Introduction: Easy Lathe Projects : Brass Glow in the Dark Paracord Ornaments

Sometimes you don't want to brain too much in the shop.

Also novelty paracord beads and ornaments can reach ridiculous prices, especially once some famous blogger incorporated them in an article (Yeah, turns out 3 figure price beads are a thing even when not in precious metals...)

So here are some of my quick and easy designs to make various paracord beads and accessories.

You can make them quickly on the slower days, and have truly unique ropecraft ornaments on a budget.

All of these were made on a lathe.Which I admit already qualifies as an advanced tool.But the techniques shown will allow you to use only basic accessories, and don't require any level of precision, making those good candidates for first time lathe owners. I hope this instructable will help filling the void for really accessible lathe projects the common man could see an use for.

Since it's all the rage those times, we will make them in brass, and why not make them glow in the dark while we're at it ?

I'll also incorporate directions to help you etch your creations with your own logos or designs, at a minimal cost and complexity.

Sounds appealing to you ?

Alright, let's go!

Step 1: Materials

So I promised the tools and materials for those would be quite accessible.

Let's say you just bought a lathe, only have basic tooling, and no well filled scrap box yet.

Here is what you will need.

Brass rod:

I use 6mm brass rod, because it's the biggest brass section I can get my hands on locally.You should be able to pick it in any hardware store easily. Of course, feel free to use bigger sections if you're able to source them easily or already have bought some proper stock online.

Basic lathe tools:

You'll only need the most basic tools you probably got with your lathe: a straight cutting tool at the very least, facing tool would also help.Add to that a centre drill and an assortment of common drills.

You'll also need a slitting saw, no need to get fancy: you can get dirtcheap Chinese HSS saw sets from ebay for less than 3 bucks a set.They have good chances of being out of true, but they perform well over time on home scale projects.Turning an appropriate arbor on the lathe is also a very simple and good early lathe project.

Other common tools:

  • Various grades of abrasives to get a better finish.
  • A dremel/grinder with a buffing wheel and a polishing compound to really make it shine.
  • Two component epoxy. You'll need the transparent type, and also not the quick setting one.Stay away from the 5min curing time type.

The eBay offer for those has exploded recently, and you can get some pretty cheap in a myriad of colours.

Just keep in mind that not all colours are created equal.Traditional green glows the strongest and longest, followed by aqua and blue variants.More exotic colors such as purple are much weaker and glow for shorter times.Consider that when going for your dream design.

Step 2: Paracord Ornament 1: "The Wasp"

This is a relatively simple design, yet it features many steps that would give you the opportunity to practice various different lathe techniques.

It works well as a minimalistic keychain, zipper pull, or as an alternative to those trendy and slightly frightening glow in the dark tritium markers.

Don't forget to checkout comments on all steps for more information and tips.

Step 3: Paracord Ornament 2: Simplest Grooved Beads

At this point, I was supposed to just face the remainder of the bar and store it away.

Then I realised I was already half way to having a couple more simple beads.So I decided to make those before going on with the rest of the project.

Those are nearly the simplest possible design, just chamfered and grooved lengths of brass.

You can quickly make lots of them in various lengths and in various patterns.Bigger sizes of stock also work well.

Step 4: Paracord Ornament 3: the Etched Two Cord Slider.

This last ornament is slightly more intricate in terms of required operations.

It also requires thicker 2cm diameter stock.

The process I will be showing also involves a lesser known machining tip for drilling offset in a 3 jaw chuck, that will allow you to make it precisely, without owning a 4 jaw chuck or resorting to lengthy measurement setups on a milling machine.

Once the slider itself is made, you can leave it raw, or ornate it with various grooves or hole patterns.But the later would require more advanced indexing setups. Therefore, I'll rather show you how to easily etch it with arbitrary stencil designs.

Step 5: Making It All Glow

All those items already look pretty good by themselves.

But we'll give them a quick upgrade by filling the various grooves and holes with a mix of epoxy and glowing powder.

This step is pretty self explanatory. And was already pretty well covered on the Internet.

Mix your two part transparent epoxy, add around the same volume of glow powder of your choice, mix well, and start filling the various features on your ornaments by dabbing in small drops of your mix at the tip of a toothpick.

If you have a steady hand, you should aim at only filling in as much as necessary by tiny amounts.That will save you on cleaning steps down the road.

But if you're a fat fingered monkey like me, or inadvertently used a quick set epoxy in your obsession of finding the transparent version from that overfilled adhesives aisle, don't worry. You can get away with smearing it everywhere copiously and hoping being able to clean it up easily once it sets.

Step 6: Custom Etching

I found the two strand slider to be the perfect candidate to receive an etched logo.

Instructables user dc-logo has made a very well done instructable on how to make an easy and cheap etching machine from an old wall wart transformer.

We will use a machine made from these instructions to add custom designs to that bead.

This step will serve as a public documentation that using the toner transfer technique works well for etching.

First, you will need to pick or make a suitable design. It will need to be black and white only, but will probably tolerate a surprising amount of detail. If you're not inspired, look on google images adding "stencil" or "silhouette" as a keyword to the topic you're interested in, to get suitable images.

Once you're happy with your design (black areas will be left untouched, white ones will be carved away), you will need to print it to appropriate size on a laser printer. (INKJET WON'T WORK, but you could still print on an inkjet printer, and then make a copy on a laser toner-based copier at work for example).

Cut your design out, soak it in water, and place it carefully on the piece to etch.

Then press against it hard, with a hot iron on max setting.Keep doing this without moving it around to much until all water evaporates from the stencil. The heat should transfer the toner to your support.

You can then remove the paper by rubbing it gently under a stream of water with your fingers.Don't worry, the toner really won't come off that easily just don't try to scrape it with your nails.

Now touch up any thin areas, and the background with nail polish, just to be safe.Masking those areas with tape might also help in a pinch, but is less reliable, as water tends to sneak up under the slightest king in the tape.

Keep in mind that even the black areas will get slightly etched, just significantly less than the uncovered ones.This adds interesting texture to those spaces compared to raw material, but remember to mask areas out where you don't want it.

You can then proceed to etch the design into the piece. I won't give any precise durations here, as those will greatly depend on your power source characteristics and the material. You will have to experiment with that on your own. (In my experience, brass seems to etch much slower with this setup than steel, so keep that in mind when adjusting your times).

Once you are happy, unwrap and clean your piece.Beware of buffing wheels or any grinding implements, as those tend to destroy the etched lines pretty quickly.

If you got a really deep etch, you can even try inlaying it with solder, but be sure to practice on scrap first.


Step 7: Glamour Shots

Just some more pics to get you interested.