Introduction: Customizable 3D Printed Jewelry

About: I grew up in a small town in South Germany with a rich tradition in toy-making. Tinkering and playing takes me back to the great times I had as a kid inventing toys and games in my granddad's toy workshop. In…

This project was driven by a desire to use 3D printed plastic in combination with other materials. My collaborator Kristina Larsen (Instructables member Kristinaliv) and I have been using felt for a variety of other projects and the bright colors, matte finish, and unexpected material juxtaposition made it just the thing for this piece. For our first prototype we made a closed tube and needle-felted wool roving into the cage to make the inlay. This was really time consuming and didn't look as good as crisp as we had hoped. Our second version incorporated readily available sheets of polyester craft felt and a removable cap with a twist-off flange, but the flange wasn't robust enough for repeated usage. The version we decided to go with has a simple press-fit cap and uses sheet felt for a clean finish. The cap is robust enough to stand repeated use, so you can switch out the inlay felt for a variety of colors, depending on your mood.

We think the silver hardware adds an elegant touch and is a good counterpoint to the plastic-ness of the 3D print. When you wear this around, expect to get a lot of compliments and questions about these mysterious materials!

Step 1: Tools and Materials

3D printed Tube Cage bead and cap (STL attached)

Several colors of craft felt. Each piece is only 1" x 1 3/4", so you can use small pieces or scraps.

8.75" lengths of bead wire (x2): I bought 10 feet of Beadalon 7 strand Sterling Silver Bead Stringing Wire for $20 at the local Artists and Craftsmen art supply store.

2.5 mm silver crimp beads (x4)

Lobster Claw clasp (x1)

4mm Jump Rings (x4)


Pencil for marking felt



Two pairs of needlenose pliers

Wire cutter

Step 2: Print and Clean the Plastic Bead Parts

I won't go into the details about printing and cleaning 3D prints, since there are plenty of awesome Instructables you can read to get introduced to the process if you are new to it. You can also order the bead from a site like Shapeways.

Step 3: Add Hanging Loops to the Bead

Thread one of the jewelry pins through a hole in the print so that the head of the pin is on the inside of the piece. Holding the pin in place with tweezers (or gravity), use wire cutters to trim the pin so about 1/4" is sticking out.

Using two pairs of needle-nose pliers, bend the pin to make a loop. Use one set of pliers to wrap the wire around the other, as shown in the photo. This is tricky, so you may want to practice on some spare pins before doing it for real. THe plastic is fragile and you should avoid putting pressure on it directly. Once you've got a loop, squeeze it shut at the base.

Thread a jump ring through your loop and close it with the pliers.

Repeat on the other end.

Step 4: Attach the Bead Wires to the Piece

Slide a crimp bead onto one end of one of the pieces of wire.

Bend the end of the wire into a little hook like a candy cane.

Put the hook through one of the attached jump rings

Slide the crimp bead down and stuff the loose end of the wire through the bead. Make sure that the loop is snug but not too tight around the jump ring or it won't move freely.

Crush the crimp bead with pliers to capture the loop.

Carefully trim off the end of the wire.

Repeat on the other side.

Step 5: Attach Clasp Hardware to the Bead Wires

Now is a good time to check and see if your wires are still the same length! Trim one if it's much longer than the other.

Using the same process as before with the crimp beads, attach a jump ring to the free end of one of the wires.

Add a lobster-claw clasp (or other clasp of your choice) to the end of the other wire, using the the last jump ring to connect it to the wire loop.

Step 6: Make Colored Felt Inserts

Cut 1" x 1 3/4" rectangles out of some nice colorful felt.

Roll one up into a tube and stuff it into the open end of the 3D printed piece. Use tweezers to pull the tube down into the bead and arrange the felt so that it looks smooth and the seam is unnoticeable. You may have to poke at it a bit to get it looking really tidy.

Carefully press in the end cap.

Step 7: Customize Your Look

By carefully prying off the cap, you can open the tube and switch out the felt insert for one of a different color. Match your necklace to your mood, outfit, or the changing seasons. Enjoy!