Keyrings Made From Ice Cube Trays and Pony Beads

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About: Crafting as a means to distract myself from the horror show that was 2016. If I'm making things or plotting to make things, it makes me happy.

Intro: Keyrings Made From Ice Cube Trays and Pony Beads

Make your own keyring using silicon ice cube trays and pony beads! Pony beads are pretty cheap, and look fantastic when you melt them down for craft projects. Silicon ice cub trays are a big thing these days and you can get all sorts of amazing shapes. Because they're silicon, you can bake them, so they make ideal moulds for melting pony beads in.

Please be aware that this will pong. You're melting plastic, which produces fumes, so please be sure to open doors and windows, and not stay in the room while melting is in progress. If you have an oven you can take outside, do so.

Step 1: What You Need

  • Plastic pony beads
  • A silicon ice cube tray/mould
  • An old baking tray
  • Toothpick or other pointy object
  • Sandpaper or nail/emery board
  • Keyring rings
  • Small jump rings (optional)
  • Dremel/drill (optional)

Step 2: Designing

Arrange your pony beads in a rough colour pattern of your choice - the toothpick can come in handy here for moving them around when they move out of place. I have an Avengers mould, so I went with a rough approximation of their team colours. There's no hard and fast rule for the amount of beads you need. It can depend on the mould shape, the size, how much detail there is and how thick you personally want it to be. I used about 20 in each compartment, which made the overall thickness 5mm, but that's because the indent around the 'A' meant those areas were going to be thinner, so I needed some extra on back to account for that.

Step 3: Melting

Once you're happy, pop the mould into the oven on a baking tray, and leave it to melt. It's going to depend on your oven how long it's going to take. General recommendations are 400°F/200°C/Gas Mark 6. It's going to depend on how your oven behaves. With my oven (gas) I have it on as hot as possible as it tends to run cooler than it should, and then check every 10 minutes to see what progress has been made. It usually takes between 10 to 20 minutes for them to melt. Once you have a non-lumpy, shiny surface, you should be good to remove the mould from the oven. If you find you haven't put enough beads in and can see the bottom of the mould in places, you can drop a few more in now then leave it in the oven for longer.

When they're done, take them out. If you're putting a hole in at this stage, see the next step. Otherwise, leave them to harden for about 10 minutes, then you can pop them out of the mould. Be careful, because the mould can still be hot at this point, so handle carefully or wait until it's cooled properly (especially if kids are involved).

Because this is a quick and dirty home DIY project using cheap craft bits you may have to hand, you're not going to get perfection - expect some bubbles here and there. Depending on the finish in the mould, you might get a shiny finished product like it is on the top/back, or you might get a matte, frosted finish like I have here.

Step 4: Making the Hole

The first, and easiest, option is to use a toothpick, wool needle or other pointing object to wiggle the hole in where you went it right after you remove it from the oven. If you're just doing one or two, then this method is perfect, you just need to remember that the mould is HOT, so make sure that you hold it steady wearing gloves or using a thick tea towel.

With more than two I find the plastic has already cooled too much for this to work, so if you're doing more (or you just forgot) then you'll need to drill the hole with a suitable drill bit size and a drill, dremel or other such tool. The thing to remember here is that the rapid spinning of the drill bit against an object causes friction and so generates heat. As these are plastic, it will cause the stuff getting drilled out to melt and then harden on the drill bit. There's probably some way to do this without causing that, but I don't have much to do with drills. Instead, I recommend that you use some cheap as chips drill bits from a discount store that you don't mind messing up. Also, remember to put a block of wood or something similar under it so that you don't drill through and ruin your work surface.

Step 5: Sanding

You'll notice that the back of the fob probably has bits sticking up making the edges a bit sharp. You'll need to sand those down. You can use an emery/nail board or a bit of sandpaper to do this - it can be quite soothing to do this in front of the TV for 30 minutes. The other option is to do it with a dremel or similar and use a sanding attachment to speed the process up, if you have the attachments and that's in your wheelhouse.

Step 6: Finishing

Now you just need to attach it. I'd personally want to use a small jump ring between the fob and the larger ring at this point, because I think it makes the whole thing look neater and hang better. Unfortunately, in this instance the chunk at the top of the 'A' is too big for that (I didn't think that one through), and I felt putting the hole in that section might end up making it too brittle. So I opted to just put it on the larger ring. I think it looks just fine nestled with my keys.

Step 7: Tips

A few notes that you might find useful:
  • Check the mould can take high temperatures, some cheap ones can't.
  • Don't use the mould for ice cubes after, it's probably not healthy. Only use a mould you're happy to resign to the crafting supplies.
  • Wash the mould out first to remove any annoying particles hat might stick to the end product.
  • You need to pack the pony beads as best as possible into crevices (it can be hard as hey're chunky) to make sure that the beads melt properly into the fiddly bits, otherwise you might end up with little bits missing. I got a bit sloppy with the red/black and red/yellow ones because I started to rush. You can see this in the photo.
  • You can also turn these into fridge magnets - an ideal solution if you forgot to pop a hole in with a toothpick and don't have access to a drill. I've done this myself (see pic), and they look really attractive on the fridge. Simply sand down the back to create a rough surface so the glue sticks better, follow the instructions of your chosen strong glue to apply a magnet, then leave it to dry before popping it on your fridge to hold your important memos in place.

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    21 Discussions

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    hobsonsp

    3 months ago

    Have you tried or considered using perler beads in place of the pony beads? I'm wondering if they wouldn't melt better since they're designed to be melted.

    3 replies
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    Redcognitohobsonsp

    Reply 3 months ago

    I had not! I haven't used them before, I shall have to investigate. Thanks!

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    mizutsunecafeRedcognito

    Reply 2 months ago

    Hi, I tried with perler beads! The mold I used was rather small so the beads didn't melt small enough to fill in all the little nooks and such, but I'm sure if you use a bigger mold like the one here it'd go great! You may want to lay the beads down with the holes horizontal, since the finished charms have the bubbles showing kind of- though leaving them in a higher-heated oven for longer than I did might alleviate that issue. I also think with perler beads, the plastic spikes on the back will melt thin enough you can cut them off with scissors and then sand them down!

    Perler beads also have a lower melting point at 350 (though 400 degrees works fine) and have little to no smell, so it's worth a try!

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    Redcognitomizutsunecafe

    Reply 2 months ago

    That's really great to find out, thanks for experimenting. I'll have to give this a go myself. :D The small mould not getting filled everywhere doesn't surprise me, I tried a rose mould with a pony bead and wow, that was a disaster. XD

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    rbeforee

    3 months ago

    I am really impressed at how great these look. Clever use of inexpensive, readily available materials too.

    I have grand plans to make custom silicone molds (clear 100% silicone caulk and cornstarch, which I’ve heard stinks to high heaven so it is best done outside)

    I’ve not dabbled with pony beads. Would there be any advantage to smashing them up before melting them? I’m wondering if that would reduce the bubbles.

    I’m curious if the translucent and glittery beads, together or separate from the opaque beads, are any different to work with (regarding bubbles and drilling).

    Thanks for this clever project.

    8 replies
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    Redcognitorbeforee

    Reply 3 months ago

    Thank you! :)

    Someone else mentioned making their own moulds, I'm curious about trying it myself at some point.

    I did try smashing pony beads a couple of years back, they're surprisingly durable. I gave it up as more effort than it's worth for me (and also created a hole in the kitchen linoleum with a mis-hit, which I'm pretending never happened), but I imagine it would reduce bubbles quite a bit. I've actually been trying to work out what the equivalent to pony beads would be in pellets for these kinds of products, but not had any real luck finding anything much to buy. Seems to be an obscure market.

    The different types of beads seem to be pretty much the same, I've played with quite a few types - if I've dome it right, there should be a couple of added pics showing what the three types look like together. I've found that laying them out uniformly does help reduce bubbles (creates pinprick bubbles on the bottom, probably unavoidable due to the hole in the bead collapsing and some air getting trapped), but it's hard to do that in things as small as ice cube trays. I do want to see if melting the glow in the dark ones works, or if the melting messes up the glowing properties.

    photo_2018-06-24_19-18-23.jpgphoto_2018-06-24_19-16-36.jpgphoto_2018-06-24_19-16-26.jpg
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    rbeforeeRedcognito

    Reply 3 months ago

    Here’s a pdf about grinding the beads in a coffee grinder. Interesting idea.

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    Redcognitorbeforee

    Reply 2 months ago

    Okay, interesting. I tried grinding them, and the finished results actually had MORE bubbles in them and a worse finish. I wonder if that's because there was more air between the finer parts? Or the 'dust' is just useless for these things?

    The trick may be that you need some larger pellets. Unfortunately it was a really messy process and I think a whole lot of beads would get wasted in the process of getting the right size unless you were going to do a mass production of supplies.

    The fine dust also got into the other moulds in the tray, so I now have fine melted plastic in them all (I should have covered them). I don't think it'll be a problem, next lot that go in there will just pick up the flecks, so it should be fine.

    I was also about to wash the grinder out when I realised that putting all that fine plastic out into the water supply was a really bad idea, so I wiped it out with a cleaning wipe and binned it.

    In conclusion, it was worth a play, but a hammer and a sturdy bag may be the best method for smaller projects.

    photo_2018-07-05_15-31-43.jpg
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    rbeforeeRedcognito

    Reply 2 months ago

    Wow! Thanks for testing that for all of us. I’m sorry it was not only unsuccessful but also a waste of a grinder.

    Kudos for thinking of the negative effects on the water system. You are a good steward of this pretty blue orb.
    x

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    batfastardrbeforee

    Reply 3 months ago

    a decent pastic bag and a mallet/hammer can substitute for a grinder.

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    rbeforeeRedcognito

    Reply 3 months ago

    Very cool! Thanks.

    I’m a sucker for GitD stuff!!

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    Redcognitorbeforee

    Reply 3 months ago

    Oooh, this looks very promising. I can't stand coffee, so don't own a grinder. Going to have to get a cheap one and experiment. Thanks or this!

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    KristenJ5

    3 months ago

    Matte vs shiny will actually depend on if your mold is matte or shiny! :)

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    nic.bryan.73

    Tip 3 months ago

    When you're drilling the plastic, if you flip the drill into reverse and pull it through your fingers (or a towel you don't mind ruining) it'll take those plastic bits right off. And you want to use the lowest speed setting you can. A hand drill would be ideal, but otherwise, one with a variable trigger is going to be your best bet. And make sure the bit is sharp, it makes less friction if the bit can cut right into the plastic.

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    Omnivent

    3 months ago

    Hi,

    "There's no hard and fast rule for the amount of beads you need."

    Well, a rule of thumb would be:Just the right amount ;)

    How to find it:

    1) Pour water in your mold until it reaches the level you want

    2) Transfer the water to a measuring glass - now you know the volume needed

    3) Fill the measuring glas with water to a known mark

    4) Dump beads into the glass, until it reaches your previous measure PLUS the amount you found that your mold takes (you might need to hold the beads down, if they're lighter than the water)

    Alternatively, if the beads are very regular sized. Measure the volume of say 10 beads and divide the total by ten (or whatever amount you measured), to find the volume of a single one., then you just need to perform steps 1 and 2 for each new mold.

    Have a nice day :)

    1 reply
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    RedcognitoOmnivent

    Reply 3 months ago

    Huh! Thanks for this, very useful. I'm going to have a play with it. :D

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    PKM

    3 months ago

    These look great, I love the look of the mixed purple beads one in the last image.

    This could be part of a great small batch manufacture process: build/carve/CNC/3D print a part, make a negative mould with pourable silicone, cast a bunch of pieces. That way you aren't limited by what you can find ice cube trays for :)

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    RedcognitoPKM

    Reply 3 months ago

    Oh, wow, yes. That's a fantastic idea! :D And thanks! :)

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    Penolopy Bulnick

    3 months ago

    Fun idea using beads in a mold :) I love the multicolored ones :)