Introduction: Large Toy Beads

About: Community Manager for Instructables and Tinkercad.

My daughter got lacing beads as a gift that consisted of square and various round beads she could lace onto a string for fun and hand-eye coordination practice. I thought it would be fun to supplement her set with some other shapes and letters. For my tutorial, I'll show you how I designed alphabet beads and made a few other shaped beads using Tinkercad. You can print any of the designs yourself, or use this tutorial as a guide for creating your own.

As with any homemade (or store bought) kids toy, make sure you are comfortable with them using it. The beads are pretty big and shouldn't be a choking hazard, but the edges can be sharp.

Instructable 330



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Step 1: Tinkercad Files

There are so many letters and shapes and since you can't print them all at once anywhere, I'm not uploading them here. Instead, please copy and tinker with my designs on Tinkercad so you can download and print the ones you want. If you really want me to upload certain letters or shapes together here, let me know and I will if it will make things easier for you.

Step 2: Sizing

Before I got started I wanted to know what size I would be working with so I measured a couple of the beads from the set she got. I measured the biggest (square and cylinder) and smallest (rounded one).


  • Cylinder: 1.5" tall and 1.36" in diameter
  • Square: 1.375" squared
  • Rounded: 1" tall and 1.375" in diameter

Then I had to decide on a hole size which I used a caliper for. It was about 0.467" in diameter.

Lastly, some of the beads were going to require an additional cylinder in them to make the bead work. I really just randomly made a larger cylinder but for specifics sake, that cylinder is 0.6" in diameter.

Now that we have sizes, it's time to start making the beads.

Step 3: Basic Letters

I started with the letter A and used that to help me decide on the size of the beads. The A ended up being 1.282" squared.

From there they are all different lengths and widths but they are all the same heights which is 1.282".

[I need to point out I used the individual letters from the Tinkercad designs and not the Text ones. I wanted the letter bulky/blocky. Also, I added a top and bottom line to the I (like I did when I made my Word Crayons) so it would be a bit more interesting than just a straight line.]

When it comes to making these letter beads there are two types, those that just need a hole, and those that need a hole and cylinder. (Some can actually be done either way too.)

To start, we are going to do ones that only really need the hole. Those can be ones such as I, J, T, A, etc.

The very basic ones have straight sides such as M, N, O.

You can do this for many of the letters, but for some you have to have an additional tube inside of them for them to work and print right. You can actually add a tube to all of them if you want and I do provide them, but it's optional for some. Next we'll talk about adding a tube.

Step 4: Letters With Tube

Like I mentioned, you can add a tube to all of them as it makes it much easier to lace the string through them. If there are holes the string can go off-center and cause issues, so now we'll talk about adding a tube.

Letters with straight sides are easy as all you need to do is add the hole, a cylinder that is the exact width of the letter, and then just line them up and group them together, such as the M above (or H, F, E etc)

If the sides are slanted or rounded, it can be more difficult to get a smooth edge.

We're going to do the R, since it's kind of a weird one.

- To start you need 2 of your letter the right size, a cylinder & a tube hole, and a rectangle.

Start with your rectangle the same height as the letter and line up one of letters (as a hole) to be dead center of the rectangle (being dead center is important).

Group them so you have a rectangle with the letter cut out.

Take an additional shape and cut out anything in the way in the center of the letter, this is anything that will interfere with the tube later. Make sure you don't cut into the edges of the letter like on the right where the R dips in.

Make this rectangle (with the letter cut out) into a hole.

Now line everything up so the rectangle you just made, the letter, the hole tube and the cylinder. (if you didn't line up the letter with the rectangle before, this one won't line up right).

Group them and you'll have your letter! As you can see the tube should go nicely through the center of the letter and it should line up nicely on both sides.

Do this for every letter that needs it. You can really do this for all the letters. There are only a few that you can't do it with as they are already so basic in their shape (like I and J).

Some letters are harder to do than others (such as S and C) but I already did them so you're set ;)

Step 5: Other Shapes

Any other shapes you do will be done in the same ways I just described. I actually just cut a hole in all of these except for the butterfly which I gave a tube.

I used a flower, butterfly, car (a shape I brought in) and two different diamonds (they are just oriented differently just to see how they would turn out).

Step 6: Print

Each letter and shape takes about an hour to print with 15% infill.

Many you can print without support but some will require it. The ones that need it will be the tubes that are just hanging there like the C shown above.

I only did support from the base plate as that's all you really need. You don't need support inside the tube and it will just be a mess to clean up so I recommend clicking that setting for whatever slicer you use.

Once you have all your beads you can go right ahead and use them or paint them.

Step 7: Spray Paint

I needed to be able to paint these outside so I set up a couple boxes with a nylon thread suspending them. I attached the thread to popsicle sticks which allowed me to easily attach them to the box or slip them off so I can reuse them.

I cut off the two side flaps so they wouldn't get in the way and cut slits in order to thread the nylon through.

I left the top and bottom flap on so I could partially close them and keep any dirt off the pieces while they dry. I used an old pan to hold the box mostly closed so some air filtered in but hopefully no dirt.

Follow the directions on your paint and paint them and seal them.

One thing to keep in mind is it is very hard to get the spray into any holes in the beads. You can just accept it and have it just not be 100% perfect (like me) or really spray into the sides to get those holes filled.

Your call.

Give them plenty of time to dry before giving them to any kids.

The sealer is supposed to be non-toxic (which is why I use it), but still be careful about kids putting them in their mouths.

Step 8: String

This is just a reminder that you need a string to lace these beads on. I recommend using something that is sturdy, bulky, and doesn't knot easily. So, no yarn, embroidery floss, anything like that. I suggest using a sweatshirt string, paracord, or shoelaces. If it has a stiff tip that is ideal.

In the picture above the red one is the one that came with the lacing beads my daughter got and the other two are a shoelace (pink) and sweatshirt string (navy blue) and as you can see, they are all pretty similar.

Step 9: Done

Here is a look at the A with the shapes that came in the bead set. The colors, surprisingly, matched up pretty well with the set I had. Except for the blue which I wasn't surprised about as my lighter blue stopped working in the middle of spraying and I ended up getting a darker blue online.

And here is a look at a C with a tube and without. Just so you can see how they turn out differently. One big thing is if it doesn't have a tube it will flop around on the string more as well as the nontube one being harder to thread.

Step 10: Finished Beads

Just some more pictures of the figured beads.

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