece of dark wood (I believe it’s African Blackwood) and wanted to create something beautiful with it. As luck would have it, my sister’s birthday was approaching which gave me the perfect opportunity to experiment.
I found this specific wood very difficult to work with. I tried a few things with it that were unsuccessful before I started this project.
Step 1: Gather Materials & Tools
- African Blackwood (the piece I purchased was about 1.5 x 1.5 x 10 inches)
- Oak (I used a scrap piece of 1/4” x 3-1/2” x 4’)
- Cording (I used a hemp cord with metallic twists)
- Wood glue
- Fashion Chain
- Lobster Clasps and Toggles
For an extra sparkly effect:
- Gold Leaf (I used a one step leafing paint)
- Metal Leaf Sealer
- Paint Brush
- Scroll Saw
- Regular Saw
- Sand paper
- Pliers or Tweezers
Step 2: Cut Ends Off of Blackwood, Glue & Clamp to Oak
First I cut off about 1/8” of the Blackwood using a saw. I did this 4 times to give myself 4 squares. One of my squares actually broke, since I’m going to be glueing it all down anyway I didn’t worry too much about it.
I used my wood glue to glue it all down, and then I clamped it. I wiped off the excess glue using a wet paper towel and let it sit.
After the glue had completely dried, I removed the clamps and gave the surface a rough sanding. I also cut the very end of my glued wood off so that I was dealing everything was square to start.
Step 3: Drill Bead Holes & Cut Strips
I measure the height of the 2 pieces of wood glued together and used that as my bead cutting measurement. I marked it out with a pencil, clamped down my wood and drilled holes in the middle.
You can find the middle by drawing an x from corner to corner, or do what I did and just eyeball it.
I drilled my holes and then took it to my scroll saw to cut out that strip.
Why didn’t I just use the chop saw? Honestly, because the chop saw’s blade is thicker than my scroll saw’s. I would lose more wood cutting my strips with the chop saw and I wanted to preserve as much as possible. Obviously the scroll saw isn’t as accurate as the chop saw, but that’s okay with me since I wanted to preserve that hand made look. Really, you could use whatever you are more comfortable with.
Step 4: Cut Strips of Wood Into Tiny Squares
I used a chisel and hammer for this step. If you have a nice sharp chisel this can be fairly easily done. I just lined up my chisel with the lines I had marked and gave a couple taps with the hammer and I got my rough bead.
I first attempted to do this step with the scroll saw. I ran into 2 problems. First was that we don’t have a throat plate on our scroll saw so my wood kept getting stuck on the ledge of the saw table. Secondly, once I cut the first few beads off, my fingers were just too close to the blade. I’m not one to play fast and loose with my fingers, so I opted for the safer method of the chisel.
After a while I was left with a little pile of very rough looking beads. Toss on a movie and get sanding.
Step 5: Knotted Hemp Cord Technique
If I had properly thought this through I would do step 9 before this step. I learned my lesson by the time I made my way to the bracelet.
Start by selecting 3 cords and cut them to your desired length. For the necklace I cut mine a little long, about 6 ft.
Fold them in half and use your finger as a guide for how big to make your loop. Then tape or pin it to some kind of surface.
Take one cord and loop it around the others and tuck it though and pull tight. You’re just going to make a series of knots. For the necklace I did about 2-1/2” inches (1-1/2” for the bracelet) of knots then I tied a big knot using all of the cords and started adding beads.
Step 6: Add Some Beads
My desired effect was to have a bunch of loose hanging cords with some of the beads spaced out. I have beads on 4 of the 6 cords.
Gravity fooled me a little at this step. Because of the way I was holding the necklace while I was adding my beads, I didn’t think it was necessary to add another knot after the bead. You do in fact need 2 knots. Fortunately, I learned from this mistake by the time I started beading my bracelet.
Step 7: Start Knotting the Other Side of Your Necklace/Bracelet
Repeat step 4 on the other side. You will have to get creative with the other loop to mimic the first one. I just looped the cord around my finger and made a series of knots until it stayed. I’m sure someone out there knows of a more elegant solution
Step 8: Add Gold Leaf and Sealer
As I mentioned in step 4, I should have done this before I added the beads to the necklace. I used a Liquid Leaf to add an extra sparkle to the necklace. I painted 2 sides of each bead with the leaf. I painted one side, let it dry for an hour, then flipped it and painted the other side and let that side dry. Once the paint had dried, I added the leaf sealer.
Step 9: Add Chain and Clasps
I wanted the necklace to be long so I added 8” of chain to each side of the necklace. The chain is pretty delicate so you can actually just cut it with scissors. Then use your pliers or tweezers to open up the rings in the clasp kit to attach it to the necklace.
For the bracelet I didn’t add any extra chain, just the clasps.
Step 10: Finished
You’re all done. Realistically you don’t need to make your own beads to make this necklace, but I do think the homemade beads add a personal touch.
The knotted technique I used is the same technique I used in elementary school to make friendship bracelets. There are plenty of other friendship bracelet techniques you could substitute here. Thank you for taking the time to read this and I hope you give it a try!