Sunday, June 29, 2008


I had a bit of a revelation just now. I mentioned awhile back that I've been working on prayer beads. I've made several sets, and I ordered some beads through the mail last week so that I could make more. But I'd been having trouble ending them -- if you don't make jewelry, this may not make sense, but the way that you keep strands of beads from coming apart is to use what's known as a crimp bead.

A crimp bead is a somewhat soft metal bead, either a round bead or a tube, and the theory is that you attach whatever you're going to attach, a bracelet fastener, say, put on a crimp bead, then smash the crimp bead so that it holds the wires in place. There's a special tool called a crimping tool, and you're supposed to use one part of the tool to crush the bead, then another part of it to fold the crushed bead in on itself so it becomes round rather than flat.

In the past, although I had the tool, I've just smashed the crimp beads with needlenose pliers. I knew they didn't look as good as they could, but I just wasn't very interested in learning how to do it differently. Then, a week or so ago, I got my daily email from Beading Daily (I'd link to the article itself, but you have to be a subscriber), and in it was a tutorial on using the crimping tool (turns out the procedure in the article was wrong, but in any event, it got me interested).

The article said:

I'll admit, when I first started beading I didn't want to buy yet another tool, especially if it was just for one purpose. So I just used chain-nose pliers and squished the crimps shut. I got so much razzing from my friends about it! My jewelry fell apart and my, oh, my . . . those unsightly little silver squares. I now know that using crimping pliers is the classiest way to finish this type of strung jewelry and certainly one of the most secure.

I practiced and practiced, and did it right a couple of times, but most of the time, I would break the bead trying to do the second step. I finally thought, well, I'll give it a try, and I went ahead and tried it with some of my prayer bead strings. When I made my first ones, I started with the tail, put on the decorative beads, then strung a crimp bead, then strung the circlet, passed the wire back through the crimp bead, and invariably broke it when I crimped it.

And there was no way back--the crimp had to be where it was, and it was right in the middle of all of the beads, so I had to start over. After stringing most of them two and three times, I got a few of the crimps to work, but it was oh, so aggravating.

Then just now I read this article, by Kimberly Winston, who wrote Bead One, Pray Too, which I have, and have read, but obviously not closely enough.

What she says to do is string the circlet, then bring the two ends of the wires together and string the "tail," and put the crimp bead right before the terminating bead, then pass the wire back up through the crimp. So -- this is the revelation -- if the crimp breaks, you would only have to remove one bead to fix it. And it would be less weight on the crimp, too. If I'd only read that sooner . . .

I'll talk more about these, and get them up in the Etsy shop later in the week, probably, after I fix the crimps. ;)

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Jennifer Stumpf said...

these are lovely, willa. aren't they fun to make? nice making something that means a hill of beans... thanks for reminding me about that tutorial. i had never thought of stringing all through one crimp both ways. that makes two of us who didn't read the book close enough.

Sharon said...

Your prayer beads are lovely. I can't wait to see them in your shop.

Judy said...

Crimping pliers are a great tool! I was doing the same thing at first, just using regular pliers, and the crimps I made were crummy, and the jewelry fell apart half the time. Someone in a bead store explained the importance to me of doing it the RIGHT way and it's made a big difference in the quality of anything I've made that needs crimp beads.

Love the prayer beads too - I am also working on some of those (we seem to like some of the same books!). - Judy

Monique said...

I love your prayer beads. I'll be keeping an eye out on Etsy for them.

Gemma said...

I love your prayer strands, too. They're quite beautiful! I'm a long-time user of the 100 bead Orthodox (as in Greek or Russian) prayer ropes, which are just 100 beads and a cross. The same single prayer is said on each bead, so it is something akin to a mantra, and fosters contemplation. I have made my share of these and the more usual rosaries, and with both I love the feel of the glass, ceramic, stone, bone, and wood in my hands as I pray. Lets the body participate. Best wishes!