Introduction: Black Panther Kimoyo Bead Bracelet With Light Up Prime Bead

You don't need Vibranium to make a set of Black Panther Kimoyo beads to wear. These Kimoyo beads or bracelet are worn by the characters in the movie Black Panther to serve as a communication and data storage device.

What is fascinating is that the costume design draws several elements from various African tribes that do exist. The symbols and design motifs have a deeper meaning than just looking cool as part of a costume. It is a great way to learn about other cultures by doing your own research.

Step 1: Carved in Stone...

Since I have no Vibranium, the special element that exists from Wakanda in the Marvel universe, I will make the bracelet from wooden beads.

I used 25mm/1 inch diameter wooden beads. They already had a hole drilled through to pass a cord through to connect them into a bracelet.

I got some elastic hair ties to use as the cordage. You could also use a non-elastic cord such as a thin strip of leather or maybe paracord but will not stretch for a better fit on the wrist.

I was thinking about how to make a light up Prime bead and could have worked at hollowing out a wooden bead but I saw these plastic spheres in the paracord section of the craft store that would be good to use.

Plastic balls are great to light up with LEDs because they diffuse light so well. Ping pong balls would be too big for our bracelet and these were the right size to match the other wooden beads.

I found online a reference that had all the symbols that are on the Black Panther Kimoyo beads. It's just one of many but you can also look through pictures of other made Kimoyo beads or come up with your own layout order or scheme and give it meaning. There are four symbols on each bead.

I drew them on with marker. I stuck a dowel in the hole so it would be easier to handle while working with a round sphere. By the way, they have their own mind when they roll about on the table and bounce in random directions and under something when they fall off. Keep them all in one spot with a bowl or tray.

I used a portable Dremel to route out or carve the symbols. You could also do this with a woodcarving tool with a gouge blade. I wanted to give the symbols a 3-dimensional engraved look. I just picked out a bit that was in the accessory pack with the Dremel tool. I'm not even sure it is for wood carving but I used it anyway.

There are some challenges to carving out a straight line on a sphere. You have to keep the piece clamped down to keep it from spinning or moving as you work it. The surface is not flat and the grain will take the tool where it wants to. The Dremel tool is backheavy so it takes practice to use it like an engraving pen.

Step 2: Polished Presentation...

The wooden beads were already primed. I was thinking about using acrylic paint but using permanent marker is so much easier and no wait for the paint to dry. It will also be a thin layer for coating instead of paint.

After painting a few sample beads to see how the process would be best:

Use silver paint marker to fill in the engraved lines for the symbols. Again, so much easier than acrylic paint and a super fine width paintbrush. You don't have to be too accurate and can stray outside of the groove. Paint markers dry fairly quickly but do give it some time so you don't smear the freshly painted spots. Metallic paints always take a little bit longer to dry.

Use a fine tip black marker to color in around the end holes and a bit of the rim inside as far as you can reach with the marker tip. This is to hide the light wood color that you might see where the cord enters the wooden bead.

Use a wide tip black marker to fill in the major areas and as close to the symbols as you can without getting stray marks on the silver paint.

Use the fine tip marker again to fill in around the symbols and to get the little raised detail spots in the symbols.

Go back over and touch up any spots as needed with the silver paint marker.

When everything is dry, coat with some waxy/oily furniture polish or polyurethane for a heavy duty finish. The spray polish evens out the gloss on the bead and also makes them super slippery.

Step 3: Light Up Prime Bead

I used a candle flicker type LED to provide the animated light for the Prime bead. You just need to wire the LED to a battery with the correct lead going to the corresponding terminal on the battery for it to work. You should really use LEDs with a resistor to provide overcurrent protection but this simple "LED Throwie" circuit works without a resistor because the 3 volt coin cell provides just enough juice without burning out the LED. I got fancy and soldered my LED to a coin cell battery holder. It provides a secure holder for the battery, makes it easy to change out, and I don't have to worry about digging it out of a mess of tape that would be wrapped around it to hold the circuit together.

I used a plastic sphere and drilled 2 holes for the cord to pass through and another hole to mount the LED inside. Draw a circle which will be the light up portion of the Prime bead. I darkened in that area with blue marker since I didn't have a true blue filter material and I had used a LED that only gives off white light. There was no blue color candle flicker LED in the assortment I had. Use black electrical tape or black duct tape to cover the rest of the Prime bead. It will block light from coming out the other areas.

You could probably make it so all the electronics are inside of the sphere but I just hot glued the battery holder to the bottom of the sphere where it should not be too noticeable when the bracelet is worn. You could put a piece of tape to cover the exposed battery and battery case if you find it chafes on your wrist or worried about contact with the battery.

One hairband elastic ring when cut was not long enough to thread on all the beads. I spliced two together by sewing them together. You could glue them together but the joint would be bulky and still needs to be reinforced mechanically so it won't pull apart when stretched.

Figure out where the Prime bead should go, centered in everything. Thread on your beads in order. I just double knotted the free ends of the elastic cord when all the beads have been placed on the cord. You may need to adjust how many beads you will wear since the final bracelet is fairly large and loose, even for a big guy like me.

So go make your own set of Black Panther Kimoyo beads and discover the meaning and use of the symbols that it is based on.


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