Introduction: Make Your Own Funky or Fancy Hair Sticks

This is an update of a how-to I did for the now-long-gone alt.gothic.fashion zine 2.0. It covers basic hairstick fabrication, painting/finishing and decoration methods. You can make beautiful, sturdy, designer/funky hair sticks for a fraction of the cost of pretty but friable plastic sticks, and they are easily made of found objects and household items, with minimal tools, and minimal skills.

For the moment, it is illustrated with my own old sketches from the article, but I plan to replace these with clearer vector graphics as soon as I can. Photos are all of sticks I've made and used, or sticks made for others. Some are still going strong after 8 years.

Step 1: Materials and Tools

Materials
Wooden sticks:

  • dowels
  • pencils
  • thick skewers
  • straight sticks
  • chopsticks - old chipped lacquered ones, disposable ones, half sets, etc.

Finish:

  • colored nailpolish -cheap ones are especially good for this, as are colors you like but don't wear
  • Paints - any paint that can be covered by a clear gloss without peeling or chipping easily. Thick acrylics or matte finish paints are not recommended, but super thin acrylics, airbrush paints, modeling paints, spray paint, etc work great.
  • Clear, glossy nailpolish or clear glaze, clear spray gloss is fine.
  • Food coloring or watercolors to stain the wood if you want
  • wood filler or epoxy for filling any splits or dents.

Xtras:

  • Ribbons, cut strips of fabric, shoelaces, yarn, cords..
  • jewels, stones, small shells, buttons, felted beads
  • little plastic toys, knicknacks, party favors
  • decals or low-profile stickers
  • Wire - I use jewelry wire, but I've also used recycled electrical wires, floral wire, armature wire, etc.
  • glue - something appropriate to the purpose - ribbons are fine with thin cyanoacrylate glues, but heavier or irregular objects need epoxy or resin glues, or jewelry adhesive to withstand use
  • decorative garlands, strung beads, old jewelry
  • fabric paint for decorating ribbons or fabric dangles
  • whatever you can think of

Necessary Tools

  • Saw or pruning shears - for trimming your sticks
  • Pencil sharpener - for the pointy bit
  • Sandpaper or nailfile - for smoothing the surfaces
  • xacto knifeor whittling knife - alternate method of making pointy bit
  • pliers for shaping wire decorations
  • Cotton swabs for stain application
  • clothespins and line or
  • Lump of modeling clay, floral foam or small bucket of sand/rice/etc - for holding the sticks while they dry or while glues set

Step 2: Material Selection and Preparation

You'll need two sticks between 7" and 10". For a matching pair, they should be the same length.

If you need to trim them to the length you want, cut to size with pruning shears or saw.

Step 3: Pointing and Smoothing

First, make the points, if they don't already have them, or if you trimmed of the pointed ends of already pointy sticks.

Easy way: Use a pencil sharpener for this. It will put a quick and easy point on your sticks. YOu'll have a little more work to smooth it out, and you can over shorten a stick really easily, but it produces a nice round, symmetrical, point.

"Harder way" Alternately, if you want to do it the hard way, you can whittle the sticks to points with an xacto or penknife. This looks especially good on natural sticks, and you have less sanding to do to get a nice smooth finish and transition from point to shaft of the stick. Dont' do this without practicing first, though, and be careful.

Next, sand the point until it is slightly round (like a ballpoint pen), then the point/shaft transition, so it's really smooth (you don't want a bump here), then smooth the rest of the stick, until it feels silky smooth. Work the sand paper around the stick, as well as up and down - this will ensure that there are no snags.

If you like, you can add a gentle shape to the shaft at this point. Experiment with shapes, to see what works best!

If you do not have any sandpaper, you can use a soft nail file (the type with foam in the center) to sand.

If you want unfinished natural wood, use several increasingly finer grades of sandpaper, take lots of care rounding the point without splitting it, and forego finishing.

Step 4: Finishing Method One: Nailpolish Art!

This is the easiest/cheapest way to decorate and glaze your hair sticks so that they are smooth and pretty. You simply pick the color(s) of nail polish that you want to use and paint away.

Try stripes, blended or shaded colors, or overlay a shimmery color over a darker color.

Important note:

Be sure to apply 2-3 coats to the whole hairstick and at least 3 coats to the pointed tip. It will be smoothest and most snag-free that way.

There are two ways of holding the sticks while you paint and dry them:

Lump of clay/floral foam/bucket of sand (or rice or whatever):

Stick one end of the stick you want to paint into a lump of modeling clay to support it. You can now paint as much of the stick as you can reach.

Apply 2-3 coats of nailpolish and let dry. Wait about an hour to turn the stick around and paint the other end.

When you've painted the stick, protect the colored nailpolish with a coat of clear nailpolish, applied in the same manner.

Clothespins and line:

Hold the stick in one hand and paint 2-3 coats of nailpolish on about 1/2 of the stick. If the point is on the end you are painting, dip it into the bottle for a smooth coating right before you hang the stick up to dry.

Clip a clothespin on the unpainted end and hang from a line or hook to dry. Wait about an hour to take the stick down and paint the other end.

When you've painted the stick, protect the colored nailpolish with a coat of clear nailpolish, applied in the same manner.

Step 5: Finishing Method Two: Stain and Polish

If your hairsticks-to-be are plain unfinished wood, you can stain them before glazing. This looks really cool in odd colors, like green or purple.

  • Put a few drops of food color or watercolor on a plate. Pick up the color with a cotton swab. I have found that cotton swabs or small sponges apply the color more satisfactorily than paintbrushes.

    • Hold the stick in your hand and paint evenly with color. You can paint the whole thing if you wear gloves or aren't afraid of getting dye on your fingers.
    • Hang to dry as shown in previous step or rest on a plate. It will take about 3-4 hours for them to dry completely.

You can also use markers if you don't want to wait for them to dry, but you won't get as even a result.

Note: This can also be done with vegetable-based funky hairdye, but you have to rinse them off after you apply the color. They they take a bit longer to dry completely, you have to leave them overnight. It is a bit more work, but it looks neato to have hairsticks that match your hair exactly.

For an antiqued or distressed effect, and lightly to reveal the bare uncolored wood in spots before sealing.

  • When they are dry, follow the directions above for coating them with clear nailpolish, or spray with clear sealant. Either method will work. Don't forget the extra coat of polish over the point!

Step 6: Decoration

How you decorate your hairsticks is really up to you. Use your imagination! Here's some ideas:

  • Glue ribbons, cords, yarn or garlands around the ends. You can also use fabric paint to decorate the ribbons.
  • Glue small toys, buttons, objects or jewels to the ends. Epoxy or jewelry glue is good for this.
  • Paint stripes or designs all over or just on part of your sticks.
  • Form small wire shapes, and have them hold on dangly ornaments, small stones, etc. Secure with epoxy or jewelry glue.
  • apply decals or small stickers to the sticks and seal with clear sealant.
  • look in strange places - some of my favorite accents came from the hardware store. Found objects make the best ornaments.

Comments

author
heidi.fuhr (author)2015-01-15

Are disposable chopsticks made of bamboo? I'm wondering because I want to try to stain them with wood stain, but the grain of bamboo is much tighter and less porous than most other woods, so I don't know if it'll take the stain.

Also, here's another idea: if you have a Dremel, you could drill little holes in the tops to attach objects on a string. Or you could screw tiny eye screws into the tops (I found some super tiny, very cheap ones in the jewelry-making section of the craft store). Then you could string whatever you want through the eye.

author
jauncourt (author)heidi.fuhr2015-01-17

Great question! Not all chopsticks (disposable or otherwise) are made of bamboo.

Bamboo will stain, but does take stain differently. You can take advantage of this for different effects. The only way to know how it'll come out is to experiment.

I have used the tiny eye screws, but, you must pre-drill or the stick can fracture from stress.

author
heidi.fuhr (author)jauncourt2015-01-17

Makes sense. That's just what I was thinking. Another use for my Dremel! I got myself one for my birthday, unsure of whether or not I'd find a ton of uses for it, but man, I use it constantly.

I do like the idea of making them look antiqued or stressed in some way. But I suppose the final coat of finish will have to be nice and smooth and solid so they don't get tangled up in the hair. I have some polyurethane spray that might work for that.

author
canida (author)2007-09-20

Those look sweet! I've never been able to keep them in my hair while dancing, though- any tricks?

author
pluralmolecule (author)canida2007-09-21

You don't push them straight through the bun. A stick will hold your hair better than anything else while dancing if your hair is long enough. The trick is to put it through the bun, so the stick is pushing down on the outer edge of the bun, but pulling up on the hair in the middle. Hmm, instuctable topic perhaps.

author

I logged in (in fact I joined) especially to say that pluralmolecule is correct. If you're using hair sticks correctly, they hold more firmly than, well, anything.

The reason I found this tutorial is because I'm looking for hair stick ideas for a pair I'm making to wear to Disneyland. Yeah, Disneyland. Yeah, I'm going on the E-ticket rides. The reason I'm wearing hair sticks there is because they so reliably do not slip out. Elastic can't compare.

Also, in my experience, slick and arrow-straight hair sticks hold fine. Shaping them really shouldn't be necessary. It's entirely how they're inserted into the hair, and if your hair is long enough to make a bun, it's long enough to firmly hold a hair stick. The trick is in the tension and traction you create.

You have to reverse direction during the insert. Using two mirrors, one in back so you can see what's going on behind your head, is helpful until you're practiced.

1. Make a loose bun and hold it with your left hand (or right, if you're left-handed). (If your bun is too tight, you'll know it, because your scalp will protest your attempting to rip it from your skull.)

2. Insert the stick under the bun (or if your hair is very long, you can insert it under the top-most roll of the bun) from the bottom right (or bottom left if you're left-handed).

3. Push the stick through half of the bun, poking the pointed end out through the center of the bun.

4. Lift the end of the stick you're holding, flipping the top of the bun back towards your head, until it's lightly pressed to your head.

5. Position the pointed tip behind the bun, where the top left was until you flipped it. (The top right if you're left-handed.)

6. Slide down, from top left to bottom right (or top right to bottom left, if you're left-handed) until the stick is in position.

There are a number of videos that illustrate this on YouTube. Some are better than others. My favorite has been deleted so unfortunately I can't post it. :( Also, it's really easy to modify a French twist to use hair sticks, the process is similar and there are tutorials for that on YouTube, too.

author
canida (author)pluralmolecule2007-09-27

Hmm, instuctable topic perhaps.
Indeed- with video!

author
napabelly (author)canida2009-05-05

It's very helpful not to wash your hair too much!!! I used to wash it every day and they never worked for me either. Now that I wear it up nearly all the time, I wash it less and the hair sticks work great!

author
inquisitive (author)canida2007-10-06

I bet if you wrapped one of those clear hair elastics around the section in your hair, you would get more traction. When my hair is long I always insert hairsticks at a 45 to 90 degree angle then angle back out once I find my scalp. Good Luck! These make me want to grow my hair out again!

author
jauncourt (author)canida2007-09-20

Try making them shaped so they hold better - shape the stick inward about 2 inches above the point, for at least 4 inches (3 if the stick is short), then out again. I need to make a picture of that, because it really helps.

author
Tortus333 (author)2010-10-19

Wow, this makes me want to start wearing my hair in a way that would allow me to use some. They look amazing!

author
komecake (author)2010-06-19

Thanks so much for this instructable. It's given' me some good ideas of things to use and what I'd like to do! Thanks a bunch! :)

author
dhawktx (author)2008-10-16

Excellent Instructible!

author
jauncourt (author)2008-09-11

Disposable choipsticks are just pieces of wood, though. Wash them and recycle them into something else. Or do you also object to people reusing them as dowels in other projects? Did you read the rest of the instructable?

author
offdoodykcrn (author)2008-03-10

This is the best video I've seen on how to use hairsticks: directions for french twist, basic knot, long hair, and short:
http://www.bazner.com/index.php?target=pages&page_id=video

author
jauncourt (author)2007-10-06

Also, I saw this instructable on high-gloss polishing:
https://www.instructables.com/id/Appling-a-Mirror-Finish-by-hand/

This is an excellent way to make nice smooth hairsticks. Painted or stained ones should still be sealed, but this will give you a nice professional finish.

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Bio: Artist, craftswoman, reenactor, costumer, mom, geek, nerd, gamer, designer. Love building props and costumes and lots of other things for fun, have gotten to do ... More »
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