Introduction: Make Your Own Funky or Fancy Hair Sticks

About: Artist, craftswoman, reenactor, costumer, mom, geek, nerd, gamer, designer. Love building props and costumes and lots of other things for fun, have gotten to do it for money in the past. Grew up restoring hous…

This is an update of a how-to I did for the now-long-gone zine 2.0. It covers basic hairstick fabrication, painting/finishing and decoration methods. You can make beautiful, sturdy, designer/funky hair sticks for a fraction of the cost of pretty but friable plastic sticks, and they are easily made of found objects and household items, with minimal tools, and minimal skills.

For the moment, it is illustrated with my own old sketches from the article, but I plan to replace these with clearer vector graphics as soon as I can. Photos are all of sticks I've made and used, or sticks made for others. Some are still going strong after 8 years.

Step 1: Materials and Tools

Wooden sticks:

  • dowels
  • pencils
  • thick skewers
  • straight sticks
  • chopsticks - old chipped lacquered ones, disposable ones, half sets, etc.


  • colored nailpolish -cheap ones are especially good for this, as are colors you like but don't wear
  • Paints - any paint that can be covered by a clear gloss without peeling or chipping easily. Thick acrylics or matte finish paints are not recommended, but super thin acrylics, airbrush paints, modeling paints, spray paint, etc work great.
  • Clear, glossy nailpolish or clear glaze, clear spray gloss is fine.
  • Food coloring or watercolors to stain the wood if you want
  • wood filler or epoxy for filling any splits or dents.


  • Ribbons, cut strips of fabric, shoelaces, yarn, cords..
  • jewels, stones, small shells, buttons, felted beads
  • little plastic toys, knicknacks, party favors
  • decals or low-profile stickers
  • Wire - I use jewelry wire, but I've also used recycled electrical wires, floral wire, armature wire, etc.
  • glue - something appropriate to the purpose - ribbons are fine with thin cyanoacrylate glues, but heavier or irregular objects need epoxy or resin glues, or jewelry adhesive to withstand use
  • decorative garlands, strung beads, old jewelry
  • fabric paint for decorating ribbons or fabric dangles
  • whatever you can think of

Necessary Tools

  • Saw or pruning shears - for trimming your sticks
  • Pencil sharpener - for the pointy bit
  • Sandpaper or nailfile - for smoothing the surfaces
  • xacto knifeor whittling knife - alternate method of making pointy bit
  • pliers for shaping wire decorations
  • Cotton swabs for stain application
  • clothespins and line or
  • Lump of modeling clay, floral foam or small bucket of sand/rice/etc - for holding the sticks while they dry or while glues set

Step 2: Material Selection and Preparation

You'll need two sticks between 7" and 10". For a matching pair, they should be the same length.

If you need to trim them to the length you want, cut to size with pruning shears or saw.

Step 3: Pointing and Smoothing

First, make the points, if they don't already have them, or if you trimmed of the pointed ends of already pointy sticks.

Easy way: Use a pencil sharpener for this. It will put a quick and easy point on your sticks. YOu'll have a little more work to smooth it out, and you can over shorten a stick really easily, but it produces a nice round, symmetrical, point.

"Harder way" Alternately, if you want to do it the hard way, you can whittle the sticks to points with an xacto or penknife. This looks especially good on natural sticks, and you have less sanding to do to get a nice smooth finish and transition from point to shaft of the stick. Dont' do this without practicing first, though, and be careful.

Next, sand the point until it is slightly round (like a ballpoint pen), then the point/shaft transition, so it's really smooth (you don't want a bump here), then smooth the rest of the stick, until it feels silky smooth. Work the sand paper around the stick, as well as up and down - this will ensure that there are no snags.

If you like, you can add a gentle shape to the shaft at this point. Experiment with shapes, to see what works best!

If you do not have any sandpaper, you can use a soft nail file (the type with foam in the center) to sand.

If you want unfinished natural wood, use several increasingly finer grades of sandpaper, take lots of care rounding the point without splitting it, and forego finishing.

Step 4: Finishing Method One: Nailpolish Art!

This is the easiest/cheapest way to decorate and glaze your hair sticks so that they are smooth and pretty. You simply pick the color(s) of nail polish that you want to use and paint away.

Try stripes, blended or shaded colors, or overlay a shimmery color over a darker color.

Important note:

Be sure to apply 2-3 coats to the whole hairstick and at least 3 coats to the pointed tip. It will be smoothest and most snag-free that way.

There are two ways of holding the sticks while you paint and dry them:

Lump of clay/floral foam/bucket of sand (or rice or whatever):

Stick one end of the stick you want to paint into a lump of modeling clay to support it. You can now paint as much of the stick as you can reach.

Apply 2-3 coats of nailpolish and let dry. Wait about an hour to turn the stick around and paint the other end.

When you've painted the stick, protect the colored nailpolish with a coat of clear nailpolish, applied in the same manner.

Clothespins and line:

Hold the stick in one hand and paint 2-3 coats of nailpolish on about 1/2 of the stick. If the point is on the end you are painting, dip it into the bottle for a smooth coating right before you hang the stick up to dry.

Clip a clothespin on the unpainted end and hang from a line or hook to dry. Wait about an hour to take the stick down and paint the other end.

When you've painted the stick, protect the colored nailpolish with a coat of clear nailpolish, applied in the same manner.

Step 5: Finishing Method Two: Stain and Polish

If your hairsticks-to-be are plain unfinished wood, you can stain them before glazing. This looks really cool in odd colors, like green or purple.

  • Put a few drops of food color or watercolor on a plate. Pick up the color with a cotton swab. I have found that cotton swabs or small sponges apply the color more satisfactorily than paintbrushes.

    • Hold the stick in your hand and paint evenly with color. You can paint the whole thing if you wear gloves or aren't afraid of getting dye on your fingers.
    • Hang to dry as shown in previous step or rest on a plate. It will take about 3-4 hours for them to dry completely.

You can also use markers if you don't want to wait for them to dry, but you won't get as even a result.

Note: This can also be done with vegetable-based funky hairdye, but you have to rinse them off after you apply the color. They they take a bit longer to dry completely, you have to leave them overnight. It is a bit more work, but it looks neato to have hairsticks that match your hair exactly.

For an antiqued or distressed effect, and lightly to reveal the bare uncolored wood in spots before sealing.

  • When they are dry, follow the directions above for coating them with clear nailpolish, or spray with clear sealant. Either method will work. Don't forget the extra coat of polish over the point!

Step 6: Decoration

How you decorate your hairsticks is really up to you. Use your imagination! Here's some ideas:

  • Glue ribbons, cords, yarn or garlands around the ends. You can also use fabric paint to decorate the ribbons.
  • Glue small toys, buttons, objects or jewels to the ends. Epoxy or jewelry glue is good for this.
  • Paint stripes or designs all over or just on part of your sticks.
  • Form small wire shapes, and have them hold on dangly ornaments, small stones, etc. Secure with epoxy or jewelry glue.
  • apply decals or small stickers to the sticks and seal with clear sealant.
  • look in strange places - some of my favorite accents came from the hardware store. Found objects make the best ornaments.