Stacked Paper Jewelry




About: I'm an artist, environmentalist, animal lover, gardener, recycling nut, a high school teacher, crafter, Mom, Christian and widow who reads a lot in between figuring out how to do things.

Making jewelry can involve low tech and inexpensive materials. This instructable will show you how to make jewelry using the simplest of materials: construction paper, glue, sandpaper and time.

I have done this project with elementary students as young as second grade. It CAN be done with more sophisticated equipment, but since I don't own any of these items except for a dremel tool, I won't show you that path. But hey, if you have the equipment, use it!

I'm completing this instructable as a teaching tool as I plan on showing my middle school art students this as a demo for class. (And they will be completing through low tech methods!)

Construction paper, card stock
hand drill or hand punch
jewelry findings

Step 1: Trace, Cut and Glue

Identify subject and shape.
First figure out what you're going to make, and make some drawings until you have a good shape. Draw on cardstock, cardboard or index card.

Cut out the design.
After you have cut out the design, flip it over so you don't see the drawn image side to check how the design works as a negative image and to fix any cuts that need to be refined. You can see any "mistakes" from this angle.

Trace. Trace....trace some more.
Then begin tracing. You'll need to carefully trace 20-30 and then cut them out as carefully as you can.
If you had one of those fancy machines you could use it and then presto! But alas, no fancy machine...

Stack and glue.
Begin gluing your shapes together, spreading the glue around the surface of the paper, and stacking up the shapes. You'll especially want glue near the outside edges, but you also don't want a puddle. Press the stack down occasionally to squeeze out extra glue.
Use wax paper to protect your table top and also to keep it from gluing to your table.

Let dry overnight.

Step 2: Mistakes Can Be Used to Teach

I had designed and started to cut out a flower shape. The flower was a failure as far as making a jewelry piece, but I'll use this for my students to show the problem with a design that is too complicated or that cutting wasn't done carefully enough.

As I started to stack up before gluing, I noticed that the designs weren't lining up properly. And honestly I also wasn't looking forward to sanding this later on. If I'd had a bigger flower (was making earrings), this design would have worked. But the size was too small and my cutting not accurate enough.

Step 3: Sandman

After drying for 24 hours or more, begin sanding.
You can use your hand and a strip of sandpaper, a sandpaper block, a dremel tool...your choice. You'll be sanding around the edges of the stack, but you can also lightly sand the top and bottom to show a little of the paper underneath the top.
I used sandpaper and a little elbow grease and sanding all 4 pieces within 30-45 minutes.

I like doing things by hand. My students will be doing this also by hand, so I needed to time it so I knew how much time it was going to take, approximately.

Step 4: Finishing

Drill holes
Use a punch or drill to make a hole. I have a little hand drill that I'll let my students use. Protect the other surface so you don't drill a hole into your table. (Scrap cardboard works well). You need to clamp down the piece to drill through. If no clamps are handy, use your feet or a friend to hold tightly. (Feet make good tools too!)
My students will NOT use their feet.

Add findings
Add your jewelry findings and wear proudly!

Other finishing touches
  • add drawn or cut details
  • add lacquer (clear nail polish) to waterproof and also to make the colors pop
  • maybe glitter nail polish (can really see my students liking that!)

Step 5: Enjoying Craft

This was a fun project for me, and I know my students will also enjoy it. It is fun to make something out of such simple materials.

There is a joy in simplicity and making things with your hands. Thanks for allowing me to share this joy with you!



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    11 Discussions


    5 years ago on Introduction

    I did this with my middle school classes about 40+ years ago. They loved it. This was a great project to teach the value of the investment of time to achieve a quality outcome.
    Couple suggestions:
    Make your first one a simple abstract or geometric shape.
    Thin the glue with water so it goes on lightly and use a brush to apply.
    Glue all the shapes together, alternating colors, quickly and neatly, then immediately compress between to smooth pieces do wood in a vice or with c-clamps. (Use some wax paper on both sides of the piece to keep it from sticking to the wood). Crank it down as tight as you can get it and let it set for 24 hours. This will come out as hard a piece of plastic or Masonite,
    Sand the piece using progressively finer grades of sand paper, tapering the outside edges to a sharp edge (like a thin wedge) allowing the alternating colors to become moe evident.
    Finish with high gloss lacquer or nail polish.
    You will be stunned at the quality, and no one will believe it's paper.

    1 reply

    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    I actually did this with my elementary students about 25 years ago and all of your comments are perfectly accurate! When I do this with art classes (100+ or more students), there isn't enough clamps and etc to go around, so we just press down hard and put under a stack of books.

    Thanks for your comments! I appreciate the feedback and constructive criticism.


    5 years ago

    Lol sooo cute! It kind of reminds me of shrinky dinks


    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    The most time consuming part is cutting out the 20-30 shapes. If you have one of those clever machines, it doesn't take as long!(Of course I don't have one of those...) But really it doesn't take that much time if you have a simple design to cut out.


    5 years ago

    Lol so cool...I remember making a brooch like this at school, a lot of years ago ;)

    1 reply

    Reply 5 years ago

    Funny how things you did as a kid come back! Thanks for stopping by!