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Making a Bead Spinner

If you're going to do a lot of bead stringing or make French Beaded Flowers, you'll want a bead spinner, especially if you buy beads loose instead of by the hank (pre-strung). Bead spinners online cost as much as US$45 plus shipping. Cheap plastic ones are rumoured to be available at craft shops for about US$10.

But for the thrifty crafter, making your own bead spinner for free is even better. Plus, as you'll see, it re-uses plastic packaging, which is the positive environmental choice! I use mine all the time quite successfully, and I've made some for friends who are pleased with them as well.

You will need:

  1. Place the margarine tub upside down on a safe surface like a kitchen counter.
  2. Using the pointed knife, cut a VERY SMALL 'X' shape in the bottom of the bowl, in the middle. Use care not to make the 'X' bigger than the diameter of your dowel/stick. If the plastic is too brittle, the whole bottom may split, so you might find it best to use a newly emptied plastic margarine tub instead of one that has housed leftovers and been microwaved/dishwashered several times.
  3. Push the dowel/stick down through the X gently and slowly, allowing the pushing to widen the splits. Again, if the plastic is too brittle, the whole thing will just split. You want the dowel to be held fairly rigid by the stretched-open hole.
  4. Keeping about a centimetre of the dowel/stick sticking out from the bottom of the tub, use the glue gun to gob on a nice layer of glue all around the hole, filling in any gaps. You don't want the beads to fall out! Smush the glue flat against the bowl and the dowel to give greater surface area for better hold.
  5. Turn the spinner over, and likewise glue all around the stick and the hole on the inside. Be generous with the glue so it completely covers the plastic points and holds well to the dowel. Using the tip of the glue gun, make the glue layer as smooth around as possible so beads aren't able to catch themselves in holes/bumps.

Tada! You should now have your own homemade, ultra-cheap bead spinner. And you were doing good for the environment at the same time. Doesn't that make you want to smile? :)

Here are pictures of the one I made:

Bead spinner, top viewd
Bead spinner, side viewd

If you like this idea and happen to also be a knitter/crocheter, you'll probably like my tutorial on making your own yarn ball holder out of reused materials.

Using a Bead Spinner

I keep getting questions asking me how to use the bead spinner, aside from making it. So here's a rough diagram:

Bead spinner instructionsd

Put a lot of beads in the spinner. If there's only a few grams' worth, it won't work well. You really want enough to cover the bottom of the spinner and then a few layers on top of that, at the minimum. Ideally, it should be about one-third to one-half full.

Turn the spinner by putting the bit of the spindle that pokes out the bottom on a scratch-safe surface and twirling the top of the spindle with your finger tips. Get it up to a reasonably stable, good speed by constant turning, but not so fast that beads fly out.

Now put the hooked end of your wire into the beads so the hook points opposite the direction of turning. In other words, the beads should be forced against the tip of the hook. This will cause them to "jump" onto the wire. It might take some practise to learn what is a good hook shape. Once the hook is full to your fingers, turn the wire over and dump the beads further down the wire, then do it again.

I've never actually used a spinner to get beads onto thread, but as I understand it, you use a long, hooked needle with the thread attached, and otherwise it's the same as above.

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Page last updated May 6, 2007.

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