I always admired the bead-topped hair sticks I saw online, but paying 15 dollars a pair, plus shipping and handling, was a little much for my budget. So I thought, why not make some myself? And I was so pleased with the results, that I actually prefer my homemade sticks to the one pair of purchased sticks I have! They are made of inexpensive materials, and are so customizable; you can make them to suit your personal style, instead of hunting around for a pre-made pair you like! And hair sticks are so easy to use for putting your hair up without using a ponytail holder!
Step 1: Materials
You will need:
- A couple of dowels (I use 6"×1/4"); common craft dowels will do, but if you want a specific kind of wood, go for it!
- Sandpaper (I use 120 grit; the finer the grit the smoother the finished surface)
- Pins (yup, basic sewing pins work great!)
- Super Glue Gel Control (it has to be Gel Control, otherwise you'll have a gluey mess all over)
- A pencil sharpener
- A push pin (an old rusty one with the rust sanded off works best because it's sharper)
- Something for the finish.
Note on the beads; they can be any shape, size (so long as it fits on the pin), or material; the most important thing is the size of the hole. You'll want a hole as close to 1mm as you can get. If they are a little big; a seed bead at the top works great for keeping the beads on. A bead with a larger hole can go between two beads with smaller holes; it will just have more wiggle room.
Note on the finish: There are a variety of options: nail polish, Polycrylic with or without acrylic paint beforehand, or an oil such as coconut, almond, or flax oil. More details will be given for each of these options in the step on finishing.
Step 2: Shaping Your Hair Stick
First, use a pencil sharpener to give your dowel a point. Try to make it as centered as you can, but if it comes out a little off-center, it's not a big deal. Then use the sandpaper to smooth the point; I like to make it so it curves smoothly around the point, and doesn't have an abrupt angle between the sharpened part and the rest. The point should be rounded slightly, a bit like a ballpoint pen, not flat at the tip, and not sharp like a licked candy cane.
Then take your push pin, and make a hole at the opposite end of the stick. Again, you will want this to be as centered as possible. You just poke the center of the flat end with the pin, and push and turn until it is almost all the way in, but not quite. This can be a bit hard on the fingers if you do it a lot; if anyone has a better idea please let me know!
After removing the push pin from the hole, sand the end a little to smooth the edges a bit, and then sand the whole thing until it feels smooth. Sometimes I rub it vigorously with a piece of fabric to help smooth it further.
An optional variant is to skip making the hole, and just sand it to a round end. But that's only if you don't want to do the beaded top, if you just want a basic stick.
Step 3: Finishing the Wood
Option 1: Nail polish. This is an option that I have seen people use in similar projects, and have experimented with myself, but the smell makes me sick (even in a ventilated area) so I don't have much experience with it. From people who use it, I understand it is applied by sort of patting it on with a makeup sponge. If you choose to use this option, keep in mind that it takes pretty close to all eternity to dry fully... well, a couple days anyway. Use a push pin in that handy hole in the end as a handle, to keep from marring the polish. Then dry it by securing the push pin in modeling clay or something, or by grabbing it with a clothespin and tying the clothespin to something else to hang it. Make sure it is out of reach of kids and pets!
Option 2: Water-based varnish (with or without paint beforehand). This is an option that I have used on a few projects, including one pair of these hair sticks. It is the best option if you want to paint them a certain color. I always use acrylic paint, since it costs about 50 cents a bottle and works as well as anything else. The best way I've found to apply the varnish is to put a push pin in the handy little hole in the end and use that as a handle, and then grab the push pin with a clothespin with a piece of string tied to it and tie the string to something else, to hang it up so the varnish doesn't biff into things and mar the finish. Another option is to support it upright in modeling clay or something. Most importantly, keep it out of reach of kids and pets! This method also takes a long time to dry; allow several hours; preferably at least a day, before using.
Option 3: Rubbing with oil. This is my favorite, because it's the least hassle, and I don't have to worry about it bumping into things and getting messed up before it dries! It gives a natural finish. You can use almond oil, coconut oil, or flax oil. Flax oil is my personal favorite. Just rub it on, and let it soak in. For best results, re-apply every several hours until you've done about five applications. Another advantage of this method is that it's easier to do after the beaded top is added (supposing the beads won't be damaged by the oil; I wouldn't recommend it if you're using paper beads, for example.); so you can do one application, add the beads, and do subsequent applications later.
Step 4: Making the Beaded Top
When your finish is dry to the touch, take a pin, and arrange your beads on the pin. You can stick the pin into the hole in the stick to test the effect, compare one arrangement with another, etc. Make sure there is at least 1/4" of the pin left exposed, to secure into the hole in the stick. When you are satisfied with the arrangement, take your Super Glue Gel Control (as I mentioned at the beginning, it has to be Gel Control! The liquid Super Glue will flow all over and get ugly glue all over the beads and the stick and glue your fingers together and all that fun stuff!), and carefully apply it to the pin. Sorry for the poor lighting in the illustration; I hope you can see what I'm doing! Then quickly but not hastily, insert it into the hole. If part of the pin still sticks up past the beads, just gently push the top end against some surface, holding the top straight, until the pin is fully inserted. If the pin doesn't go far enough, you may need to make a couple tries before it holds, but eventually you'll accumulate enough gunk in there that it will stay :-P. Then just wait a minute or so for it to set, and enjoy!
Those flat beads you see at the base of most of the toppers, I got them at a yard sale and would love to know how to get more, so if you happen to know where one can get them, feel free to comment!
Step 5: How to Use
To use, just put your hair back as if you were going to make a ponytail, then twist the ponytail and wrap it into a bun. Then, insert one of the sticks through the bun, moving it up and down to sort of "sew" the bun to the scalp hair. Add the second one in a similar fashion, at the desired angle to the first. This is just one way, you can search "Hair stick styles" on YouTube to find a variety of tutorials for many fun styles!