Beads can be made in a multitude of ways, and needn’t be as complex as you might imagine. Perfect for casual summer styles, a personalised bead makes a lovely gift particularly when so many of us now have some sort of bead carrier bracelet as standard now.
In this guide, we will show you how to make a silver bead which will fit the plaited leather bead carrier (V12 CB8) shown above. The diameter of the leather is approximately 3.6mm, so that is the first measurement to keep in mind. This is quite a wide internal hole, so the finished bead needs to be big enough to accommodate this without being compromised.
How to Make a Silver Bead
You will need:
- Silver sheet (0.6mm to 0.8mm in thickness)
- Piercing saw and saw blades
- Pendant drill or bench drill
- Doming block and punch
- Nylon mallet
- Square wire (2mm diameter)
- Flat nose pliers
- Soldering equipment
- Solder (easy, medium and hard)
- Pickling equipment
- Emery paper
- Barrel polishing equipment
1. To make the bead in two halves, saw pierce out two discs which will eventually be joined together. The metal used here is 0.8mm which is on the heavy side, but you could easily use a thinner gauge, either 0.7mm or even 0.6mm which will be easier to manipulate. These discs measure 15mm in diameter, which will be ideal once domed.
2. Once the discs are cut out, file the edges to make a neat circle. It’s a good idea to place the discs on top of each other at regular stages during filing, to ensure you are creating even shapes.
3. Once you are happy with your circles, drill a small pilot hole through the centre of each which will be enlarged after the pieces have been domed. Any hole in the metal will distort when doming, so work on the final central hole once the circles have been shaped.
4. Anneal each circle, and place in a doming block in a shallow indent which is larger than the diameter of your metal. Choose a punch which fits the hole, and hit firmly with a nylon mallet. It may take a few blows until the desired shape is achieved.
5. Now that your circles are slightly domed, the diameter will be reduced, so you can now place the circles into a smaller indent and increase the depth of the dome to continue the shaping process. Make sure you change your punch accordingly to fit the new profile.
6. Anneal at regular intervals, and continue with this method until you have two semi-spherical shapes which make a sphere (or as near as you can get it) when placed together.
7. File away any marks left by the edge of the doming block.
8. You now need to enlarge the pilot hole in the centre of each piece to fit. You can drill or file this to size, but using the blade of a pair of tin snips is also particularly effective. Simply run it around the edge of each hole in a smooth, continuous action and your stringing hole will soon become much larger. Make sure it fits the bracelet/chain it is intended for before moving on to the next stage.
9. You may also want to a little decoration in the form of a twisted collar, which fits between the two pieces (this helps to create a neat edge too). This can be made from 2mm square wire, held in a vice at one end and twisted with pliers from the other.
10. Shape the collar around the flat end of a doming punch which is slightly smaller than the diameter of the circles, cut off and solder together using hard solder.
11. Clean all your pieces in safety pickle, and then file and buff with emery paper until everything is scratch free and fitting together nicely. Pay particular attention to the flat edges of your two semi-spheres, as this will ensure a good solder join.
12. You are now ready to join it all together! Take one side of your bead and place it (threading hole side down) onto your soldering surface. Put flux onto the flat edge that is to be joined, and heat gently until it stops bubbling. Take some small pieces of medium solder and place them at regular intervals onto the fluxed edge, and then heat until the solder just starts to run. As soon as this happens, remove the flame so you are left with partially melted lumps of solder.
13. Next, flux the twisted collar and place the semi-sphere you have just worked on, into position on top and directly in the centre. You may need to clean the soldered semi-sphere piece before you attempt this if it is particularly dirty.
14. Heat the entire piece evenly, concentrating on the base first as it the thickest area. As the metal reaches temperature the solder will run, securing the top piece of the bead to the twisted collar. Pickle to ensure it is thoroughly clean.
15. Turn the bead over and repeat the process with the remaining half using easy solder this time. If you end up with any gaps along the seam, simply flux and re-heat. Add a tiny piece of additional solder if required. Pickle to clean.
Tip: the beauty of soldering your bead together in this way means it requires very little cleaning up. A quick rub over with a buff stick or emery paper and your bead will be ready to polish.
16. Tumble polishing is ideal for this type of item, but just ensure you put something through the centre of the bead to prevent any steel shot from getting lodged inside.
17. Polish to finish by tumbling the bead for approximately 3 hours in a barrel polisher to give it a good shine (the length of time your piece is left in the tumbler is entirely down to personal preference).
The finished bead should be strong and robust, and therefore able to withstand daily wear and tear, and fits the bracelet perfectly thanks to careful planning. Once you have mastered the basic process of making a silver bead, the sky is the limit in terms of decoration – so why not have a go at making your own beads and send us some pictures of the results?
Looking for another jewellery soldering project to try? Take a look at our guide to simple soldering to find out how you can use your technique to make a band ring. Don’t forget to make sure you are stocked up on soldering essentials too!