How to Make Jewelry Using Cardboard and Superglue




About: hi! i'm @wagglefingers on twitter. || industrial design student || the first craft project i ever did was turning a pringles can into a pencil holder. never really went further than that TBH.

in a nutshell: here we're going to try to make jewelry and stuff by building it with cardboard and superglue, sanding it down, and then varnishing it to strengthen and waterproof it.

i started doing this mainly because i wanted to make pretty elaborate-looking pendants and stuff but i didn't have access to materials that people usually use for this (like sculpey, terracotta, resin, metal, etc. I'VE NEVER EVEN SEEN A BOTTLE OF MOD PODGE IN MY LIFE. what is mod podge? it sounds wondrous). also, those materials tend to be quite expensive for me, so i tried making pendants with stuff that i already have.


(oh and BTW, sorry if some of the steps don't have proper photos :)) i always forget to document)

Step 1: Materials

>>> cardboard (ideally illustration board and some folders)

i use illustration board for these because it's easily available here and it's very sturdy but easy to cut. in theory you can use chipboard too. the folders are for the details.

>>> cyanoacrylate superglue (like mighty bond)

>>> varnish

the one i used is labeled "plastic varnish" and is used for wood. the lightest tint that i can get is "natural" and it's yellowish but unless you lay it on thickly it wouldn't matter

>>> sandpaper of different grits

>>> craft cutter (and lots of spare blades!)

>>> acrylic paint

>>> tiny paintbrushes

>>> other things you might find useful:

white glue (like elmer's)
a big jar
a nipper
a sheet of carbon paper
a cutting board

>>> other things you might want to incorporate in the design, like:

glass pebbles
other beads
chains or cords
jump rings

Step 2: Design and Planning

for the design, you can go all out if you want to, but i would suggest simple designs first because the method we're using here has a lot of limitations and you can't really sculpt, carve or mold with this. you can't really put in too much detail too :( not to mention it's incredibly time-consuming. you can still do a lot with it though!

a good thing about this method is that it can be really accurate. if you're a stickler for measuring EVERYTHING (like me), then you might like this. the details that you also manage to pack in are really really sharp and clean

it's very easy to make really organic shapes too, because cardboard is very easy to sand and shape.

Step 3: Figuring the Layers Out

you just have to think about how you're going to build your design with layers. like for example, let's make a flower with a protruding center, like a dome. if you can see here, i built the center with more layers than the rest, so it sticks out. so if you want some details of your design to protrude, just make those with more layers.

you can also incorporate layers that are stuck on vertically, like the cross i have here.

you can even make square beads with this if you incorporate a layer with a groove running through it, then sandwiching that layer.

for the ones i have here, they're a mixture of layers laid on flat and stuck on vertically (those are to create the "claws" that hold in the glass pebble.)

Step 4: Tracing

after you've done your design, divide it into parts or sections. then, just figure out which sections would stick out and such, and carefully plan how many layers would go in each section. like this one, i labeled each section with the number of layers.

once you've got that figured out, make an actual-sized copy of your design and copy that on the illustration board. you can do this by tracing over the carbon paper with a ballpoint pen. copy it several times, depending on the most number of layers + 1 more layer as the base, where everything will be stuck to.

Step 5: Cutting

this is the part where i get the most impatient :( so cut all the layers out, then cut them up into sections.

it's really hard to cut curves, but what you can do is you can cut in straight lines, then just cut the corners out until there are no corners left. you can do this with a nipper for the tiny corners. if the cutting is a little rough, it's ok because you can sand it all down later.

it's a lot of cutting so don't forget to change blades all the time, and use a cutting board to keep your blade sharp.

Step 6: Gluing the Layers Together to Form the Sections

glue all the layers up with superglue. once the sections are formed, don't stick them to each other or to the base yet!

Step 7: Sanding the Sections

sand each section with low-grit sandpaper until you're happy with the shape. if the fibers of the paper start sticking out or the layers come apart, just dab some superglue on it and continue sanding. if the section is like, really tiny and just one layer thick though? you can leave it alone for now. those are gonna be kinda hard to handle.

Step 8: Gluing All the Sections to the Base

make sure all of the sections fit with each other first. make corrections if necessary. then, start supergluing the sections to the base layer. start with the thinnest sections. remember those tiny, one-layer sections? glue them onto the base first AND THEN sand them. it's easier to handle and sand them that way. after that, proceed with the other sections.

dab glue on as many parts as you can to make sure that it doesn't come apart.

Step 9: Shape Correction

if there are some problems with the shape (say, you nicked a part of it with your cutter and now there's a dent, or if a part doesn't protrude as much as you want to or if there's a too-big gap between sections), you can cut a tiny, tiny piece of folder, superglue it onto the dent, then sand until the piece of folder is flush with the rest of the pendant.

i encircled the parts which used to have dents / aren't rounded enough but are now corrected. can you see the little rectangles of folder board?

Step 10: Sealing the Cardboard With Varnish

after you've finished assembling all of the parts, douse the pendant in varnish. this step is to strengthen the cardboard before you continue sanding, and to make sure that every inch of it is waterproof. what i usually do here is that i first transfer the varnish to a big jar. then i take a paperclip, bend it to an L shape, hook the pendant on it and dip it in into the jar. that way the coat is even. it's fast too.

after you've dipped it, lay it on a sheet of plastic that you're not gonna use anymore, like an old plastic envelope. i usually lay it on this protractor that i have that is wildly inaccurate. let it dry. it usually takes about 24 hours for varnish to REALLY dry but for this step, you just have to wait until the varnish is solidified, which is about an hour.

after that, sand it with high-grit sandpaper and make it really smooth.

Step 11: Painting

i use acrylic paints for this, and some nylon brushes. for the really tiny details, i use this old nylon brush that i have that i ruined by dipping the tip in some wet superglue -___-

i then cut away all of the affected hairs with a nail clipper and left about 7 hairs on the brush. i use this for microdetailing.

i usually prime the pendant with white paint before proceeding to make the colors really pop.

don't worry if the brush strokes are really visible and textured. it will even out after you varnish.


question: what if i wanted to do a little plaque with a pencil drawing on it? or i wanted to stick on something i printed out? or i wanted to do newsprint jewelry?

if you're using pencils or crayons to render your jewelry, you have to skip the last step we did. same goes if you wanted to incorporate printed paper in your design. before you let any sort of varnish or superglue touch your drawing or print, first seal it in with white glue. if you use superglue on it or dip it in varnish, it will turn grey and it will look eternally wet.

what you can do is seal in these porous parts with white glue first, then let it dry. white glue dries clear and protects those parts from the varnish. after it dries, then you can proceed with the varnish to waterproof it


question: what about pen drawings?

any drawing made with alcohol-based ink will bleed when it comes into contact with varnish or superglue. they are not friends. try to avoid using these. i haven't tried sealing a pen drawing with white glue first then varnishing it, but i think that may also not work since i did try it with a highlighter stroke and it still bled and discolored :( also, water-based ink will bleed with white glue.

Step 12: First Layer of Varnish and Checking for Corrections

dip it in varnish once, lay it onto a piece of plastic (like the protractor in the previous step) then let it dry for a couple of hours.

usually, after this step, you'll see all of your mistakes in the paint job. make sure all of the things you want to correct are corrected. make sure you don't touch or handle the pendant with your fingers while you're painting!

Step 13: Last Layer of Varnish and Final Touches

dip it in varnish again to seal everything in. i put on 2 layers of varnish after the correction step. don't make any more corrections after this! or worse, varnish it again. if you put paint on top of 2 or three layers of varnish then you varnish it again, the paint will just slip right off and it will dry with all your brush strokes in the wrong place. not a good look.

wait for it to dry, it'll be ready in 24 hours. don't touch it while it's drying! also, it's better to let it dry during a cool day because if it's too hot in the room there'll be bubbles all over your work and it looks horrendous.

after it dries, put in your metal jump rings, add in your glass whateverthefriggs, or if you made beads go ahead and thread them already. now it's ready to be used!



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    68 Discussions


    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    if you can check step 12 again, the pic on the right has the painted, waterproofed, but untrimmed piece of cardboard for the backing of the eye. hope this helps!


    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    thank you! i didn't actually buy it like that. what i did was i took a colored glass pebble (aqua in this case). it should have a flat back. then, i took a little piece of cardboard and painted the iris pattern on it. i dunked the cardboard in varnish for waterproofing. i let it dry, then, i let globules of varnish drip on the surface of the pattern to form a little puddle. i then placed the pebble on top of the pattern and puddle and let it completely dry. varnish is an ok adhesive, actually. i carefully put some superglue on the edges just to be sure. i cut out the excess and there you go, instant dragon eye!


    3 years ago

    unfortunately I find this a little confusing do you have a video on how to do this I would love to make this


    4 years ago on Introduction

    i lost your link.. had to go through all the other 'ibles.. hahaha.. howdy? hamishu.. :D


    5 years ago on Step 13

    Amazing jewels and amazing 'structable. You have a great talent for this, I love these.


    5 years ago on Introduction

    Wow. I'm deeply impressed by how you've overcome the limitation of available materials. Your work is really lovely. Thank you so much for sharing your process!! These are really cool


    5 years ago on Step 13

    Simply wonderful... I really like the fantasy theme, and that last picture's piece is, I think, my favourite - but it's so hard to separate them!

    If this 'Ible was entered in a competition, I'd definitely vote, in the certain belief it should win.

    One thing I'd like to point out, if anyone has problems figuring out layers early on, Autodesk 123D has a 'slice' function, often used to print out similar layers - just tell it the thickness of your card and the orientation you want your slices in, and it'll print them all for you (with registration marks for correct placement). Your printer MIGHT be able to handle the thickness of card, otherwise you'd have to print onto paper, stick that to your card THEN cut each piece out... Of course, you'd need to create your piece in Autodesk first, but (as it is free) it might be a way for you to create practically identical pieces without silicone moulding, in order to sell them, to start affording silicone moulding materials and equipment.

    I'm not sure if SketchUp has a 'slice' function or plugin, but I'm sure I could use its 'intersect with faces' function to the same effect - the problem would be making it print to scale.

    Still, food for thought - I'll have to experiment...

    6 replies

    Hey, Thanks karlpinturr for the Autodesk 123D suggestion. At first, I thought, "what, buy some pricey software instead of doing it manually?" and then I read the rest of your reply and saw that it was FREE. Perfect price, now if we can just figure out how to use the software...LOL :)


    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    thank you so much for the nice feedback! are you an LOTR fan? it might interest you that the last one is supposed to be smaug and the black arrow that ~may or may not~ have killed him :)) and yeah i was supposed to enter this in the jewelry contest but they're not accepting entries from my country :(

    i was supposed to suggest printing copies of the layout on some sticker paper to be stuck on the cardboard. and yeah, those are some really good suggestions on how 3d software can assist you in the process and save you some precious time 'cause man these things can kill time like HALE. thanks!


    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    That is frustrating that you can't enter comps. We Australians were in that situation before. I would suggest entering anyway and if you win, use an address of a friend in one of the accepted countries.


    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    Quick reply - thanks!

    No, I'm not an LOTR fan - I OUGHT to be, but I never got past that first line of The Hobbit "In a hole in the ground lived a Hobbit" - Yuck! I've also never got into Harry Potter, though most people immediately think I resemble Hagrid. Personally, I like David & Leigh Eddings' Belgariad and its surrounding series, along with a bit of R.A. Salvatore's Dark Elf series amongst others (in the Fantasy genre, but I also like a good bit of Sci-Fi).


    5 years ago on Introduction

    Amazing art and jewelry from just cardboard and your imagination!!! Beautiful work and ingenious use of available material...I am truly in awe and embarrassed of all the pricey art material I have boughten over the years; thinking I needed the stuff instead of trying to make due with what I already had. Kudos to you and thank you for sharing your process. You have taught an old dog a new trick! ;)


    5 years ago on Introduction

    Mod Podge isn't that great (There's not even a brush in the cap!)

    But it really is just /just/ regular white glue that's diluted a bit. Get wood glue / PVA / Elmer's school glue and add water to make it thinner, and that's it - you have mod podge, you just don't have the bottle that it comes in (because that's all mod podge is)

    But this is a great 'ible - I wouldn't have even thought about doing this layering technique by hand, and yet it looks so great! You've done a fantastic job here - you should sell them! :)


    5 years ago on Introduction

    How beautiful is this! I don't have words to describe this wonderful work! Thanks for sharing this instructable with us.


    5 years ago

    This is so cool!!!! Looks great!
    You could make a mold then cast a plastic version that way it's a little more sturdy. just an idear!