5 Tips for Working with Chunky Beads

5 Tips for Working with Chunky Beads

In my last ECT TV episode, I showed you how to make a necklace with some chunky beads and chain.

When you’re working with heavy or chunky beads, there are some special considerations to think about.

5 Tips for Working with Chunky Beads:

1.  Use spacer beads, knots or wire wrap the beads to get them to drape correctly.

With smaller beads you can just string them all together.  When you’re using chunky beads you have to either use smaller spacer beads or knot in between the beads or the jewelry piece will not lay correctly.

Alternatively, you could wire wrap each bead and connect them.  (This is something I teach in my eBook, Wire Wrapping for Beginners.)

If you do not, the piece will be stiff and not drape well.  The beads will become a solid block.

In the necklace from ECT TV 50 (pictured above) I used spacer beads, but they kind of look like knots to me.

2.  Use less of the beads in your jewelry piece. 

Chunky beads are also usually heavy.  I hate that heavy feeling around my neck.  So instead of creating an entire beaded necklace, I use half chain and half beads.

3.  Use 2 crimp beads.

I use 2 crimp beads in all of my pieces that I’m stringing, but with chunky beads it’s even more important to use 2 crimp beads to really make sure that your piece is secure.

(I show you how to crimp in ECT TV Episode 50.)

4.  Use strong wire.

There are a variety of stringing wires with different “strands.”  The higher that number is, the better the quality of your wire.  Lower numbers have less strands and are more stiff and break easier.  Higher numbers have more strands, are more flexible and are stronger.

Use the highest strand number you can within your budget.

(This is also something I talk about in ECT TV Episode 50.)

5.  Use just one bead as a focal point.

Another way to use chunky beads is to use just one of the beads as the focal point for your jewelry piece.  You can then use smaller beads for the rest of a necklace or bracelet or create a pendant and slide it on a chain.

Bonus Tip:

Make sure your clasp will work with your chunky beads.  If you’re stringing a bracelet, for example, make sure that the last few beads on the bracelet will fit through the clasp.  I often will make chunky bracelets with big beads and then use a big clasp that the beads will fit through if I’m using a toggle clasp.

Alternatively, you could use a lobster clasp or other clasp that the beads do not actually go through to close.

I hope these tips help you work with chunky beads successfully!  Now go into your stash and get those beads you’ve been hanging onto until you figured out what to do with them (I know you have them) and create something!

Need some direction?  Check out the eCourses, eBooks and eWorkshops in my shop.  🙂

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ECT TV Episode 50: Chunky Beads and Chain Necklace

ECT TV Episode 50

In today’s episode of ECT TV, I’ll show you how to make this lovely necklace.  It was inspired by the chunky beads and my need for more necklaces in my life.

Watch the video tutorial here:

Tips for Working With Chunky Beads:

These beads were big and chunky, which is why I loved them.  There are some considerations when working with big beads, though.

1.  You can’t just strand them altogether on beading wire.  There has to be some separation between them or your strand doesn’t drape nicely.  It will just be stiff and not have any movement.  I think the little beads in between look almost like knotting in between the beads.  (And knotting is a good idea for chunky beads.  See knotting instructions here.)

2.  The beads were too heavy for me to use all around my neck.  The weight would make it uncomfortable.  That’s why I opted to use a chain for half the necklace.

3.  I always use 2 crimp beads when I’m string anyway, but in this case it’s especially important because of the weight.  You want to make sure the beads are extra secure.

ECT TV Episode 50

Repurposing Used Jewelry:

I also mentioned that I got this necklace from a used jewelry sale.  I love finding supplies at sales like these or at thrift stores.  In this case, I purchased the necklace because of the chain and it’s a great compliment to the beads.

When purchasing used jewelry at a thrift store or used jewelry sale, look for something in the piece you love, even if you don’t love the piece itself.  And watch the price and make sure you’re not paying too much for whatever it is you’re purchasing.  $1.00 for all that chain seemed like a great deal to me.

ECT TV Episode 50

Step-by-Step Instructions for the Chunky Bead and Chain Necklace:

ECT TV Episode 50

Tools and Materials:

  • Chunky beads (mine came from A.C. Moore)
  • Chain (I took apart an old necklace, but you can use new chain)
  • Spacer beads for in between the chunky beads
  • 4 Crimp beads
  • 4 Crimp bead covers (optional)
  • 2 Wire guards (optional*)
  • Jump Rings
  • Clasp
  • Beading wire
  • Crimp tool
  • Wire cutters
  • Chain nose pliers
  • Bent nose pliers

* If you aren’t using wire guards, here is a stringing tutorial without the wire guards.  Here is a video tutorial that shows you how to use chain nose pliers instead of a crimp tool.  You can string right to the chain in this case or use a soldered jump ring then attach the soldered jump ring to the chain with a regular jump ring.

ECT TV Episode 50

Beading Wire:

I used 49 strand beading wire for this necklace.  It has more strands so it’s stronger and is also more pliable and flexible and gives your necklace a nice drape.  It also is expensive compared to others.

Buy the best material you can with the budget you have.  19 strand wire would probably be fine in this case, too, but I wouldn’t use 7 strand or something similar because you’ll run the risk of your necklace breaking.

Step #1

Decide how long you want the beaded part of your necklace to be.  You probably just want it across the front of your neck.

Then place your beads in a design that you’ll bead on the beading string.

Step #2

Cut a piece of wire the length of your bead design plus a few inches on each side extra.

Step #3

ECT TV Episode 50

A wire guard looks like this.  It has 2 tubes on the ends of the U and the curved part is open on one side.

ECT TV Episode 50

Slide the wire up through one of the tubes.

Step #4

Using a wire guard

Pull the wire around and back down through the other tube.

Step #5

Using a wire guard

Pull the wire tightly into the wire guard.

Step #6

Using a wire guard

Pull a crimp bead up against the wire guard, making sure to go over both wires.

Step #7

Crimping

Using the crimping tool, crimp the bead.  First put the crimp bead in the larger notch that’s closer to the handle of the tool and close it.

Crimping

This is what the bead will look like.  It’s flattened and it also has a crease in the middle.

Step #8

Crimping

Now place the crimp bead in the other notch closest to the tip of the tool.  Close the tool to fold the bead in half.

Crimping

Step #9

Crimping

Optional step:  Place a crimp cover over the crimp bead.  This makes your necklace look more complete.  You could also use a bead with a hole large enough to go over the crimp bead instead.

Step #10

Crimping

Place a small bead onto the wire and then another crimp bead and repeat the process for closing the crimp bead and covering it again.

Step #11

Stringing beads

Then you can start stringing the beads onto the wire working from one end to the other.

Step #12

Crimping

At the other end, repeat the process of crimping again, but now since there are beads on the wire you have to add the crimp beads and wire guard in the opposite order.

String your last spacer bead, then a crimp bead, then a small bead, then a crimp bead and finally the wire guard.  After going around the wire guard, go back around through the crimp bead, small bead, crimp bead and then through the spacer bead and the first big bead of the necklace and pull everything tightly, but not too tightly.

You need to leave some space to add the crimp covers over the crimp beads and they are slightly larger than the crimp beads.

Step #13

Crimping

Then follow the same procedure and close the crimp beads and add crimp covers.

Step #14

Crimping

Trim off the excess beading wire.

Step #15

Measure around your neck to decide how long your chain should be and cut the chain to the appropriate length, remembering to take the clasp into consideration as well.

Step #16

ECT TV Episode 50

ECT TV Episode 50

Use jump rings to attach the chain to each end of the beaded piece.

Need help opening jump rings?  This video will help.

Step #17

ECT TV Episode 50

Add a clasp to the necklace.  (I used the clasp that was on the necklace that I took apart.)

ECT TV Episode 50

And that’s your completed necklace!

Additional resources:

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